Visegrad inter-state cooperation among the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia has faced numerous near-death experiences since its official birth in 1991. Furthermore, it has faced two challenges since the four member-countries’ accession to the EU in 2004. Then Visegrad was eulogized, considered deceased by many precisely for having achieved the apparently ultimate aim of EU membership. Second, having purposefully stated rumours of its death, Visegrad has since 2008 been confronted by issues from outside and ones well beyond its size – the Obama presidency and its apparent abandonment of Central and Eastern Europe in its “reset” strategy towards Moscow; a post-Lisbon EU agenda; strategic reorientations in NATO; and both the general, that is, global, financial crisis and particularly within the EU and regarding the Euro.
This article, by contrast, contends that the fundamental changes and challenges that Visegrad has faced enhanced the Group’s clear and successful strategy. It identifies and elaborates that strategy, drawing also selectively and thematically on the Group’s historical experience since 1991. These strategies include targeted rather than broad selection of aims; retaining an exclusivemembership while also inventing variable and flexible mechanisms for adding non-member countries to help them pursue specific initiatives. Through a study of annual Group Presidency agendas and reports, high-level and ministerial meeting declarations and media and secondary source analysis and interviews with National Coordinators, the article contends that the Group continues to promote realistic aims, and provides a unique platform for exercising them. This study concludes that Visegrad, despite the outside challenges remains effective in raising awareness, advancing smaller-scale policies and influencing EU policy towards theWestern Balkans and European Partnership (EaP) countries, as well as achieving specific Visegrad initiatives with those states.