Will the V4 war break out? Expert: Orbán should soften rhetoric, he suggests attitude towards sanctions

I would start with the atmosphere around V4. It may seem that it is collapsing a bit now, that it is losing some unity. How do you see it?

The question is whether the Visegrad group was ever united. This was the case on some subjects, but certainly not on all, because Visegrad formed as a group that cooperated when it suited them. For example, when joining the European Union and NATO. And then on other subjects, such as the famous quotas, or on the resistance to them, or on the support for the Balkan countries to join the EU.

It cannot be said that countries sometimes agree on a relationship with Russia, so what is happening now is not surprising. It has long been known that, for example, the Poles have always been more critical of the Russians, while the Hungarians – especially under Viktor Orbán – they have warmer relations with Russia. On the other hand, given the way this has now intensified with regard to Ukraine, I would really call the high political level a crucial moment. At the moment, it looks like none of the four leaders need to emphasize or prioritize V4.

And will it be time to talk about the future of V4? After Orbán’s re-election, there were also comments where the alliance turned into V3.

It is necessary to realize that V4 is not an institutionalized thing. It’s more of an alliance, so if the Hungarians were really against it, it wouldn’t look like V3. Exaggerated also because Visegrad is a Hungarian city. I think the fact that Poland and Czechia are more active against Russia and for sanctions doesn’t really need to be evaluated against V4.

When looking at other formats, such as the Triangle d’Austerlitz, we also often wondered if it was not a substitute for V4, because Poland and Hungary have problems with the State by right. Yes, these problems exist, but this does not limit cooperation at lower levels. The Czech Republic may not like what Poland or Hungary are doing, but that does not mean that as states they cannot cooperate in other areas.

V4 officials at a meeting in London, where they went to see Boris Johnson (8.3.2022) V4 officials at a meeting in London, where they went to see Boris Johnson (8.3.2022) | Office of the Government of the Czech Republic

We are just neighbors and we are close to each other…

Yes, and it is important to say it. Even if Visegrad disintegrates, it would not be advantageous, because it is always good to have a close relationship with neighbors and to communicate with each other.

So even if something similar happens, the close cooperation will remain there.

It’s about how the disintegration would actually happen. They’re not formal structures, so you can’t just send paper somewhere. At most, they would be political declarations or restrictions on mutual communication.

To this I would like to mention the event last week, when Defense Minister Jana Černochová (ODS) and its Polish counterpart refused to participate in the trip to Budapest. It was a highlight that shows that the political leaders of the V4 states currently have reservations about the Hungarian position on the conflict in Ukraine and do not see the V4 as a priority at the moment. But this is not a signal of complete and immediate disintegration.

Janebová: Orbán’s rhetoric goes in a completely different direction, he should soften it

So what effect does the war against Ukraine have on the band? There were several highlights, such as the Prime Minister’s trip to Kyiv, which the Hungarian Prime Minister did not attend. It also takes a different stance on aid to Ukraine than the other V4 states.

On the one hand, I think that was to be expected. On the other hand, some of Viktor Orbán’s statements and how he is clearly moving in a different direction than, for example, Czechia and Poland, is an important topic right now.

I say deliberately at the moment because we don’t know how Orbán’s foreign policy will evolve after the election. If it moves somewhere, or if there is no common theme that allows states to come together, like migration.

“Listen, Victor.  Zelensky woke Orban.  The monument in Budapest was flooded with shoes reminiscent of Mariupol

Let’s stop at the elections you mentioned. Does Orbán’s re-election have an effect? Will his rhetoric change, for example?

He has a strong mandate from the electorate and has no reason to change anything. As for the EU’s partners, it would be rational to soften its rhetoric. After all, he also said that being a member of the EU and NATO is important for Hungary and also needs money from the European Union. It will be very interesting for me to see how he balances this rhetoric with Union.

Regarding the V4, I would like to highlight Orbán’s speech after the elections, where he mentioned that he had never had to face so many opponents before – Soros, Brussels, but also the Ukrainian president. It’s completely out of the question, it’s a completely different path from the Czech Republic and Poland. He almost didn’t seem to care about isolating himself from us, which is very strange. The Visegrad Group was an important foreign policy platform for Hungary, especially at a time when Orbán had strained relations with the Union.

What awaits us now?

It will certainly be interesting when it comes to voting on new sanctions against Russia, because Hungary has declared in advance that if energy supply is included, it is a red line for them. Of course, they are easy to say so far, as long as Germany, for example, has the position it has. But if the whole of the Union agrees to really cut off the gas supply, it will be very interesting to see what Hungary will do with it.

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