Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have long been part of a single civilization sharing cultural and intellectual values and common roots in religious traditions, which they have continuously strived to strengthen and preserve.
The original idea of the Visegrad group was first conceived in 1335 when Charles I of Hungary, Casimir III of Poland and John of Bohemia met in Visegrad, Hungary and agreed to create new commercial routes in order bypass the staple port Vienna and to obtain quicker and easier access to other European markets.
In more recent times, a more clearly defined cultural and political union between the same four countries has emerged. It goes by the name the Visegrad Group or V4 and was formed in Visegrad in 1991 between Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. It has remained relatively obscure for almost 25 years but recently has become more prominent as right-wing populist ideas have come to the forefront of European politics.
The formation of the Visegrad Group was essentially motivated by four factors:
- The desire to eliminate the remnants of the communist bloc in Central Europe
- The desire to overcome historic animosities between Central European countries
- The belief that through joint efforts it will be easier to achieve the set goals, i.e. to successfully accomplish social transformation and join in the European integration process
- The proximity of ideas of the then ruling political elites.
The Visegrad group nations encompass 65 million Europeans. Increasingly, the V4 is becoming the economic success stories of the European community. The economies of Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary are all growing rapidly, and indeed are growing faster than any region in the world with the exception of the economies in the Asia Pacific. In short, the central European space represented by the four Visegrad Group countries is the epitome of contemporary European success.
Their growth is predominantly export-led and they are now becoming the go-to location for foreign direct investment in Europe. Poland is now the second most attractive location for FDI in Europe, after Germany. Unemployment is also below the European average and well below levels in France, Italy and Spain, and in all these states wages are rising sharply fuelling greater domestic demand.
If the V4 represented a single economic unit, it would be well within the top twenty economic powers in the world. In terms of purchasing power, the V4 ranks 15th in terms of purchasing power parity.
Unlike many of its western European counterparts, security is one of the main priorities of the V4 governments. Along with deciding to provide significant financial support for Libyan border security, the V4 countries have been quite defiant in their unwillingness to capitulate to Angela Merkel’s directives to foster the Middle East and North African migrants.
From the looks of it, the Visegrad countries seem to be providing an all-important alternative vision for Europe’s future that runs counter to that of Brussels.
Expect to see this vision grow in scope as we move forward.