Visegrad Four views on geopolitical partnerships have little in common, shows new poll

By bne IntelliNews May 23, 2016

Slovaks have a greater belief than Czechs, Hungarians or Poles in the importance of the Visegrad Four (V4) group, a poll released by the Bratislava-based Institute for Public Affairs (IVO) on May 23 shows. Other attitudes towards geo-political partnerships also illustrated a wide degree of variance amongst the four Central European states.

V4 cooperation was considered important by 70% of Slovaks polled in 2015, but only 46% of Czechs, 43% of Hungarians and 41% of Poles share that view. While the level of support in the smallest country in the region, Slovakia, has long led that in the other states, it has fallen 5pp since 2003, when it stood at 75%. By way od contrast, enthusiasm has dropped 19pp in Poland - the region's largest country by far - and 9pp in Hungary, which has been led by a nationalist government since 2010. Only in the the Czech Republic has a positive view of the role of the V4 risen in the 12 years covered by the poll, gaining around 5pp.

The high proportion of V4 advocates in Slovakia also likely stems from the role the informal group played in the late 1990s, when the country wanted to rid itself of the authoritarian rule of then prime minister Vladimir Meciar, sociologist Olga Gyarfasova suggested to CTK.

“The fall in Poland is associated with its being seen as the regional power, as it is the biggest of the Visegrad members. It may also look beyond the Visegrad confines,” Gyarfasova said. “The fall in Hungary is not so considerable, but it may be connected with the political change there,” she added.

In the 1990s, Czech society largely focused on democratic consolidation and transatlantic integration, but has since become more interested in regional cooperation, reflecting politicians’ use of the V4, for example, to protest against mandatory EU quotas for taking in migrants, the pollster said.

The V4 was established in the north Hungarian town of Visegrad on February 15, 1991. It played a major role in its members' effort to join NATO and the EU. People from the V4 said the countries' economic and trade cooperation is most the important aspect of the club, followed by defence and security as well as insistence on joint interests in the EU.

The views on the rest of the world are also disparate amongst the four. The highest level of trust in the US was found among Polish respondents (50%) and the lowest among Slovaks (27%).

That percentage was also lower than the 31% professing trust in Russia, the highest in the V4. Poles, at just 9%, are least trustful of Moscow. Hungary's populist Prime Minsiter Viktor Orban - who is viewed as perhaps the closest of any EU leader to Russia - may be surprised to learn that just 16% of his countrymen trust the eastern giant, 1pp less than the Czechs.

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