Visegrad Group Meeting

Now this is interesting. The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are meeting in Poland to talk about a common response to the constitution and enlargement issues following the rejection by French and Dutch voters of the proposed treaty. Also in attendance will be Ukrainian pm Yulia Tymoshenko. They are expected to issue a declaration of support for Ukraine’s campaign to become an EU member.

Obviously they will not be following Chirac’s advice that the best policy for them would be silence.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

16 thoughts on “Visegrad Group Meeting

  1. A common stance on issues surrounding the EU budget is long overdue from the Visegrad Four. I think they will also support Ukraine’s bid for EU membership. Schroeder would have been better advised to get an invite to this meeting than the one he is having with Chirac – Germany and these states have far more in common historically, economically, and culturally than say Germany and France.

  2. Germany and these states have far more in common historically, economically, and culturally than say Germany and France.

    Precisely therefore he mustn’t go. The idea of a “Mitteleuropablock” would be damaging.

  3. “The idea of a “Mitteleuropablock” would be damaging.”

    You may be right Oliver, but what is the future of the Franco-German axis now?

  4. I don’t think Germany has “more in common” with Central Europe than with France.

    It just is in the middle between the two, so it has similarities with both (and with Northern Europe and Italy, and Britain…).

    The artificial divisions of Cold War Europe hid this fact, linking West Germany closely with the West.

    That division is gone. Geography is re-asserting itself and the old ties are being regrown.

  5. A “Mitteleuropablock”

    From where I’m sitting – Budapest – it makes perfect sense and it also historically has many precedents. Clearly the French wouldn’t like it, but then France and the UK have usually been better allies in the past few hundred years – without Chirac I see the Entente as getting the dust brushed off it, just as without Schroeder “Mitteleuropa” looks set to rise again.

    I have no problem with this scenario and don’t see it as a negative for the EU.

  6. khr,

    I’m not sure I entirely agree with you. France and Germany have always looked the “odd couple” and were thrown together largely because of the cold war division in Europe that kept much of “old” Europe locked behind the Iron Curtain.

    Over the past fifteen years or so there have been a number of issues that have produced tensions in the so called Franco-German alliance at the heart of the EU ? for example: German re-unification, France?s attitude towards the Common Agricultural Policy, and the dispute over the Presidency of the ECB. Over the past several years a new and bigger element has been emerging to change the relationship – EU Enlargement. Many of the new EU member states in Central Europe that joined the EU last May are historically, culturally, economically, and politically closer to Germany than France. The volume of trade between these states and Germany is far greater than that with France; German investment in the region accounts for circa one third of the total whereas France?s investment in the region is, by comparison, minimal. I would suggest that Germany has been reconsidering its role in Europe and its relationship with France for some time – the French ?Non? may simply speed up, I believe, the inevitable realignment.

    The nations of Central Europe are more also more Atlantic in their outlook – so too is Germany. If Angela Merkel gets into office later this year, as at present seems likely, that Atlanticism will likely be revived ? the Iraq war was probably an aberration rather than an major shift in German foreign relations.

    France has more often than not proved an unreliable ally – the Central European EU member states may prove rather more constant.

  7. The F-G motor has let Germany pay the piper, and France call the tune. A decade and a half after the fall of the Berlin wall, it’s high time for that to change.

  8. Why can’t Germany get along with BOTH France and the new EU member states?We’re all in the EU,so why can’t we be all one big,happy family?

  9. Aren’t you forgetting something here, which is very important.France & Nederlands had democratic people votes at least more Democratic than Germany’s “for the good of the people” decision by the government. It is a very notable part of the decision making that the peoples concerns of those two nations have been heard -who is to say it would not be the same in Germany if it’s people were allowed to vote? The finger should be very much pointed towards the German government to give their people’s chance to have their say before they judge anyone else.I am in the UK where we have as to date had neither, not that I am bemoaning that at present, just that I feel there has been a far more balanced view coming from here than the rather erratic speeches and actions of the continent. The French as in their long history are using boardering on xenophobic words towards Britain in that we are chirlishly refered to as “those Anglo saxons” and blamed for the perceived stalling of the european progression into a leviathan of a “Super Federal state”. What has really happened is the growth has outgrown the actions of the slow bureaucratic EU and France has a founder member seeing it’s influence slipping, as other voices are heard is sliding back to it’s old prejudices to try and justify to itself that it is not going to have the last say anymore. The Constitution of Europe as it stands is dead in the water, it just does not to want to acknowledge it at present. The UK, which will soon be taking over the Presidentcy of the EU has got it’s work cut out to take Europe onwards especially if member states are living in the past and bringing with them the old prejudices and irritations instead of admitting to themselves that they are to blame as any other state in the Union. The only ones not to blame are those trying to get in it.

  10. There was a war, remember. The EEC-EC-EU was created not just to stop it happening again, but to make it ‘structurally impossible’. Merkel, as an Eastie, may have other priorities, but she’ll go through her own ‘Yes Minister’ taming by her civil servants when she takes office.

    It think it is more likely that France and Germany will become a confederation within the EU than that Germany’s very real Eastern European interests will wipe out a rather deep historical understanding of what the EU is designed to prevent.

    Franco-German elites may be undemocratic, but they seem to have a very different perception of why the EU is worth having than is prevalent in Britain. Perhaps we would have a lot more influence if we shared that perception more, rather than thinking of the war as our last great victory.

    The days of Berlin-Baghdad railway geopolitics are gone. France wasn’t going to prevent Germany getting its MittelEuropa back-yard, but the inclusion of Ukraine, or Turkey, is a fantasy now, surely? Haven’t the referenda put the East European and British idea of an ever-expanding free trade area to sleep for good, rather than brought it closer ?

    German resentments about the Euro are not directed against in-the-same-boat France. Merkel may not share the French attitude to the Iraq war, but a large majority of Germans do, and EU issues are going to demand a little more attention to what electorates think from now on, one hopes.

  11. “EU issues are going to demand a little more attention to what electorates think from now on, one hopes.”

    Well, this is true in the Socratic sense that what counts is respect for the laws, but this shouldn’t imply that we should all have to agree with the ‘electorate’, especially if they express their ‘will’ in a referendum. There is a strong UK tradition of parliamentary democracy and representative government which is much more nuanced.

    “different perception of why the EU is worth having than is prevalent in Britain.”

    Case in point, you and I are both British, and we don’t seem to be in agreement with a majority of UK voters on this topic.

    “but the inclusion of Ukraine, or Turkey, is a fantasy now, surely”

    I’m not convinced of this. I think as the years pass the EU will have increasing difficulty if it wants to ‘back out’ with Turkey. It simply isn’t clear what the result of the French vote will be, and the law of unintended consequences could apply.

    My guess is the big losers are Bos? and Fabius, who really have shot themselves pretty badly in the foot.

  12. this shouldn’t imply that we should all have to agree with the ‘electorate’, especially if they express their ‘will’ in a referendum. There is a strong UK tradition of parliamentary democracy and representative government which is much more nuanced.

    if Burke had been an Enarque, he might have agreed — despotism of the multitude

    Seriously, I?m not advocating populism, on the contrary. Britain?s electorate is far less educated on the matter, because our parliamentary representatives and the Governments they choose have signally failed to convey it to them. I don?t know about Holland but can you imagine a site like Etienne Chouart?s getting the number of hits it did, in England ? Democracy is about some control over our lives, and that implies cognizance of facts and context, not just tickled prejudices. If Brits have a different view of the national interest, fair enough. But forming a view should ? agora-style ? involve being aware of the range of issues.

  13. “if Burke had been an Enarque, he might have agreed”

    I did in fact have Burke explicitly in mind. Simply (pedantically) making a point I suppose. I agree, of course, about the need to make people more aware of what the issues at stake actually are, although the ‘bang for effort’ ratio of a lot of the hard work which has actually already been put in doesn’t make one too optimistic.

    Has anyone done a survey recently. What % of the UK electorate claim not to know who Tony Blair is?

    “Isn’t he one of those political chappies?’… ‘He does appear on the telly a lot, doesn’t he’? ‘Now the name sounds familiar’.

    Sorry, just being silly :).

  14. “There was a war, remember. The EEC-EC-EU was created not just to stop it happening again, but to make it ?structurally impossible?.

    Well yes, that was the idea but some countries do not wish to acknowledge times have moved on and the world has changed. The old prejudices are always there just under the surface, and it has to be acknowleged that it is the founder states of the Union that feel the most threat to their “Regime” as it were. France and Germany take a shoulder to shoulder persona to the outside world, but hidden behind the scenes everyone knows there are great differences between their goals for the Union. France perceives the Union as it’s “empire” which it dictates too and believes the rules and laws should be as it says but not as it follows. Therefore,they believe Britain should give up it’s rebate, but France should continue to suck in argricultural subsidies which would be better spent in the poorer areas of the emerging countries into the Union. Germany’s outlook is different, as similar to Britain to which it is second to in paying into the Union, it favours Turkish entry into the Union due to it’s past and ongoing connections with both economically and culturally. ?structurally impossible? may have been an aim in the begining of the Union, but no amount of legislation can stop old predjudices coming to the fore.60 years is nothing in a world’s history, but the only hope is that as the international communication has helped the world get smaller any aggressor is under the microscope and is seen earlier in order to be put down. Was the Union responsible for that ? of coarse not, fortunately, the world moves on whether it is there or not. The union should be more progressive in order for it to help international understanding and justify it’s existance for years to come. It will only do that through progressively changing, but France perceives another “Waterloo” and does not want to accept the inevitable that it is but a member of the Union, not a ruler.

  15. Sure, the German elite wanted Turkey. Are you so sure the same can be said of the Germans themselves? I seriously doubt it. Anyway, Turkey was even more of an issue in the Dutch vote than in the French one.

    Behind the public Franco German unity there lies … real Franco-German mutual respect among the population, and a real understanding among the elites that what they have achieved together is important.

    Brits ceaselessly ‘prennent leurs d?sires pour des r?alit?s’? about disunity in Europe; what else is casting the issues in terms Castlereagh and Canning would have understood ? Germany and France have never had identical economic interests but have steadily built a consciousness among their people that makes confederation possible. Would that British capitalists were, in this sense, as patriotic and responsible as French and German ones.

    But then, that?s part of the problem in Britain. The Foreign Office is full of people happy to play s-b games like Echelon, and those responsible for managing capital see their duties and freedoms in very narrow terms. If there’s somebody here who has experience of the current attitudes of those who run the German banks, I’d love to hear their view on this.

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