The seventh meeting of an informal V4 MEP Caucusjointly organized by the GLOBSEC Policy Institute, Aspen Institute Prague and Res Publica Warsaw took place on Tuesday 24 May 2016 in Brussels. Participants of the May dinner meeting discussed the results of a yearlong Czech V4 Group Presidency, which is coming to an end in July to be handed over to Poland. The discussion also focused on the priorities of the upcoming Slovak EU Presidency starting on 1 July. Tomáš Prouza, Czech State Secretary for EU Affairs, and Peter Javorčík, Slovak Permanent Representative to the EU, took part as guest speakers. Participants of the dinner included MEPs György Schöpflin (Hungary), Ivan Štefanec (Slovakia), Vladimír Maňka (Slovakia), Martina Dlabajová (Czech Republic) and Dita Charanzová (Czech Republic).
The underlying theme of this V4 MEPs meeting was the persistent crisis of trust among the Member States and deepening of the East-West divide across the EU. Following the migration debate, the V4 is now seen as an effective block focused on its own narrow agenda, in particular on the migration crisis. As a result, the Visegrad Group has been increasingly seen in Western Europe as some sort of counterweight to Brussels and the EU institutions.
Nevertheless, some participants expressed their fear that the East-West divide had run deeper than just the mere issue of failed communication. It is a matter of ideological differences and polarisation of societies trapped in the vicious circle of deliberative acrimony on both sides. In this case, the fundamental question of how to break out from such acrimony seems rather complex and demanding.
Participants agreed that to overcome this image, it is important that the V4 changes its communication strategy by adopting more positive language and approach, chooses its priorities better and most importantly finds a common ground on other EU issues, improving their trust and credibility with Western European partners.
Naturally, the main topic of the previous year has been the migration crisis, but the Czech V4 Presidency has sought and successfully contributed to the promotion of the V4 cooperation on the number of other important issues including the Energy Union, digital agenda and defence and security.
Regarding the upcoming Slovak EU Presidency, leaving potential Brexit scenario aside, number of other matters will be high on the agenda in the second half of 2016 such as the completion of internal market including the Digital Single Market (DMS), mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), Energy Union and investment promotion.
Potential rejection of Brexit scenario in late June may give the EU new opening with vital questions on the future of the Eurozone governance just waiting to be tackled. Fundamental choices will have to be made and it is important that they are not made hastily. How the V4 position itself in such a debate?
In this demanding context, the upcoming EU Presidency provides Slovakia with a unique opportunity to help overcome the pervasive East-West divide. The fist sign, by focusing on the concrete positive EU agenda, Slovakia signals that it is determined to do so.
Participants also agreed that a special attention should be paid to trade matters including the finalisation of the EU-Canada Trade Deal (CETA) and granting of market economy status to China. To overcome the fragmentation over migration issue, the debate should focus more on concrete solutions, particularly in the area of relocations and external border control.