April 19. 2024. 8:59

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Czech president criticises Visegrad over Hungary

The Visegrad Group is now a consultative group even if it was not set up as such, the new Czech President Petr Pavel, a former NATO military committee chief, who vows to strengthen cooperation with Slovakia and Poland but not Hungary, has said.

Pavel, inaugurated as the Czech president on 9 March, visited Slovakia for his first official trip on Monday and is set to also visit Poland this week. He did not plan a trip to Hungary, the fourth country of the so-called Visegrad group.

“Nowadays, I see the Visegrad Four as more of a consultative forum without the ambition of detailed coordination of foreign or security policy, which is not what the group was intended for,” Pavel said after meeting his Slovak counterpart Zuzana Čaputová on Monday.

Pavel was critical towards the Visegrad group, particularly Hungary, even during the election campaign. His predecessor and the previous government considered the Visegrad Four to be key allies, especially in promoting national interests at the EU level.

But following the change in leadership, the Visegrad group has no more vocal supporters in Prague, though both the government and the president advocate for bilateral cooperation with Slovakia, Poland and the Baltic countries.

During the meeting on Monday, Čaputová and Pavel also discussed foreign policy cooperation, including the joint organisation of foreign trips, for example, to Ukraine in April.

“I would be very happy to go on such a trip,” Čaputová said.

The Slovak president visited Pavel in Prague in January, immediately after the second round of the Czech presidential election, and congratulated him on his victory at the election headquarters – a move many viewed as the two celebrating a close partnership.

(Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)