Session Summary:  A View from Central Europe: Future of the EU

H.E. Ivan Korčok, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Slovakia  

H.E. Jakub Kulhánek, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic  

H.E. Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary  

H.E. Zbigniew Rau, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland  

Led by: Terry Martin, TV News Anchor, Journalist, Berlin

 

The discussion focused on the Visegrad 4 countries and their perception of the future of the region and the EU. The debate began with a reflection on the EU itself by each of the Visegrad 4 ministers. H.E. Péter Szijjártó started by stating that the EU is entering a new age, both in terms of global politics and global economy. This age contains a lot of competition for strength by global actors. He stresses the need for the European Union to be among the winners of this race, both in political strength and economic power. He further develops this notion by mentioning that to make the EU strong, it is imperative to focus on making the member state strong. He believes in transforming the individual strength of member states into the collective strength of the entire union. H.E. Jakub Kulhánek agreed by stating that in the future, he believes that the EU will be as the member states make it. He also added that while the EU has evolved, we should not forget the hard work and responsibility the member states took on when joining the EU.

H.E. Ivan Korčok praises the success story of Slovakia. He adds that the fact that Slovakia is a member of the European Union largely helped with its success. The EU opened the country and brought new responsibilities, opportunities, and economic development. Furthermore, he mentions the need to address the current issues and the outcomes of unresolved crises before looking into future challenges. 

H.E. Zbigniew Rau outlined that there are expectations of the European Union. Firstly, that there is a political structure with strong European institutions, which are helping pursue the interests of its member states. Secondly, a community of cooperation, a mutual understanding based on the principle of equality, subsidiarity, and proportionality.

The four foreign ministers discussed the future of the EU after the pandemic and the lessons learned from it. H.E. Péter Szijjártó claimed that the EU made both positive and negative decisions in tackling the crisis. He believes that the EU was slow in the procurement of vaccines. He added that the institutions are able to lead integration in peaceful circumstances, but leaders are also needed in a crisis. H.E. Ivan Korčok mentions the need to identify what kind of competence should the EU have in terms of health. H.E. Jakub Kulhánek further discussed the need to prepare for any future pandemic as well as the reflection on how and why the EU was so unequipped to address a health crisis of this magnitude. The ministers agreed that the pandemic has been a wake-up call for the European Union. H.E. Zbigniew Rau adds that the pandemic has been a traumatic experience, but there are lessons that can be learned from it.

The panellists also delved into the debate around the upcoming conference on the future of Europe. H.E. Zbigniew Rau pointed out the need to look at Europe from the perspective of its citizens, not its politicians. He added that a clearer division of competencies between member states is also of great importance. H.E. Jakub Kulhánek praised the idea of the conference but believes practical change can occur only when awareness of it is raised also among the citizens.