Published On: Wed, Oct 18th, 2017

Juncker swoops on Visegrad nations to halt EU split after weekend with Boris

The 62-year-old President of the European Commission is to host an informal dinner in Brussels with the leaders of the four countries – Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic after a series of events caused diplomatic frustrations.

Due to attend are Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary; Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia; Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic; and Beata Szydło, Prime Minister of Poland.

The European Commission’s chief spokesman Margaritas Schinas said the dinner was designed “to have an informal occasion to discuss openly the issues the president identified in his State of the Union speech.

“Namely, his unwavering commitment to ensure east and west work together”.

Jean-Claude Juncker would appear to be wanting to head off any potential dissent from the group during the upcoming two-day European Council meeting later this week with chiefs eager to put on a display of unity. 

The Visegrad Group has come into direct confrontation with the bloc in the past over its disregard for EU migrant policy and their unwillingness to have open borders.

Another area of disagreement with the group is the European Union’s push to create a two-speed EU, with core countries moving for deeper integration, focused around the euro with the remaining countries pushed more to the periphery.

Hungary has already questioned the suitability of such a two-tier EU.

Szabolcs Takacs, state secretary for EU Affairs in Mr Orban’s office, said in June Brussels should instead strive to strengthen cooperation among member states in individual areas.

He said: “A two-speed Europe I think is simply not viable because it might mean such a deep division that eventually it would be… the end of the EU in its present form.”

Either side though has to walk a tightrope.

Mr Juncker wants to increase EU unity despite problems not just with the Visegrad Group, but Brexit as talks appear to be stuck in the mud.

He may be trying to swoop after Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson welcomed the Visegrad leaders and four others to Chevening House at the weekend in a bid to woo the allies into backing Britain in Brexit talks.

He was photographed paddling a boat with the Czech deputy foreign minister Ivo Srameck as other senior international figures looked on in what was described as “row boat diplomacy”.

As well as the Visegrad four, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Slovenia were represented at the trip to Mr Johnson’s official residence for talks on European security.

The issue of Catalonia is also causing a problem for the EU apparatchik with the north east region of Spain pushing to break away from the rest of Spain and creating an independent republic.

In turn, a heavy-handed approach from Mr Juncker could push the group further and further away from Brussels and push the former Soviet satellite countries like Hungary back into the arms of Russia.

Mr Juncker will also be worried over the recent general election in Austria which saw the conservative People’s Party, led by Sebastian Kurz, top the polls.

But Mr Kurz failed to gain an overall majority and now looks set to form a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO).

A possible stipulation from the FPO could be that Austria joins the Visegrad Group, further weakening Mr Juncker’s control over the bloc.

Daily Express :: News Feed