The V4 has taken common positions on many hot issues, such as aspects of the Green Deal and advancing nuclear powers. But half of its members – Poland and Hungary – have taken an illiberal turn under their hard-line conservative governments. And undermine the fundamental European principles on the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
“Hungary and Poland are now in serious conflict with the rest of the EU, while the Czech Republic and Slovakia do not play the same notes” Mikuláš Bek, the new Minister of European Affairs of this country, said in a recent interview.
While not seeking to dissolve the V4, the minister told reporters during his first official trip to Brussels on Tuesday, the new Czech government wishes to consolidate its relations and increase meetings with other EU member states, like France, with whom – perhaps – the Czech Republic shares more positions in common.
“We do not have the ambition to weaken international cooperation [within the V4]. But this government has decided to intensively seek partners also outside this framework, in accordance with our common understanding. “
On the same day that Minister Bek made his first visit to the European Commission in Brussels since taking office, Prime Minister Petr Fiala was in Bratislava for his first official trip abroad since taking office.
Slovakia will take over the presidency of the V4 in July at the same time as the Czech Republic takes over the EU, noted the country’s prime minister, Eduard Heger.
“It is a great opportunity for our two friendly and brotherly countries to be able to set the tone for Europe at the same time. Our two governments are pro-European and firmly anchored in the rule of law.
Without directly calling Poland and Hungary, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala appeared to be referring to the other half of V4 – the elephants in the room.
“Guaranteeing the protection of democracy, human rights and the rule of law are values that we must not abandon.
At the end of December, the European Commission gave Poland a two-month ultimatum to remove “serious doubts” about the impartiality of its constitutional court, and came close to triggering a mechanism that could ultimately deprive Poland and Hungary and billions of euros, mainly related to respecting the rule of law.
The Czech Republic has sided with the EU against Poland and Hungary on this front and on a host of issues. ranging from the treatment of LGBTQ communities to the independence of the Polish judiciary.
The Czech Republic will look to use its EU presidency in the second half of 2022 to forge closer ties with key bloc members, counterbalancing ties with traditional regional allies of Poland and Hungary who are in conflict with Brussels.