Competing views: Will Slavkov Triangle trump Visegrad Four?

  • Tomáš Hošek
  • 30.10.2017 13:53

Competing views on the future of Central Europe in the light of Czech and Austrian elections.

On 24 October, editor-in-chief of Visegrad Insight Wojciech Przybylski in his commentary for EUObserver predicted that in the aftermath of Austrian and Czech elections the Slavkov Triangle, a regional group that besides the two includes Slovakia, will strengthen at the expense of the Visegrad Four.

Przybylski builds his argument on differences between Austrian and Polish interests, including a possible agreement between Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and French President Emmanuel Macron to tackle the influx of cheap labour from the East or the support for Turkey’s accession by Poland – something Austria rejects in the light of recent tensions. Kurz could also much easier get along with Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán, both members of the European People’s Party. Should Poland stay a relevant actor in Europe, it must, according to Przybylski, get closer to the European Union core – for example by entering the eurozone. The Polish government is expected to tackle the issue of the euro acceptance amid rumours about changes at its Foreign Ministry.

Similar opinion about Czech foreign policy is also represented by Milan Nič and Vít Dostál in their analysis for German think-tank DGAP. Without mentioning the Slavkov Triangle, they argue that the likely Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is not interested in further escalations with Brussels and instead of aligning with Hungary and Poland, the ANO-led government would focus on maintaining the close Czecho-Slovak relationship and increase cooperation with Austria. The analysis argues that the Czech foreign policy will not go through any significant changes under Babis: the leader of ANO will not enter the eurozone until 2025 or support further political integration in the EU in the light of Macron’s proposals. Babis relationship to the EU will be reactive, pragmatic and non-ideological the authors write.

The post-election analysis from the European Security Journal views the regional foreign policy of Andrej Babis differently. Populism of multibillionaire Babis indicates several common interests with Polish and Hungarian governments, which could strengthen the cooperation between the three countries (V3) on the existing structure of the Visegrad Four. Similarly to Viktor Orbán or Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Babis will answer to growing nationalism, fear of migration and anti-establishment moods to ensure political power. The Slavkov Triangle does not hold strong enough ties as the Czech Republic is the only country left outside of the eurozone and thus the core of the European Union. Despite Babis genuine interest to stay in the EU, the model of European integration build on sovereign nation-states remains the main ideological common ground with Budapest and Poland.

About author: Tomáš Hošek

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