Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Breathing New Life Into The Old Phoenix

I have been watching and digesting developments in Central Europe for a few years now. I have no idea how this would fit into my reporting on the Global Citizen movement, but it just happens to be an interest of mine, as you can see from my recent posting about INDECT and KT zu Guttenberg's disruptive activities.

The Four Rebels
I am most interested in the role the city of Vienna and the German state of Bavaria have taken upon themselves in the shifting sands of power bases, but for now I will have to contend myself with a development that is slightly easier to track, and that is the rising rebellion of the Visegrad Four. These four Visegrad nations are Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. They took their name from the Hungarian town of Visegrad, where they first formed their cultural and political alliance.

Vehicle for a different Europe?
This alliance has not stood still since its founding in 1991. Soon, matters like defence, the economy and energy issues were added to the agenda while their initial intentions for more European integration became marked by a growing resentment against EU rule.

Furthermore, the Visegrad Group is now a vehicle for further integration drawing in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe: Austria and the republics of Croatia and Slovenia. Areas of discussion now involve the Western Balkans, Ukraine and the Eastern Partnership.

The Visegrad Group also mentions enlargement of the European Union, but it seems that 'Europe' has come to mean different things to different people. Is Europe an expanding bloc of nations on and around the continent, or is the future Europe an area confined to the former Hapsburg dynasty? No wonder the general news media are missing the point of what is happening here.

Europe: meaning different things to different people. 
KT zu Guttenberg mocking Angela Merkel.

From common taxes to...
Another spin-off of this bundling of Central-eastern European political empire-building energy is a common tax union:
IOTA was established in 1996 in the 3rd Conference of Central and Eastern European and Baltic Countries’ Tax Administrations held in Warsaw.
They describe themselves as:
a forum for the exchange of experience and assistance for the modernisation of tax administrations in Central and Eastern Europe, especially in the context of the enlargement of the European Union.  
More about this initiative in my previous post here.

... a common military force
But there is an ominous reason for nations clubbing together to pool their financial resources. It usually signals a prelude to a common defence force, or in this case: common OFFENSE. "This domain is usually seen as the domain of national sovereignty," the GlobSec Policy Institute observes. But the analyses continues: 
In October 2013, the Visegrád prime ministers announced an ambitious plan to improve practical cooperation among their armed forces and even defense industries. In a first step, they announced the establishment of a joint Visegrád EU Battlegroup to be on stand-by in the first half of 2016 as part of the EU’s rapid reaction capacities. At the same time, they tasked defense ministers with drafting a Long-Term Vision for defense cooperation, specifying shared strategic objectives, and creating a policy framework for joint defense planning at the V4 level.
This task was accomplished five months later. In mid-March 2014, the Visegrád countries’ defense ministers had a symbolic meeting in the Hungarian town of Visegrád, which gave name to the regional grouping, and signed two strategic documents.
In near future, two problems will have to be addressed: bureaucratic inertia and lack of leadership. What we need now is new momentum and leadership that takes into account the different dynamics and outlook among the V4 capitals. The Czech, Slovak and Hungarian governments need to honor their commitments from the last NATO summit and invest in defense accordingly. If three of the V4 countries will not increase their defense spending, regional defense cooperation will not fly and no meaningful capability development is imaginable.
Is Orban a strong enough leader?
Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban is one of the dynamic leaders with a clear vision for 'Europe'. Hungary is currently holding the presidency for the Visegrad Group. Here are their ambitions: (emphases mine)
Based on our strong commitment to the stability and prosperity of our neighbourhood, we agreed to continue encouraging and supporting the Western Balkan countries on their path to European and Euro-Atlantic integration. A credible enlargement policy is especially important in light of today’s growing uncertainties and security challenges affecting the region, and thus it has to remain in the focus of the EU.
We stress the importance of regional cooperation and reconciliation among the Western Balkan countries, including addressing bilateral issues, but also the need of greater regional focus from the EU to counter challenges deriving also from external sources.
Furthermore, we pledge to support the Western Balkan partners in their endeavours, including their determination to strengthen the rule of law, fight organized crime and corruption, prevent radicalisation, and keep under control the migratory movements.
Therefore, actively supporting the enlargement process and assessing the current state of affairs with the participation of the Western Balkan countries is a key priority of Hungary’s current V4 Presidency.
Furthermore, we express our readiness to examine the possibility of supporting joint projects in the Western Balkan region through synergies of already existing frameworks, such as the activities of the International Visegrad Fund.
Will Hungary be able to forge the Balkan into one united bloc? And what about their plans for expansion? Imagine the US or the UK blatantly stating their purpose for offensively adding other sovereign nations to their sphere of influence! But not a peep from the media on this one.

Breathing new life into the old phoenix
Two steps forward, one step back. The heart of Europe is stirring, but can a strong leader revive the ancient roots? Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg remarked more than once: "There is an astonishing lack of leadership in the world". This Central European region certainly seems to be in need of a strong leader, but its history of one bloody Holy Roman Empire after another doesn't augur well if a scion of the old Hapsburg Empire were to stand up and breathe new life into the old phoenix.


Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg at the Fortune Global Forum in 2015

More reading: 
EU still keen to show its commitment to Balkan
The European Commission is expected to announce new funding to boost economic growth in the region. Balkan leaders, meanwhile, are expected to sign a treaty on integrating their transport networks, and adopt a plan to adopt a new economic area.
The EU is keen to show it is still committed to the Balkans even though the official enlargement process is on hold until 2019, and the bloc itself is fraught with its own myriad problems - Brexit and migration leading the list.

Bavaria and Visegrad Four: “It’s not our problem”
'The Visegrád Group of the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, and Bavaria both believe that Brussels needs to be 'more committed' and that we must return to adhering to the common regulations'. 'It is our common belief that 'the problem isn't at our end'

Orban meets Visegrad Four foreign ministers
The main topic of the meeting was the European Union expansion, with all officials agreeing on the integration of the western Balkans as a top priority

UKColumn discussing the EU - Ukrainian summit in Kiev and the Western 
Balkans summit in Trieste as well as the annexation of the Balkan states.
Item starts at the 6:00 mark.
The main topic of the meeting was the European Union expansion, with all officials agreeing on the integration of the western Balkans as a top priority

Read more at:


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