For Visegrad, CSDP is ineffective but EU should gain strategic independence

  • Vít Dostál (AMO) Zsuzsanna Végh (ECFR)
  • 27.11.2017 13:02

Some 451 politicians, civil servants, researchers, businessmen and journalists from Visegrad countries were quizzed in a complex survey study by the Association of International Affairs (AMO).

Migration and asylum policy as well as security and defence cooperation both featured high on the EU’s agenda over the past year, and in the V4 an overwhelming majority anticipates that both will become at least somewhat more important on the EU agenda in the next five years (83% and 82% respectively). Concerning the countries’ own EU policies, on average 66% of the respondents believe that migration and asylum policy will become even more important than it is now – which is significant considering how central it has already been over the past two years. A similarly high number, on average 65% of the V4 respondents, believe that Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) will become more prominent on their countries’ EU agenda.

The Visegrad Group’s position on the refugee and migration crisis has elevated the block’s profile in the EU, but also contributed to the perception that it is essentially a protest group. The Visegrad governments’ opposition to the refugee relocation quota is widely known. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia voted against the scheme in September 2015 and the latter two turned to the European Court of Justice questioning the Council decision, which passed relocation with a qualified majority. The present survey asked stakeholders, still before the Court decision was published in September 2017, if they agree that their country should accept asylum seekers through some kind of relocation scheme. On average, 55% agreed at least somewhat, this, however, covers up the differences among the V4. Whereas close to 60% of Czech, Polish and Slovak respondents expressed some level of agreement with the statement, among Hungarians it did not receive a majority (48%). Support for alternative forms of contributions to the resolution of the refugee crisis instead of taking refugees was highest among Czech and Slovak respondents (80% and 82% respectively), but still, most Hungarian and Polish respondents would find this path acceptable (69% and 63% respectively). Despite their overall opposition to relocation, the elites of the four countries are united in opposing their countries negotiating an opt-out from the EU’s common migration and asylum policy. Only 23% would be in favour of that in all countries. Even though migration was the issue which gave a new momentum to the Visegrad Group two years ago, when asked in what three areas the V4 should cooperate in the future, migration and asylum policy – although it featured highly – was not among the most frequently mentioned policy areas. On average, 20% of respondents mentioned it, with only 12% of Slovaks at one end of the scale, and every fourth Hungarian (24%) at the other

 

Visegrad elites do not fully share concerns in the EU related to President Trump’s approach to security cooperation with Europe

 

Following the presentation of the European Global Strategy, the EU with High Representative Federica Mogherini in charge set out to develop plans for deepening cooperation in the field of security and defence, especially concerning the use of the EU Battlegroups, as well as the launch of the permanent structured cooperation (Pesco), and the future harmonization and boosting of European defence capabilities. To serve the latter purpose, the European Commission launched the European Defence Fund in June 2017 with a yearly budget of 5.5 billion euro. Conducted after these concerns were already on the table and developments underway, respondents’ positions were expected to reflect these trends. The survey results suggest that Visegrad elites do not fully share concerns in the EU related to President Trump’s approach to security cooperation with Europe. On average, 46% of the respondents think that EU-US relations in the field of security and defence cooperation will not change much, but still, on average 29% expect deterioration and only 22% improvement. In this regard, Czechs are the most pessimistic among the four, with 35% of the respondents expecting deterioration, and Hungarians the most optimistic with 28% expecting improvement. On the bilateral level, countries vary significantly. In all cases, less than 20% of the respondents expect deterioration in bilateral security and defence cooperation with the US, but the optimism of Polish respondents is significantly above everyone else’s. 45% of Polish respondents think that Polish-US security and defence ties will improve in the next five years, while these numbers are just at 24% in the Hungarian, 22% in the Slovak and 12% in the Czech case.

 

On average 62% of respondents think the EU should become strategically independent…Only every fifth respondent considers the current form of CSDP effective

 

As Visegrad countries are not strongly concerned by worsening relations between the EU and the US in these fields, the fact that on average 62% of respondents think the EU should become strategically independent from the US is likely more motivated by the EU’s own role in world affairs and its significant lack of capacity than by fears of dependence on the Trump administration’s approach to the EU. Indeed, on average only every fifth respondent considers the current form of CSDP effective. On the national level, perceptions vary: while Poland and Slovakia are around the average, only 6% of Hungarian respondents consider the policy effective, whereas 34% of the Czechs agree at least somewhat that the CSDP serves well. This might explain why the proportion of those who think the EU should be strategically autonomous is highest among the Czechs – they have a stronger foundation to believe it is possible. Despite the dissatisfaction, on average 90% of the respondents do not want to abandon the CSDP. 73% are hopeful that the European Defence Fund will prove effective in enhancing the EU’s defence capabilities.

Despite the expectation that CFSP and CSDP will be higher on the EU and the national EU-policy agenda, on average only 39% of V4 respondents expect that this would result also in the position of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European External Action Service becoming more important in the next five years, while 41% do not expect changes here.

 

To see the complete study visit the project web
The results are available in three forms:

-interactive charts and visualizations
-research paper
-downloadable datasets for further research

 

Association for International Affairs (AMO) is a Czech non-governmental non-profit organization with a mission to contribute to a deeper understanding of international affairs through a broad range of educational and research activities.

About author: Vít Dostál (AMO) Zsuzsanna Végh (ECFR)

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