EU: Refugees, Nord Stream 2 and Visegrad 4

On June 28-29, the EU Summit took place in Brussels, Belgium. The leaders of 29 states of the bloc gathered together to discuss the number of issues varying from the “Brexit” and the economic affairs to security and defense as well as the question of migration.

Migrants wait to be rescued by members of Proactiva Open Arms NGO in the Mediterranean Sea, Libya. Photo by Aris Messinis Getty Images

On June 28-29, the EU Summit took place in Brussels, Belgium. The leaders of 29 states of the bloc gathered together to discuss the number of issues varying from the “Brexit”, Nord Stream 2, Visegrad 4 and the economic affairs to security and defense as well as the question of migration.

The adopted decisions during the Summit have finalized the lengthy discussion dating back to 2015 between the West European countries and the Visegrad group, namely Poland, Hungary, Czechia, and Slovakia.

The most critical issue on the migrant quotas, strongly supported by the Western leaders, has been rejected. Click to Tweet
However, the acceptable version on the “relocation and resettlement of migrants” on a voluntary basis, was adopted.”

The results of this Summit were highly appreciated in the Visegrad group capitals and taken as a genuine “victory.” The Prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, rushed to declare this Summit as a victory of the Visegrad group countries saying: “We were able to block this [the relocation of migrants] and have our proposal adopted.” In parallel, his Slovak counterpart, Peter Pellegrini, was content of the document and declared that his country could welcome as many as 1200 migrants “to help neighbouring countries.” The Polish Prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, ruled last Friday after the negotiations and underlined that “the position of Poland regarding the relocation of refugees is now the EU’s position.”

The boycott proves successful: Visegrad wins the issue of migrants

This Summit was preceded by a preparatory meeting which took place on June 24, in the Belgian capital, boycotted by the Visegrad Group countries. It was decided to boycott the preliminary meeting during the Visegrad Summit that took place on June 23, in Budapest.

During the Visegrad Summit, the group of four states accompanied by Austrian Federal Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, leader of the country that holds the presidency of the EU Council from July 1, 2018, with the motto “Europe that protects.” The programme of Vienna as a head of the EU is set to promote three principal axes, including security and the fight against illegal immigration.

For the Visegrad Prime Ministers, a compromise could reach on strengthening borders and creating migrant camps outside the EU. On the other hand, they openly expressed their disagreement with the willingness of Western countries, notably France and Germany, to impose migrant quotas.

The Prime minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, said: “We speak with a united voice,” while his Slovak counterpart, Peter Pellegrini, said: “The views of the V4 did not always please certain European partners, and this will still be the case in the future”.

However, the migration issue is not the only one dividing Europe. There is also a strong dissatisfaction within the Visegrad group, especially Poland, that remains the fervent critic of the Russo-German Nord Stream 2 project.

The Nord Stream 2 threatens the security of Central and Eastern Europe

Needless to say that Berlin’s almost unilateral decision to build a gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany via the Baltic sea not appreciated in Warsaw. For Poland, this is a direct threat to the country’s national security and even a threat to the European Union.

During a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that took place last February in Berlin, Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki said that the Nord Stream 2 was likely to increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

On July 4, during the European Parliament debates in Strasbourg, the Head of the Polish Government reiterated Warsaw’s position regarding Nord Stream 2 by warning against this project, that, in his opinion, goes against one of the strategic objectives of the EU at the level of a real energy union. He added that this project “is not an economic project, but a political one” which “increases the risks of destabilization in Central Europe and gives Russia powerful tools of influence not only on the European economy but also on the European politics”.

The Visegrad countries jointly criticize the Russo-German Nord Stream 2 project, even though Budapest and Prague do not oppose this project so firmly as Warsaw.

Bratislava, in its turn, sees the project as a threat to its interests, because with a possibility of Russian gas delivery across Germany, the Slovak gas transit capacity… Click to Tweet
Also, other countries are opposing the Nord Stream 2 outside Visegrad, such as Lithuania and, of course, Ukraine – one of the largest transporters of Russian gas to the EU.

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  • Denys is a political analyst specializing in defense & security issues and covers the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as well as Russia. He also follows closely the developments in France. His articles have been published in different languages by the German magazine European Security & Defense, the Middle East Eye or the Ukrainian website Evropeyska Pravda. He holds M.A. in International Relations from the Université Paris II Panthéon-Assas.

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