Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary will call on the European Union to give national parliaments more say in EU decision making, the prime ministers of the four countries – known collectively as the Visegrad Four (V4) – said in Warsaw on March 2.
The group of former communist countries that joined the EU in 2004 said allowing member states more say in EU matters would improve the “legitimacy of the EU decision making process”. However, they also pledged that they remain committed to the bloc, insisting that EU structural funds, free trade and the Schengen passport-free zone must be upheld.
Many critics claim that the Visegrad states are interested only in the benefits of EU membership, while rejecting the responsibilities. That view has been widely put forward during the migrant crisis; all of the Visegrad countries have loudly protested efforts to spread refugees across the bloc to relieve frontline states such as Greece and Italy.
The call for reform is nothing new. However, the group is highly unlikely to produce any concrete proposals, not least because they share little specific agreement. While Poland and Hungary are bitter critics of the EU and have called for "revolution" in recent months, the Czechs and Slovaks - whose economies are hugely dependent on Germany and the Eurozone - have sought to distance themselves from such talk, and develop relations with Berlin instead.
“Democratic control over legislative and political processes of the EU at national level must be strengthened,” the prime ministers said in a joint statement. The V4 countries – the populist governments of Poland and Hungary in particular – have long spoken against the EU’s attempts to patrol rule of law affairs in member states.
The V4 countries say they hope their voice will be heard during the EU summit in Rome on March 25, which will celebrate the 60-year anniversary of the founding of the bloc.
In response to the challenges in front of the EU, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker this week outlined scenarios to revamp the bloc. The scenarios hint at a "two speed" EU, in which core member states may integrate more quickly than others. That suggestion has rung alarms in Visegrad, where all four states would balk at what they would see as an increase in the power exerted by Germany and France.
If there is anything universal that the EU should work on strengthening, it is the single market, the V4 countries said. They also underlined the importance of the visa-free Schengen area and EU funding, of which Visegrad is a major beneficiary. “We must safeguard the greatest achievements of the EU,” the four countries said.
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