Following disagreements over stances on Russia, Slovakia intends to ‘mute’ foreign policy cooperation between the Visegrád countries as Bratislava takes over the rotating presidency of the embattled regional bloc.
Czechia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland form the Visegrád group, a regional grouping that uniformly fought against the refugee relocation system during the 2015 migration crisis and pushed for more structural EU funding for the bloc’s budgetary 2021-2027 period.
However, the traditionally close cooperation between the capitals has been reeling over different stances towards Russia.
In March, Hungary was forced to cancel a Visegrad 4 defence ministers meeting after both Poland and Czechia pulled out over Budapest’s lukewarm support for EU action against Moscow.
Moreover, Hungary has been accused of misusing Visegrad cooperation to push its own interests.
Now Bratislava, which took over the V4 presidency from Budapest on 1 July, plans to shy away from the controversial topic of foreign policy, instead focussing on deepening regional cooperation in the development of transport, nuclear energy, low-carbon technologies, green and digital transformation, sustainability, youth mobility, and interpersonal relations.
“It is essential that we think about the role of Visegrad cooperation in this changing environment. That is why the Slovak presidency will provide a platform for open dialogue in this area and will initiate an internal reflection on the future and priorities of Visegrad cooperation,” the ministry of foreign affairs of the Slovak Republic said in a statement.
Previously, the Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivan Korčok, said he intended to “significantly mute the foreign policy dimension” of the group.
Instead, the foreign ministry pointed to the solid economic and infrastructural links that have been built between V4 countries, planning to use its one year in the driver’s seat of the group to expand and strengthen these ties even more.
Slovakia’s program hinges on four priority areas: “connection”, economy, sustainability and “people”, to boost cooperation in transport, nuclear energy, low-carbon technologies, green and digital transformation, circular economy, climate change and the protection of nature.