Brexit, Visegrád Group, European Union – Europe changes. History is being written as we speak. By Ferenc Almássy.
Brexit was a shock to some, especially in the soft and capricious West. But in Central Europe, living historical events from the inside has almost become a common thing. All the current Central European leaders remember or even took part in the regime changes that happened a quarter-century ago. These men and women lived under communism and worked to end it. And this experience is useful today as Europe faces a major turning point.
If Brexit is indeed implemented – it would not be the first time in the history of the EU that a referendum displeasing to its elites is not honored – Brexit will also have consequences in Central Europe.
A fault line created not by Brexit, but by Berlin and Paris
The six founding members of the Union – the Benelux countries and the little European giants, Italy, France, and Germany – had an emergency meeting in Berlin on Monday, June 27, to discuss the future of the European Union… at least according to them. They excluded “secondary members” and, therefore, the Visegrád Group.
According to the Polish media TVP, the Germans and French wish to create a “super-state,” i.e., a significant increase in European integration. Polish media has published a copy of the 9-pages document: it aims to end the last elements of national sovereignty.
The Visegrád Four Group (V4) grasped the importance of the event and did not remain idle. The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs invited his counterparts from the V4 and other countries excluded from the Berlin’s crisis meeting. This dissidence between states was born and formalized at the heart of a Union that some believe is already moribund.
It is all too common in the West to think that Central Europe has benefited from benevolent assistance — selflessly offered out of pure humanitarianism — by the EU’s Western heartland. But obviously, although Central Europe has benefited from EU subsidies, it has not signed on to be a colony, although some might think so. The Baltic countries, the V4, and other new countries of the European Union are full members, also participating financially in the common project, having swapped a part of their sovereignty to play the game, and finally, having opened huge markets — easily accessible, geographically, legally, and financially — and pools of cheap, youthful, and highly qualified labor.
The V4 did not want the UK to leave the EU. They regarded the UK as an important element of the Union: an ally for other countries that wished to maintain their sovereignty, that did not wish to adopt the common currency, and that opposed Berlin’s “refugee” quotas. The UK is also a major economic partner for each of the V4 countries. She is the main destination of young emigrants from the V4. The V4 diaspora in the UK is huge: one million Poles, 350,000 Hungarians, 45,000 Czechs, and 9,000 Slovaks. For all these reasons, the V4 was opposed to Brexit. Orbán even published an anti-Brexit ad in the British press.
But now that Brexit has passed, the sincere democrats of the V4 group have moved without hesitation to plan B. It is necessary to renew Europe, but certainly not through greater integration. According to the V4, European integration (i.e., federalization) is precisely what will cause the EU to collapse.
The reactions of the V4: Common Front for another Europe
In Poland, the foreign minister Waszczykowski is concerned about the domination of the euro area henceforth, implying even more strongly a two-tier EU. “The euro zone could create separate institutions, a separate budget, and then the European Union as a whole would be only a façade, and the euro zone would dominate.” “We must create a Union of sovereign states,” said the spokesman of the Polish government, adding that the example of the United Kingdom shows that this is exactly what Europe wants, and that all member states should be treated as partners because no country can decide the fate of others.
Although Jarosław Kaczyński, the president of the Law and Justice party, wants a second referendum, the influential politician also said that, “We have a crisis in the EU, and the right response is not to keep doing what we are doing, because that will end in catastrophe.” The Foreign Minister has added that officials in Brussels are disconnected from ordinary people and that they should be “beating themselves on the chest” in remorse. “Europeans are not happy with the way the migration problem is being solved, they are not happy with the security problems, with poor economic growth that is the effect of the euro currency, because in fact the euro zone is stagnant and is not growing,” he added.
Beata Szydło, Prime Minister of Poland, said that “for the Polish government, the most important issue will be the fate of Polish citizens who live in Great Britain. We will try to negotiate that they maintain the privileges they got on their arrival.”
Finally, the new Polish elite took the opportunity to blast the former Liberal Prime Minister Donald Tusk, currently president of the European Council. “As a negotiator Donald Tusk bears direct responsibility for Brexit and should disappear from European politics, but that also goes for the whole European Commission in its current composition,” Kaczyński concluded.
In the Czech Republic, other elites are targeted. Jean-Claude Juncker is designated as responsible by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek, who asked for his resignation. “The European Union must change quickly,” said Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on his Facebook page. “Not because Britain has left, but because the European project needs much stronger support from its citizens. Europe must be more ready to act, be flexible, less bureaucratic and much more sensitive to the diversity that the 27 member states represent.”
Slovakia, which will lead the Council of the European Union from July the 1st, also stressed the need for changes. “It’s not a tragedy, it’s reality, and the remaining 27 member states must react quickly,” said Prime Minister Robert Fico. “It would be a big mistake if the reaction of the 27 countries was the same as the policy of the EU has been so far.” The Slovak Prime Minister also wishes to organize an informal meeting in September in Bratislava, including the French and German leaders and the president of the European Council. But he also wants the V4 to lead this discussion.
Finally, even if Viktor Orbán pleaded for Remain, it seems that Hungary comes out as a winner of Brexit: if Brexit happened, it is mainly because of the migration policy of the EU, he announced. “A situation where we have a European socialist-liberal elite that is pro-immigration while most of the European people are against it simply won’t work,” said the head of the Fidesz party in the national Parliament. “Sadly we have to admit that the remark that Europe lost 64 million citizens and its second biggest economy for the sake of a few million migrants was correct,” he added.
The Minister of Economy, Mihály Varga, thinks that Hungary can only benefit from Brexit. The Hungarian government is working to make the country more attractive for companies seeking to leave the UK. As for the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Péter Szijjártó, he felt it was totally incorrect to continue to impose the policy measures that led to the current failures. “Heads must roll.”
“Perhaps the time of the Eastern European countries has arrived.”
It was with these words that Die Welt, the great German newspaper commented on the reactions of European leaders. Brexit marks a milestone in contemporary European history at which the booming Central European countries intend, once again, to contribute. Gone are the days of the despicable and despised “Eastern countries,” gone is the 20th century, gone is submission.
The V4 has already announced plans to deal with the UK as a bloc, and contrary to the liberal-libertarian and federalizing Berlin-Paris axis, the Visegrád Four wasted no time rallying around them the nations whose sovereignty was not taken into account by the EU.
The closed-mindedness and heedless dreams of the Western leaders are killing the European Union, a union desired by the countries of the former Eastern bloc. But because they played by democratic rules, listened to their peoples, and rejected the Babelian absurdities of Brussels, the V4 were said to be “Eurosceptical” or even opposed of the European Union. This is a serious mistake, indeed for some a willful one: the V4 is for Europe, but a different Europe. Not a liberal-libertarian federal union, but a great entente of free and sovereign countries.
Nevertheless, the shock wave of Brexit quickly hit the continent, and Berlin has catalyzed the creation of a fault line that almost follows the old route of the Iron Curtain. Time will tell what will become of the European Union and on which side of this emerging divide will be found freedom, prosperity, and hope.