What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Visegrad cooperation in the global neighbourhood

Not very talkative news reports on the decisions adopted by the Visegrad Four defence ministers today say Hungary and the other V4 countries will in the future cooperate more in peace operations in both the Balkans and Afghanistan. The V4 are planning to establish a joint quick-reaction Battle Group for EU operations (by not sooner than 2015) as well as to potentially finance their participation in future NATO and EU deployments from a common budget.
These are definitely steps in the right direction. As I have pointed out both at a Visegrad-theme conference at the Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, a couple of weeks ago, and in a short essay I have written to throw in some arguments to the recent debate on Hungary's foreign policy strategy (which will shortly be published at www.grotius.hu): in an interdependent security environment, with negative spill-over effects of instability as well as other threats arising in a global neighborhood constituting more or less common challenges, and with multilateral cooperation being a must, one should logically look at opportunities to act on all that on the regional level, too. Especially since such regional cooperation is in our interest for other reasons as well. With all the talk here in Hungary on our 'neighbourhood policy', I would say this could be our 'global neighbourhood policy'.
Along with acting in unison in the face of threats in our interdependent security environment, V4 countries should also attempt to increase the soft power capital they might develop, building on the V4 brand, if you like. That increase might be achieved by focusing on issues of our real past (and not a fairytale version of it). Thus the V4 could have a say about issues such as human rights, Holocaust-denial or the 'no new divisions within Europe, please' topic. Given the history suffered by these countries (the killing of over 3.5 million Jewish, as well as a huge number of non-Jewish, citizens of the countries or entities that more or less match today's V4, by the Nazi regime during WWII; the Sovietisation of their polity and economy as they became part of the Eastern bloc; and the subsequent exclusion from the European reconstruction process set on the way by the Marshall Plan), these countries could have some extra moral authority to speak out on the issues mentioned, and if well-applied, such a strategic stance might be used to influence the dynamics of several crises around the globe, including in our closer neighbourhood. In defense of this common soft power capital, however, domestic crisis signs from these countries are rather detrimental in effect. With the usually rather indiscriminately negative impact such developments tend to have in the Western European press on the image of all Visegrad countries (at these times typically referred to again as 'Eastern Europe'), common measures, e.g. common public diplomacy campaigns may be needed.
On the question of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), interests and values may overlap. We should look to assist the stabilisation and the democratisation of the whole of the Eastern neighbourhood. The ENP, as I once heard, is often likened to a Twix bar, being a compromise of more southwards and more eastwards oriented core members of the Union. A similar division has at times characterised V4 countries - with e.g. Hungary looking more to the South, and e.g. Poland looking more to the East. It's in the face of the challenge of interdependent security and potential negative spill-over effects that the imperative for any such division to go away becomes evident.
Getting back to today's news reports, cooperation in the Balkans is definitely a must. Seeing the current, not necessarily well-timed, partial withdrawal of EU forces from Bosnia, we might need to ready ourselves for a potential deployment to the Balkans, even while pointing out that any such regional effort on our part cannot be a realistic substitute for a proper EU commitment. The idea of joint V4 peace-keeping battalions has already come up in the past. In the face of potential developments in our wider region we may not be able to wait until 2015 to act on these ideas more decisively.

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