The Visegrád Group

From the January 2018 Trumpet Print Edition

The Visegrád Group is an alliance of European nations: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In Austria, Sebastian Kurz’s potential coalition partners are very keen on joining the group.

These states have a lot of shared history. The group first met in the Hungarian town of Visegrád in 1991. The site was chosen because it was the location of an important meeting between Hungary, Poland and Bohemia in the 14th century.

The group has taken on increasing significance in recent times. These powers all have the same concerns about migrants. They also have similar feelings about Russia: They fear it, are not confident they can defend themselves, and are wary of trusting Germany or America to defend them.

But Visegrád is not the only regional group. Another important alliance is the Intermarium. First proposed by the key Polish leader Józef Piłsudsk after World War i, it is a kind of European Union, but for Eastern Europe. The word simply means “between the seas”—in this case, between the Black Sea and the Baltic. In recent years, the idea has been revived as a way of containing Russia. Poland and Romania, especially, have been cooperating militarily.

Hungary has been more reticent to confront Russia. It is far enough away that it believes Russia is less of a threat unless provoked. But there are signs this is shifting: Hungary joined Romania and Bulgaria in Black Sea military drills for the first time in June 2017.

A similar alternative is the Three Seas Initiative. This adds the Adriatic to the list of seas, making it a buffer against Turkey and Muslim immigration, as well as a block to Russia. This group is much larger; it includes Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Croatia. The group has received the backing of United States President Donald Trump, who attended a July 2017 meeting of the Three Seas Initiative.

To sum up, in Central and Eastern Europe there is a group of strongmen, or kings. They are actively working to form some kind of alliance—with a few different options on the table right now.