What is the V4 for?

On Friday September 4 the V4 holds summit on ‘migration crisis’. We call upon our Prime Ministers to discuss more than just security and border controls. We ask them to be inspired by the courage and help many of the V4 citizens have already given. We ask them to show the kinder face of Visegrad. And we ask our fellow citizens to support us in this call.

Photo © Edd Carlile


The Czech Prime Minister has convened for this Friday an extraordinary summit of the Visegrad Group. Topic? “Discussion of common approach of the V4 countries in solving the migration crisis.” 1

As we’re speaking, the V4 governments are quite helpless in finding their role in response to situation of thousands of refugees and migrants who are fleeing to Europe. As we’re speaking, the Schengen rules of border-free travel, those rules that V4 citizens have so much enjoyed, are effectively being dismantled.

It is not the first time that the region experiences a confrontation between fear-mongering government rhetoric and spontaneous groups and movements of citizens asking for kindness, dialogue and respect. We know who won in the late 80s, but who will win now?

Every day now brings heartbreaking pictures from Budapest’s train stations. Thousands of people who made it via Macedonia and Serbia are stuck there.

Hungarian volunteers meet them and provide food, medical assistance, translation and help connect them with their families from which many got separated along the way. Hungarians have looked for and found ways how to welcome the new arrivals and make their journey a bit less painful. But the number seems to be simply too much at the moment.

The Hungarian government erected a fence on the border with Serbia and assured the public that refugees are a ‘German’ problem. 2 The fence has not stopped people from getting into Hungary, and evasion of responsibility can work only in the short-term. It is in fact unclear at the moment, who is in charge in Hungary’s response to unprecedented number of new arrivals.

The neighboring Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia are far from facing so many newcomers. This is understandable – they simply do not share the southern border with countries that serve as the fastest refugee and migrant route.

The V4, or, the Visegrad Group, was established in the early 90s and in the first decade of its existence its raison d’etre was to help each other catch up with ‘the West’ and get into the EU and NATO. In the post-2004 period it briefly looked for a reason to continue its existence and it quickly found it – cooperation in EU neighborhoods, sharing the post-89 ‘transition lessons’ and coordination in the EU institutions.

Earlier this week the V4Revue asked the Czech, Polish and Slovak Ministries of Foreign Affairs two questions: Did Hungarian government ask you for help in providing services to refugees and migrants that arrived to its territory? Did your government volunteer support to Hungarian government and civil society? You can read the full responses below this article, but briefly: they seem to be startled.

One thing has never really worked well in the V4: correcting each other’s domestic wrongs. As the V4s were busy talking about helping Serbia or Ukraine democratize, the V3 was not able to do much when the post-2010 Orban’s governments came up with controversial measures undermining civic freedoms in the country. For the record: Hungary is far from being the V4s only underperforming democracy.

Now Hungary is the frontier of humanitarian crisis unprecedented in Europe since the WW2. While the V3 has showed some declaratory solidarity with its ill-famed rejection of Commission’s quotas and drawing attention to ‘Balkan route’ 3 , the governments have not exactly been rushing to help out with the emergency on the ground.

But V4 is not just a governmental organization – over the quarter century bonds have developed between various non-governmental associations and civic movements, also thanks to the International Visegrad Fund, that pools the 4 governments’ money and distributes them for projects that, with a few exceptions, simply have to have partners from all 4 countries.

It is difficult to say whether V4 has ever faced such a test as it does today: a test of responsibility to one another and a test of its readiness to be part of Europe’s humane and constructive response to refugee plight and wars in the EU neighborhood.

A number of civic groups from around the region have already understood, that at the moment one needs to go beyond intellectual exercises on complex and long-term solutions, and act. Volunteers, mainly from Slovakia and Czech Republic, decided to do more than just be moved when looking at the photos posted by the wonderful ‘Budapest Seen’ on Facebook 4 . They travelled to Hungary and brought food, clothes or at least sent money. But still more can be done. Most importantly: while it is good to have volunteers, they simply do not and cannot have the capacities and means available to governments.

In fact, the list of opportunities is quite long. We the V3 citizens could insist that our governments will help the Hungarian government to come up with better solutions than fences; we could get in touch with Hungarian associations providing direct help to people who just made it over the fence and ask whether there is something we can do for them – and then, if possible, we could really do it. For starters, Migration Aid, Hungary’s loose coalition of NGOs and grassroot initiatives runs a Facebook page that provides daily updates in Hungarian and English on what specific aid is needed on a particular day or location. 5

The road to all these coulds though leads through one big have to: we have to acknowledge that Hungarians, just because they live in a country that happens to have the V4s longest Schengen border, should not be left alone in this.

Back in the 1980s the regimes in the V4 imploded, because they were simply not sustainable. Rhetoric which presents refugees and migrants as security threats cannot live long either.

At V4Revue we believe that Visegrad can actually be useful, and it already is. We encourage you to spare a bit of time and use tools and networks available to you to show Visegrad’s kinder face.

Do it please even if you still have doubts whether our governments should do more. In the end, current challenge is also about you – and the future shape of Europe you live in. If Schengen gets dismantled 6, if V4 will be perceived as those mean guys who just want something but will not give in return, what do you think will be immediate consequences for our region?

 

Questions:

1) Did Hungarian government ask you for help in providing services to refugees and migrants that arrived to its territory?

2) Did your government volunteer support to Hungarian government and civil society? If no, why, if yes, what type of help you offered?

Czech Republic:

Within the FRONTEX JO Flexible Land Operation, two Czech patrols with mobile thermo vision have been sent so-far. The first patrol of four people was in operation from April 29th – June 2015 24th on the Hungarian-Serbian border in the Kiskunhalas District. The second two-man patrol operated in the Bácsbokod District. The Czech police patrols worked jointly with the Hungarian police mostly at night, securing the external Schengen border in order to eliminate illegal refugee crossings from Serbia. Further FRONTEX Agency operations are planned for the period between September 15th and November 12th 2015, during which a four-man Czech patrol with thermo vision will monitor the Hungary-Serbia border, but the dispatch location is not yet specified.

Hungary also requested, via EC command center, that 200 tents be secured, and the Czech Republic responded promptly supplying 50 tents to the Kiskunhalas camp.

Hungary appreciated both states‘ levels of cooperation on migration issues, especially the approach of the Czech Ministry of the Interior, and both the Czech and Frontex Police corps. Since the second term a Czech immigration officer has been on duty inside Hungarian territory. At the same time, because of the Czech Republic’s V4 presidency, the nation supports Hungary within the V4 framework, where member states coordinate their position on migration issues.

V rámci operace FRONTEX JO Flexible Land byly na území Maďarska dosud vyslány dvě české hlídky s mobilní termovizí. První hlídka byla čtyřčlenná a působila v období od 29. dubna do 24. června 2015 na maďarsko – srbské hranici v oblasti Kiskunhalas. Druhá hlídka byla dvoučlenná a působila v oblasti Bácsbokod. České policejní hlídky vykonávaly v součinnosti s maďarskou policií ostrahu vnější schengenské hranice s cílem eliminovat nelegální přechody běženců ze Srbska. Hlídky byly nasazovány převážně v nočních hodinách. Další operace agentury FRONTEX je plánována v termínu od 15. září do 12. listopadu 2015, kdy má na maďarsko – srbské hranici působit čtyřčlenná hlídka s termovizní. Místo vyslání bude ještě upřesněno.

Přes operační středisko EK vzneslo Maďarsko také požadavek na zajištění 200 stanů, na který ČR obratem reagovala a do tábora Kiskunhalas dodala 50 stanů.

V návaznosti na tyto kroky ocenila maďarská strana nadstandardní spolupráci obou států v oblasti migrace, zejména přístup Ministerstva vnitra ČR, Policie ČR a policistů z Frontexu. Na území Maďarska již v druhém turnusu působí i český imigrační úředník. ČR zároveň podporuje Maďarsko i vzhledem k českému předsednictví V4, v jehož rámci jednotlivé členské země koordinují svůj postoj i v otázce migrace.

Poland:

1)  The Hungarian Government has not asked the PL counterpart for help in providing services to refugees and migrants that arrived on the Hungarian territory.

2) There was no indication that any assistance is required. The EU framework is the right channel for defining the ways of solving the migration crisis. The migration crisis will also be the topic of the forthcoming extraordinary V4 prime ministers summit in Prague this Friday.

Slovakia:

Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs 

1) No, Hungary did not ask. However migration issues are among the top priorities of both states and Slovak Vice-Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, M. Lajcak, talks about them regularly with his counterpart. This topic will be also the main theme of the Prime Ministers of the V4 Summit that will také place in Prague this Friday. It would be appropriate to turn to the Ministry of the Interior with requests for cooperation specifications. There is very intense communication and collaboration between both ministries of the interior (copied in this email).

Nie nepožiadala. Téma migrácie je však medzi top prioritami oboch štátov a pravidelne o nej so svojim rezortným partnerom hovorí aj podpredseda vlády a minister zahraničných vecí a európskych záležitostí SR M. Lajčák. Dodávame, že táto téma bude aj hlavnou témou summitu premiérov krajín V4 v Prahe, ktorý sa uskutoční v piatok  tento týždeň. Je však vhodné, aby ste sa obrátili na MV SR s požiadavkou o špecifikáciu spolupráce. Existuje veľmi intenzívna komunikácia a spolupráca medzi oboma rezortami vnútra. (dávam ich do kópie tohto emailu).

2) As stated above, there is very narrow cooperation between security agencies and therefore I recommend that you turn to the Ministry of the Interior, which has long-term and intense communication with its Hungarian partners on this issue.

Ako som uviedol vyššie, existuje veľmi úzka spolupráca medzi bezpečnostnými zložkami a preto odporúčam, aby ste sa obrátili na rezort vnútra, ktorý v danej oblasti s maďarskými partnermi dlhodobo a intenzívne komunikuje.

Ministry of Interior

The Slovak police force has not underestimated the dire situation resulting from Europe’s ongoing migration crisis and are adopting adequate measures, while also offering to help the member states, who are confronted with increasing numbers of illegal migrants travelling over the Mediterranean Sea.

Hungary, as an EU member state and the southern neighbor of the Slovak Republic, is extremely burdened by this migratory movement even though the illegal migrants are declaring it a transitory country, intending to continue further to places like Germany. In reaction to the situation’s severity, the Slovak Republic has offered to help Hungary by patrolling migratory activities along the railways between both countries, which continue to the Czech Republic and Germany.

Hungary welcomed the Slovak offer and the Hungarian National Police signed an agreement with the Presidium of the Police Force of the Slovak Republic’s Ministry of the Interior on cross border cooperation. The agreement was signed by the Slovak Police Corps President, Gen. PaedDr. Tibor Gašpar, and the Hungarian National Police Chief Commissioner, Lt. Gen. Károly Papp. The joint patrol’s first practical implementation took place on international trains on August 13th 2015 and is still being carried out today.

Slovenská polícia nepodceňuje situáciu v súvislosti s rastúcim počtom nelegálnych migrantov, prijíma adekvátne opatrenia a poskytuje pomoc aj okolitým štátom.

V dôsledku pretrvávajúcej migračnej krízy sú viaceré členské štáty konfrontované s nárastom počtu nelegálnych migrantov prichádzajúcich do Európy cez stredozemné more. Maďarsko, ako členský štát Európskej únie a južný sused Slovenskej republiky, je extrémne zaťažený zmienenými migračnými pohybmi aj napriek tomu, že je tranzitnou krajinou a nelegálni migranti majú deklarovaný záujem pokračovať v ceste ďalej, predovšetkým do Nemecka. Slovenská republika reagujúc na vážnosť situácie ponúkla Maďarsku pomoc vo forme spoločnej hliadkovej činnosti príslušníkov Policajného zboru oboch štátov. Primárne je zameraná na potláčanie nelegálnej migrácie v železničných dopravných prostriedkoch premávajúcich medzi Maďarskom a Slovenskom, pokračujúc ďalej cez územie Českej republiky do Nemecka.

Ponuku slovenskej strany Maďarsko uvítalo, čo viedlo k podpisu Dohody medzi Prezídiom Policajného zboru Ministerstva vnútra Slovenskej republiky a Celoštátnym hlavným veliteľstvom Polície Maďarska o cezhraničnej spolupráci. Podpísali ju policajný prezident Slovenskej republiky gen. PaedDr. Tibor Gašpar a generálny riaditeľ Celoštátneho hlavného veliteľstva Polície Maďarska gen. por. Károly Papp. Prvý praktický výkon spoločnej hliadky slovenských a maďarských policajtov sa uskutočnil 13. augusta 2015 v medzinárodnom rýchliku a odvtedy sa realizujú v pravidelne až do dnešného dňa.

V4 Revue

V4 Revue

is a webzine bringing analysis and commentary on Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Slovak politics and society.