With the EU migration crisis at the forefront, the foreign policies of the Visegrad countries have become increasingly relevant for the entire European Union. The interest towards the Slovak foreign policy priorities is rising just as the country prepares for its upcoming Presidency in the Council of the EU in the second half of 2016. A better understanding and awareness of the foreign policy of the Visegrad countries will help the Visegrad group identify potential areas of cooperation. It will also help the EU build a better coordinated common foreign policy.

In the framework of the unique project ‘Trends of Visegrad Foreign Policy‘, CEPI and its partners surveyed 430 top foreign policy trend-setters from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. What is perceived as the greatest achievement of Slovak foreign policy since the country joined the EU? How do Slovak foreign policy elites evaluate the work of the Visegrad group? How do they see the future of the EU? What will happen to the EU’s policy towards Ukraine and other neighboring countries? Trends of Visegrad foreign Policy 2015 give you the answers. You can download the full text of the study here or explore the interactive online platform.

Some of the findings include:

→ In the coming years, Visegrad foreign policy makers will be training the spotlight on energy security, instability in the EU neighborhood and illegal migration.

→ According to respondents, the Visegrad Group should primarily focus on energy, Eastern policy, migration, energy security, and security in general. Respondents are also of the opinion that the V4 should collaborate more frequently and extend its reach into other areas. Yet they are dismissive of its deeper institutionalization or the accession of additional countries.

→ Intra-Visegrad relations are excellent. Poland is deemed to be the third most important partner and the third most significant player. On the whole, mutual relations between Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are considered very sound. Relations with Hungary, on the other hand, are much more problematic.

→ All four countries feel their Visegrad Group membership is important and that it acts as a conduit for the promotion of their national interests. Foreign policy makers are also convinced that the V4 plays a constructive role in the EU, although they would not go so far as to say that it is an influential body here. The Visegrad Group is generally rated somewhat successful, especially in the realms of culture, education, coordination in the EU, policy on the Western Balkans and the energy sector. In contrast, respondents believe that cooperation on defense and Eastern policy is languishing.

→ Germany is judged to be the most important and the best partner in Central Europe.

→ The United States is pinpointed as the V4’s second most important partner. Hungary differs in the assessment of the quality of this relationship, viewing its rapport with Washington in a much poorer light than the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia; it believes that the erosion of these relations has been the most resounding failure of its foreign policy since 2004. Respondents have no doubt that transatlantic relations will continue to strengthen in the security and economic arenas. They are also confident that the North Atlantic Alliance will grow in stature.

→ Hungarian respondents named Russia as a significant and sterling partner, although this opinion is not shared by the other V4 countries’ foreign-policy communities. Polish, Slovak and Czech respondents do, however, concede that Russia is a player of paramount importance on the international stage.

→ European Union membership is rated as categorically beneficial, and the importance of the EU will be augmented in the coming years. In the mid-term, institutional developments within the EU will be borne along the trend of larger countries become stronger, differentiated integration and a shift in power to joint institutions. Respondents identified energy, immigration and the single market as the most important European policies in the next five years.

→ Events associated with EU membership – holding the rotating presidency, participation in Union initiatives and ongoing integration within the EU, driven by Schengen membership and, in Slovakia’s case, its euro area status – are considered the greatest foreign policy successes of V4 countries since 2004. Czech and Hungarian foreign policy failures are also linked to European policy. Poles and Slovaks see their Eastern policy in a negative light, while Hungarians take a dim view of relations with the US.

The event and the study is part of the Trends of Visegrad Foreign Policy 2015 project. The project demonstrates the extent of cohesion and areas of disagreement in this influential Central European grouping. It has addressed relevance of particular foreign policy issues, quality and importance of relations with individual countries, future of the EU as well as expectations regarding the Visegrad cooperation, international affairs, and transatlantic relations. The acquired data can thus serve as an information basis for a subsequent analysis of the Czech, Polish, Hungarian and Slovak foreign policy and the V4 itself. By comparing different positions of the stakeholders we can get better understanding of the existing obstacles in mutual Central European cooperation.

The project is implemented in cooperation with the Association for International Affairs (AMO, Prague), the CEU Centre for EU Enlargement Studies (CENS, Budapest), and Institute of Public Affairs (ISP, Warsaw).