In the 4:1 series of the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade, four researchers give a short answer to the same question concerning international politics and economics. The aim of IFAT is to launch the scientific debates in and beyond Hungary and to promote dialogue among experts.

In the latest issue, the focus was on the member state expectations of the Czech Presidency of the Visegrad Group in 2019/2020. President of CEA Hungary, Dániel Varga, contributed to the analysis by examining the Hungarian expectations and priorities.

Taking over from Slovakia in July 2019, the Czech Presidency of the Visegrad Group is going to operate in a very busy European environment with regard to the new institutional cycle and the Multiannual Financial Framework negotiations, which means that finding a healthy balance between the V4’s and other member states’ interests will be of utmost importance throughout the year.
After the three Ss of the Slovak Presidency, the Czech Republic took on the three Rs in its programme, with the title ‘V4 Reasonable Europe’: reasonable solutions, revolutionary technologies, and reconciling approaches. In terms of ‘revolutionary technologies’, research, development, and innovation, along with digital dimensions is a high priority shared by the Visegrad countries as a tool to decrease the still-existing gaps in innovation capabilities; therefore, it is expected that the current Presidency will take steps in this direction.
The V4 prime ministerial meeting was one of the earliest activities on the calendar, having already taken place on 12 September. The heads of governments also convened and met with their counterparts from the Western Balkan countries in the framework of the V4 – WB Summit in Prague, an event which Czech PM Andrej Babis was proud of. This signals that support for the possible enlargement of the neighbouring region is high on the Czech Presidency’s priority list. This coincides with the Hungarian interests in this respect, especially having in mind the prospects Hungary has had with the enlargement and neighbourhood portfolio in the European Commission.
Still within the ‘reasonable solutions’ point of the programme, the Czech approach to defence cooperation has been and is likely to remain high on the agenda, as there is strong willingness from their side towards this field, and they have always been the driving force behind joint V4 defence efforts. Learning from the experience of the difficulties and challenges connected to common public procurements, the focus might shift towards operational deployment, along with the V4 Battle Group, which is already on standby in the second half of 2019. What is more, there are common motivations for possibly prolonging this Battle Group until 2023; therefore, defence is a field of policy that is expected by all countries, Hungary included, to be in the centre of not only the current but also the upcoming presidency programmes.
When it comes to Hungarian priorities within the Czech Presidency programme, reconciling approaches is the point that bears the most importance, as the issues of the MFF negotiations, cohesion, migration, infrastructure, and energy are all listed here. No additional in-depth explanation is necessary to underline the significance of migration and asylum policy for the V4, and especially for the Hungarian government, as the Visegrad stance is quite clear towards quotas and mandatory actions. Regional infrastructural cooperation is also high on the agenda, and further steps are expected to be made towards connectivity with other regional formats until June 2020.
If there are possible divisions to be seen inside the V4, they are along the lines of their vision regarding the future of the EU, and these might emerge during the MFF negotiations or the transition period between the institutional cycles. For instance, Slovakia being a Eurozone member and possibly pulling towards the EU core, or Czechia having closer ties with Western Europe might bring about tensions; however, the V4+ format has always been effective in finetuning differing views between the V4 and other EU member states. As the V4 countries face the largest cuts according to the new funding scheme, agriculture cohesion and the budget is a top priority for Hungary, as well as the proposed rule of law conditionalities. In the Hungarian government’s point of view, the already existing spending control mechanisms should be enforced instead of creating new ones. The commonalities concerning the budget discussions suggest that the Czech Presidency is to continue the Slovak one in terms of the strengthening of the Central European negotiating and advocating abilities, hence serving as a bridge between differing Western and Central and Eastern European considerations.

The text is an excerpt from the original 4:1 analysis of IFAT, which features the opinions of three other researchers from the Visegrad countries. The full material can be directly accessed on this link.

All copyright goes solely to IFAT. Cover photo retrieved from the original document.

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