Could a Biden presidency split the Visegrád Group any further?

By Gaelle Legrand

WHILE the Visegrád Group was already losing momentum since the migration crisis, the arrival of Joe Biden in the White House will put another blow to the Central European alliance.

The cultural and political alliance of the four countries of Central Europe (Hungary, Poland, Czechia and Slovakia) has already faced dissensions internally, diverging on the rule of law and European integration concepts.

The recent appointment of the Democrat as president of the United States, who vowed to support multilateralism, will only create further divides, driving Hungary further away from its neighbors.

Co-founder and editor of Le Courrier d’Europe centrale Corentin Léotard told Redaction Politics: “The change with Biden’s arrival is going to be all about the rule of law and particularly the independence of justice.

“We can expect a Biden administration to be much more attentive to what is happening on the rule of law.

“Trump’s defeat has heavy consequences in Hungary. Before Trump, the relationship between the Fidesz [right-wing party in power] and the Democrats was appalling. The Obama era was rather bad for Orbán and he was very happy to see Trump come about.”

Last November, Orbán congratulated Joe Biden for his victory, while stating that he did not expect him to win, as Donald Trump was his “Plan A”.

Among the four countries of the Visegrád, Mr Léotard believes Hungary will be the most affected by Biden’s presidency.

What is the Visegrád Group ?

The Visegrád Group, or V4, was established 30 years ago in February 1991, and is composed of Hungary, Poland, Czechia and Slovakia.

Originally created to provide a cooperation platform on culture, energy, army and economy between these states, the group supports regional non-governmental initiatives via the International Visegrád Fund, financed by members as well as external financial allies like the United States.

Examples of collaboration included the Visegrád Battlegroup and the Visegrád Patent Institute, for cooperation in the field of patents between the four countries.

Yet, the group has not been unified politically. While Czechia and Slovakia are turned towards the European Union, Poland and Hungary, led by national conservative parties, have been labelled as eurosceptics.

Mr Léotard said: “The Visegrád Group lost its ‘raison d’etre’ after 2004 and was reactivated recently, especially during the migrant crisis in 2015.

“For Poland and Hungary, but especially for Hungary, the Visegrád Group has been a megaphone, an extension of their power. In its rejection of immigration, Orbán was the most virulent, expressing a strong voice of nationalism in Europe.

“This enabled him to talk in the name of Central Europe. When Orbán opposes migrants, liberalism, etc. or even on the recent question of the rule of law, a condition for the recovery funds as we debated in December, he was not talking just about Hungary but in the name of Central Europe.”

The limit of the cooperation between these countries was clearly displayed through the access to European funds subjected to the rule of law, Czech Republic and Slovakia breaking with their partners on that question.

The division amongst the four countries has also been noticed in their relationship with foreign states. If Hungary is more friendly towards the Kremlin, Poland is known to be more suspicious about Russia.

On American-Polish relationships under Biden, Mr Léotard said: “The axe Washington-Warsaw is really unwavering.

“There were a few squabbles between the PiS (Law & Justice Party in power), about a memory law on the memory of Holocaust, which outraged Israel and the United States.

“At this point, there were a few shake-ups in the relationship. But last year, President Duda was in Washington to sign a treaty with Donald Trump, who was a big supporter of the Three Seas Initiative.”

Featured Image: European People’s Party @Flickr

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