The leaders of the Visegrad Four – Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia – were jubilant back home after they successfully blocked their arch-enemy Frans Timmermans from winning the European Commission presidency.
The four Central and East European countries managed to show unity on the EU’s discussion on top jobs, despite their different political affiliation. But at the same time, they won none of the key posts in the new EU legislature.
“In our unity, the Visegrad Four have again demonstrated our growing strength and influence over the direction of EU,” said Zoltan Kovacs, the spokesperson of Hungarian Prime Minsiter Viktor Orbán.
V4 is part of EUCO. To be honest, there is no other way.
To deliver in the EU, you need to talk with all countriesn including Eastern European ones.
What was the alternative? There was no path for Timmermans to be approved in the council.
— André da Silveira (@andr2301) July 2, 2019
This time, the target was Timmermans, the EU’s rule of law nemesis and high official that the Hungarian and Polish leaders love to hate.
The official objection against Timmermans is that he “doesn’t understand” Central Europe, as Viktor Orbán and his Czech colleague Andrej Babiš repeated.
“We want somebody who understands our region, who does not have a negative view to this region. Now, we are satisfied,” said Babiš.
“From Hungary’s perspective, it was a question of whether the people who take up those leadership positions are people who respect Hungary and understand central Europe’s history as well as understand the importance of Europe’s Christians culture,” added Orbán.
“The Poles are ecstatic,” said Piotr M. Kaczynski, an expert on EU affairs. “Last time the Polish Law and Justice (PiS) politicians were happy about the EU? Never. Last time the PiS politicians were as supportive of an EU federalist politician? Never. They are simply happy Mr Timmermans is not the Commission President,“ Kaczynski wrote in his blog.
The satisfaction of having blocked Timmermans was coupled with triumph of having defeated the lead candidates for the European elections, known as the Spitzenkandidaten.
“The Visegrad group and Italy were trying to persuade colleagues that the concept of Spitzenkandidaten is not good. Our target was to avoid that system and we said it clearly from the beginning,” Babiš commented.
The Visegrad leaders did not criticise the appointment of Belgium’s Charles Michel as European Council President, although he is known as one of the outspoken critics of their anti-migration policy.
“By stubbornly, repeatedly, systematically refusing to show a minimum of solidarity, these countries automatically open the political debate about the Schengen area, they in fact open the question of their own place in the Schengen area,” Michel said in reference to the Visegrad Four during an EU summit in December.
The Visegrad leaders also didn’t take issue with the fact that none of the key EU positions will be held by an appointee from Central and Eastern Europe. They seem satisfied that the current Slovak Vice President of the Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, will continue with a prominent portfolio.
“If the V4 could nominate a Vice-President, we have an agreement, that it will be our Maroš Šefčovič. There is a big chance that he will be a Vice-President with a strong portfolio. I am very satisfied with the results,” said Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini.
At the same time, Eastern Europe is “absent” from the EU leadership positions, Piotr M. Kaczynski pointed out.
“It is a pity that the Central Europeans are nowhere to be seen,” he wrote on his blog. “This solution is proof that CEE countries, especially Poland and Italy, are losing power and influence. Mr Morawiecki at the press conference said he was confident that the region will be well represented. But how? “
Hungary her claiming victory in defeating Weber and Timmermans for the EU Commission Presidency. The V4 by operating as a bloc, and by being bloody-minded, punch above their weight. https://t.co/SbNZLemF6h
— Patrick Wintour (@patrickwintour) July 2, 2019
[Edited by Georgi Gotev and Frédéric Simon]