The risk of deepening the gap between the Eurozone and the rest of the EU has been one of the key political concerns during the on-going economic and financial crisis. How do major central European euro and non-euro members see the consequences of the crisis for their own role in the EU and possible future accession to the euro?
Mr Paweł Świeboda, President of demosEUROPA – Centre for European Strategy, Warsaw
Prof Péter Balázs, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary; Former Member of the European Commission; Professor, Central European University, Budapest
Prof Petr Drulak, Director of the Institute of International Relations; Professor, Charles University, Prague
Prof Pekka Sutela, Visiting Distinguished Professor, Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po; Adjunct Professor, Aalto University School of Business, Helsinki
Dr Zuzana Fungáčová, Senior Economist, Bank of Finland Institute for Economies in Transition (BOFIT)
Teija Tiilikainen, Director, the Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Summary of the comments and questions from the audience
The Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Dr Teija Tiilikainen, thanked the Polish Embassy for their support in organising this seminar, the objective of which was to look at the much debated euro crisis and the future of the EMU from a different angle, namely from the point of view of the non-Eurozone EU members, and in this case the Visegrád countries.
Audio recordings of the presentations given at the seminar are available for listening (see above).
Comments and questions from the audience centred on possible solutions to the euro crisis, emerging at the European level; and the identity of the Visegrád countries in the context of the EU.
A question from the audience after the presentation of Mr Paweł Świeboda inquired about the relationship between deepening Eurozone integration and the future of the common foreign policy, namely, will Poland's ability to push for a common foreign policy be undermined by its non-euro membership? Mr Świeboda argued that there is a crowding out effect in the EU policy agenda and that dealing with the euro crisis has left very little room for dealing with other issues, such as the common foreign policy. The activism of Poland and Sweden in the area of common foreign policy comes perhaps from not being Eurozone members, as it leads them to look for methods of influence outside of the economic and monetary means. He also finds it a problem that the external dimension is not being discussed when talking about the redesigning of the Eurozone.
Mr Świeboda believes the solution to the crisis will consist of a mixture of elements with austerity in the south, some inflation in the north, perhaps some fiscal transfers, and debt neutralization to some extent. In his opinion the moral hazard issue plays a disproportionately big role. Prof Petr Drulak thinks that ideally the big EU countries France, Germany and the UK would come up with solution suggestions that would then be presented and discussed with the others, but he added that since the UK is not committed, this strong force is missing.
As to the Visegrád countries, according to Mr Świeboda the regional cooperation among them was strongest at the accession negotiations and has never returned to that level. Poland has been fairly well positioned in other networks as well, but the other Visegrád countries have, in his opinion, perhaps suffered from what he called the medium-size syndrome; being a late entrance and being of average size poses challenges in their attempts to play a significant role in the EU. Regarding a Visegrád identity, Prof Balázs found common ground in the many similarities between its members. According to him also Poland is very much attached to the region. Being new member states, the Visegrád countries have a similar identity and share many common problems. In Prof Drulak's opinion, cooperation among the Visegrád countries is not completely non-existent, but not very strong either. He sees that the problem is the power asymmetry which sets Poland apart from the other countries, having its own views and other options outside of the Visegrád framework. He said that the strongest point of reference for the Czech Republic in political thinking concerning Europe is somewhere between the Germans and the UK. Dr Zuzana Fungáčová also mentioned the strong link between Slovakia and the Czech Republic and thought that Finland could serve as a good example to Slovakia in how to play a more active role in the EU.
Dr Tiilikainen concluded the seminar by saying that one of the key functions of the FIIA is to bring to the Finnish discussion and awareness topics that have been unnecessarily in the shadow. The Central European point of view to the future of the EU and the EMU certainly being one of such topics, this seminar was a good start to adding something crucial to the awareness on this issue.