Hungary postpones Visegrad 4 Summit after Czechia, Poland reps refuse to attendReading Time: 2 minutes
Hungary cancelled a scheduled summit of defence ministers from the Visegrad 4 (“V4”) group of EU member states – Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – on Tuesday. The defence ministers of both Czechia and Poland signalled they would not attend the gathering, scheduled for 30-31 March, due to Hungary’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leading to the cancellation. Hungary’s Ministry of Defence said it would happen at a later date.
Through their unwillingness to attend the V4 meeting, Hungary’s traditional regional allies in the V4 may be signalling they question where Budapest’s alliances truly lie: with Russia, or the West.
Citing national interests Budapest has refused any embargo targeting Russian energy imports, measures involving peacekeepers in Ukraine and has not allowed any weapons destined for Ukraine to cross Hungarian territory, despite its condemnation of Russia’s attack and having supported four rounds of EU sanctions.
Following an extraordinary European Union leaders summit in Versailles earlier this month, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed his satisfaction that there would be no EU sanctions covering oil and gas. “In other words Hungary’s energy supplies will be guaranteed in the coming period.”
According to Politico, right up to the start of the war Orban has been proud of his close relationship with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, which has resulted in a near doubling of Russian natural gas imports and a massive, Russian-built nuclear expansion project in Hungary. Just weeks before Russia’s invasion, Orban visited Putin in Moscow on a so-called “peace mission”, allegedly to ink a new gas purchase agreement. On that occasion, the Hungarian PM boasted that he and Putin had met 12 times in 13 years.
Explaining her decision not to go to Budapest, which was made last week, Czech Defence Minister Jana Cernochova tweeted “I have always supported the V4 and I am really sorry that Hungarian politicians now find cheap Russian oil more important than Ukrainian blood.” Cernochova has also said she does not want to participate in Hungary’s election campaign via her presence, given that a parliamentary vote will take place on 3 April.
According to a Polish daily which spoke to government sources in Poland, that country’s Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak cancelled his participation in the V4 meeting due to things Hungary had said about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Former President of the European Council and former Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk weighed in on the discord surrounding the V4 summit on Twitter: “Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have refused to participate in a V4 meeting in Budapest. It is a protest against the pro-Putin policy of Orban. A not so splendid isolation.”