Czech President Petr Pavel seems to be sceptical of the Visegrád Four’s role in representing the region on the European level.
The first visit of the newly inaugurated Czech President, Petr Pavel led to neighbouring Slovakia. During the official visit, Petr Pavel did not only discuss Czech-Slovak relations with his Slovak counterpart Zuzana Čaputová, but they also talked about the Vi 4, and Hungary’s role in it. The Czech President said that the V4 is fit for being a forum for dialogue, but its role and capability of coordinating foreign policy action between the four participating countries should not be overestimated either. He also reminded that the V4’s earlier coordination failures should be seriously reviewed. He appeared to be critical of the Hungarian government and said that the current Hungarian leadership ‘will not be in power forever’. When talking about weapon transfers to Ukraine, Pavel, a former NATO general, highlighted that it is an illusion that denying weapons to Kyiv would bring about peace, in another not-so-hidden criticism of Budapest’s position.
A couple of weeks earlier, when Petr Pavel was asked if Hungary should be pushed out of the V4 cooperation, the President did not answer directly, he just voiced his scepticism of the cooperation. Pavel has already paid a visit to Slovakia and Poland, agreed on a visit to Ukraine,
but does not have a trip scheduled to Hungary.
Snubbing Hungary is a telltale sign that he has issues with the Hungarian government. His current position reflects his election campaign rhetoric, in which he was also criticising the V4 as well as Hungary.
The current Czech President’s policy towards the V4 and his attitude towards Hungary is strikingly different from that of his predecessor, who considered the V4 as a key to representing the interests of its member countries on the global stage. With the departure of Miloš Zeman, Czechia appears to lack a prominent proponent of the V4 cooperation.
Petr Pavel does not seem to attribute much future potential to the V4 cooperation either. He said that the original goal of the V4 was to join the EU. Since the four countries have already attained that goal, filling the V4 cooperation with content is difficult in his opinion. While Pavel is quite clear about the fact that the V4 does not seem to have any clear objectives at the moment, he is also opposed to just ending the cooperation. He believes that the V4 should primarily be a forum for dialogue without the intention of actually coordinating on security- or foreign policy-related matters. He has also highlighted that the Visegrád Four’s economic, trade and cultural cooperation should be further developed in the future.