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Scrutinizing European Cohesion: Prospects for European Flexibility, and of Hedging in Central Eastern Europe.

This article looks at Central Eastern Europe's socioeconomic success with integration into the EU since accession. Findings reveal a major challenge in being able to substantiate "convergence" with the EU claim of being "united in diversity." Instead, a divergence between Europe's core in the west and periphery in the east seems more the reality, culturally and developmentally. The work discusses whether the subregion's benefits from having joined the EU outweigh its costs, the cohesiveness of the union, and coalitions that are currently taking shape. Finally, an alternative to the current path is discussed, suggesting that a more cohesive subregion would be in the better interest of Europe as a whole.

Has It Been A Good Fit?

Central Eastern Europe's (CEE) integration with the European Union (EU, or Union) has been lauded. People of the subregion undoubtedly feel more secure being part of the EU and NATO following the Cold War. (1) Integration has also provided a chance for them to travel in search of opportunity and to work throughout Europe more freely, as well as to feel part of a greater Europe. In integrating, the CEE states have moreover adopted EU institutionalism, positively affecting political organization and norms. The subregion's GDP has also risen considerably thanks to integration with the EU trade engine. Yet socioeconomic convergence implies a path toward eventual similarity, perhaps even parity.

As the following research will show, it is difficult for the EU to substantiate its claims of being "united in diversity" amidst the discord within its membership, particularly with regard to societal and economic convergence. The evidence argues that convergence status does not lend itself to the solidarity necessary for increased integration. It might be argued that even the sustainment of integration achieved thus far is questionable. Crises and regional discohesion have led to the formation of potential coalitions that could either bring about the end of Europeanization as we know it, or aid in its progression. So how does CEE integration measure up in light of the crises of the past decade? The following are just a few examples of the subregion's divergence from the rest of the Union.

The global financial crisis of 2008, for example, erupted at a time when the EU was enjoying a young and strong Euro currency. Middle Europe's membership in the Union was still in its infancy, and hope for change was high. The financial crisis, however, has shaken even the strongest of economies. Since that time, full economic integration, development, and mutual prosperity with social change have been strained with the reluctant continuance of a "two-speed," or flexible, path of integration within Europe, where it has been generally accepted that CEE will not enjoy the same prosperity as the Union's older members.

Furthermore, there are other issues, social fissures possibly more complex than economic convergence. Doubts about the potential for cultural assimilation, or Europeanization, abound, arising from suspicions that CEE is different from the rest of Europe. (2) Other issues, such as security, the migration dispute, and liberal governance, are currently outside the scope of this work. Still, these challenges prove, unfortunately, that the road ahead is likely to continue to be a bumpy one for the EU as an institution. It would seem that the panacea for Europe, as it were, the deepening and widening of integration, has shown itself to be a less than universal remedy, and one in need of modification. CEE membership has complicated EU relations and integration as well as the ability of CEE states to achieve elements of their own national interest. But rather than seek a Brexit scenario or Catalan moment, this paper's thesis argues that CEE's "shelter" found in the EU is in need of repair.

In order to gain a broader view, it seems reasonable to pause for a moment to consider alternative avenues to integration. There have been discussions about a "two-speed" or more "flexible" Europe in which members might find increased cohesion at different rates and on different issues. These remain a challenge, though, as some members seek to retain elements of sovereignty within their shared regionalization project. Moreover, with regard to the CEE subregion, though it is tempting to think that some of these states might be taking a "back-step" toward nationalism in their journey with Europe, viewing the subregion from a different perspective, as a constellation of states, presents the alternative of a "side-step" instead. It could reasonably be argued that greater socialization amongst CEE member states, which would create a stronger subregional identity and bring about a more culturally cohesive subregion, would be in the best interests of Europe as a whole. In fact, it is well within reason for small(er) neighboring states to do so: not for the sake of hedging against the EU, but rather to have their own caucus within it as a means of compensating for what they lack in their process of Europeanization. While such subregionalism may seem to unnecessarily complicate European integration, this inherently fragile subregion is worthy of additional measures to ensure sufficient stability and growth.

The structure of the paper is as follows. First, a brief identification of which CEE countries are being discussed. Next we address the issues of identity, cultural differences, and their place within the Union, together with their economic problems and developmental dependence on EU trade and investment. Following this we discuss certain changes to the organization of the European Union and how this organization represents a challenge to Europe's unification; along with its prospects of cohesion. Finally, we look at what these small states might consider as a path for the forward movement of the subregion.

Locating the Middle Zone

Throughout history there have been many names for Central Eastern Europe, as it can be defined in a variety of ways, ranging from geographical, to political and economic, to nationalistic and ethnic. At times cartographic representations of these entities can be superimposed one upon the other quite nicely, yet by and large these identities tend to overlap now with some, and then with others, depending on the era and type. One such name is simply "Central Europe," not to be confused with the "central European" states of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. These states also might be considered "Western Central Europe," but more generally, here, they are considered to be a part of Western Europe (WEU), along with France, Italy, and Spain, closer to the foundational members and core of influence within the EU.

When the future first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Masaryk, wrote of his Central Europe in 1915, (3) he limited it geographically to the region from Trieste to Thessaloniki to Istanbul, north to Gdansk and then to St. Petersburg "in a line not straight, but curved in the direction of Berlin." Masaryk called it "the Central Zone," where a number of vulnerable "small nations" reside. (4) From another point of view, if we are to consider all polities within this zone, we should include all lands historically between Prussian and Russian power, inclusive of the lands in between the Baltic and Black Seas. Whether one accepts this geographic notion or not, what is certain is that while some of its inhabitants might feel "western," the subregion is not Germanic; and while many inhabitants might be of Slavic origin, they are also not Russian. Instead, their territories comprise the "lands between," or the "Middle Zone," as Stephen Borsody has termed this space. (5) From another perspective, they have also long been "peripheral" to these larger centers of power, and secondary to them. This includes power, in general, but also social and economic standing, as will be shown below. Within this Middle Zone, along the periphery between east and west, this study refers primarily to a smaller collective within, the four "Visegrad" (V4) states of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. These four states are an important pole within CEE and its integration efforts within the EU; therefore, it is also the group which has the best chance to attend to the current troubles of the subregion.

Troubles of Economics

Immediately following the end of the Cold War, CEE states began their rather abrupt transition to the market economy and European regionalization in an environment where states and their firms have found themselves competing for market share on the global playing field, (6) a challenge for any state, let alone the small states of this subregion. One might say that what was needed was another Marshall Plan, a plan that would bring the subregion together and aid its growth and integration with Europe. Instead, competition for foreign direct investment (FDI), in which all CEE states shared a bumpy yet relative increase in FDI, became the norm. (7) This increased, incredibly so, in the periods immediately leading up to and following accession, when 12 new states along this periphery became members of the EU and experienced an impressive average GDP growth of over 6 percent. (8) How did this positively effect the subregion?

It is true that since accession CEE economies have taken a greater part in European trade. Yet, prior to accession, with CEE's wages and industrial capabilities, open trade presented competition to actors within WEU. Political scientist Wade Jacoby writes that "management efforts allowed [WEU] actors to exploit investment opportunities in [CEE] but without immediately exposing [WEU] economies to large increases in migration or trade pressure in sectors where [CEE] had comparative advantage." (9) With FDI came new external ownership in the industries residing in CEE; as legal scholar Rudolf Schlesinger duly noted, it is in the long-term interest of the larger successful firms in Europe's west to incorporate industries of other countries that are complimentary to their own, but not in competition with them. (10) CEE industries that suffered in the unequal liberalization within EU integration included steel, textile, chemicals, and agricultural products. (11) Opening up to the West, therefore, came at the expense of WEU firms taking considerable control of CEE's manufacturing base. So while integration seems to have included CEE states within the general supply chain of Western manufacturers and service providers, the CEE economy has had little chance to move past labor-intensive, low-tech industries. These consequences make the real value of FDI in CEE during the accession period debatable. (12) In the end, FDI fell precipitously from 2008 onward, reaching near 1990s levels for some countries in the past few years. (13)

Furthermore, FDI and GDP growth was tainted with debt accumulated during this period of economic expansion. According to World Bank data, (14) much of Visegrad show an increase in central government debt as a percentage of GDP from about 2000 onward. And according to the European Commission, "given the accumulation of deficits and the slowdown in growth, sovereign debt ratios [...] increased markedly, from 60 per cent of GDP on average before the crisis, to 80 per cent in 2010," (15) now up to near 90 percent. (16) As debt grew, foreign investment, albeit reduced, continued to be seen as an elixir for "the lands in between." The result of this debt allowed transnational capital to garner even more influence, eventually coming to control all key sectors of the CEE economy, (17) such as leading export industries, public utilities, and the banking sector.

Then again, perhaps there is more to CEE development than the dubious benefits of FDI. CEE, after all, had been the primary beneficiary of EU cohesion funds, (18) a part of the European Structural and Investment Funds, available only for the less developed regions and meant to raise the general standard of living within the new member states relative to the core EU states. These funds, however, are coveted by others in Europe, who successfully lobbied to have them made more widely available beginning in 2014, which has resulted in fewer funds being allocated to all those eligible. There has actually been a decrease in total Cohesion Funds allocated throughout Europe, dropping by about 9 percent from nearly 69.6 BN to 63.4 BN. (19) More specifically, as it relates to the Visegrad states in CEE, their cohesion funding has decreased by nearly 14 percent from the previous funding period. (20) This spells quite the challenge for CEE states, as fewer total funds become available, as a percentage of EU GNI, then the less attainable socioeconomic convergence becomes. Convergence is the idea that the newer, poorer, members would not only grow their economies at a faster rate, but that they might also eventually come to parity. But, like FDI, perhaps the benefit of these cohesion funds is also debatable. The European Commission intimated as much, when they wrote that the "convergence process [had] slowed and even gone into reverse in parts of Europe." (21)

In a report on whether the current convergence period (2014-20) will be enough to "give CEE a boost," Jan Jedlicka, the head of a Czech financial firm, reported that the appropriated funds would only be of any real significance if CEE could achieve a 90 percent absorption rate. (22) With this in mind, it is useful to observe the growth rate with and without these funds. On the average, without these funds Visegrad countries have been measured to have a GDP growth rate of 2.375 percent. At the hoped-for 90 percent, the Visegrad countries would gain .5 percentage points, on the average, which is just over 20 percent additional growth in annual GDP that could be attributed to absorption of these funds. (23) Twenty percent additional growth certainly has some significance, as it is measurably higher than growth had attained without these funds. Having said that, there is growth that is had without these funds. In this context, having to cope with less investment and funding for a mere additional half a percentage point seems hardly as advantageous as might have been expected. Still, this 20 percent growth, from the half percentage point, would only come with the required 90 percent absorption rate, which Visegrad is far from. Actually, the Visegrad average absorption rate is closer to 57.7 percent, equaling a mere .32 percentage points of growth, or approximately 13.5 percent additional growth in GDP that might recently have been attributed to Europe's Cohesion Funds. (24) Any real significance, therefore, of the EU's Cohesion Funds is suspect. In fact, economists working directly for EU institutions also find "no significant impact from these transfers," even "immiserising convergence," (25) thereby having an opposing affect.

In the end, financial transfers are not a fountain for real growth, whether they come in the form of FDI or EU cohesion funds. The hope has been that by joining the EU CEE would achieve affluence similar to that found in Europe's west, that economic convergence was on the horizon. The fact remains that there is a deep economic divide across the former Iron Curtain, with, in economist Witold Orlowski's words, a "rich West and poor East." (26) Ironically, it would seem that the method of convergence used was likely chosen to guard against such results. (27)

Convergence, as it were, has faltered; and the divergence, as it is, is now characteristic of how CEE has become "integrated" within the regional economy. Perhaps these new member states have benefitted from large financial transfers quantitatively, yet they have not improved their relative competitive position in recent years qualitatively. It is not so much the lack of growth, albeit limited and declining, but the lack of long-term, value-added, locally sustainable development to bring CEE close to reasonable economic convergence with WEU. The resulting two-speed, or two-tiered, European Union can and will likely be a source of tension within the EU, (28) as the CEE's lack of expected convergence is likely to affect their identity within the Union.

Troubles of Identity

Following the Cold War, while having been politically in the East, CEE wanted to be more politically and socially oriented with the West. Understandably there was an attraction to the stability and prosperity exhibited by its western neighbors. (29) Stephen Borsody, a former Hungarian diplomat and scholar, explains that CEE states no longer wanted to be "puppets of a sphere of influence, but neither did they wished to be left alone." (30) And, it was because of this, wanting change, that they took the path toward Europeanization where it was hoped, political scientist Alexandra Tieanu writes, that with their "cultural similarities to European civilisation" CEE would be accepted as a full member within the European community. (31) However, for all that is said about the EU slogan "United in Diversity," (32) the EU is very divided. Eastern states differ greatly from their western counterparts. And then there are certain states that speak of leaving the Union, while others have the validity of their European identity questioned by the Union.

CEE differs from WEU due to the history and culture it shares with its east, just as CEE is not completely eastern thanks to its affiliations and the past it shares with its west. As Jeno Szucs puts it, CEE has "oscillated in terms of its social and institutional structures between the other two Europes." (33) Almost a Catch-22, this middle zone is simultaneously unique from one side due to its relations with the other, which then sets the base for its paradoxical relationship in Europe. (34) It has never been able--nor has it been wanted--to be either fully Eastern or fully Western because its identity has always been able to be found in the other. And it is partly on account of this that the middle zone has, in subregional scholar John Neubauer's words, "a tradition and culture of its own." (35)

Even with this, it is true that CEE states, as subregional political scientist Barbara Curylo reminds us, "commenced on their path to the EU euroenthusiastically." (36) Today, however, disappointed expectations have led to, as Matthew Loveless diplomatically puts it, "more sophisticated and nuanced assessments of what their countries' membership in the EU means." (37) Unfortunately, the pursuit of integration was with an idealized Europe, or as Curylo notes, a "mystical 'West.'" (38) This leaves little in the way of unity for Europe or of a positive "European consciousness." "Nor is any likely to develop," historian Eric Hobsbawm believed. (39) The honeymoon, as it were, is over; as the fallout of Europe's economic and cultural crises left the realization of the EU's costs and benefits. (40) The burden of said costs can be reflected in the drop in support, surveyed through the Eurobarometer publications of the European Commission.

On the topic of interest in a shared constitution, for example, there is much less support throughout Europe for this political process generally speaking since CEE accession, with a significant drop in support from the states in CEE: from having previously been in greater support of a constitution than the EU average, to having much less support than the average a couple of years after joining the EU. (41) As it stood in 2007, the majority of the public in CEE were against any further political integration.42 It would be interesting to know the reason for this remarkable change.

In one respect, perhaps the subregion has found greater comfort now being within the Union, even with the real prospects of slower development. A decade's change of Eurobarometer responses shows, for example, Visegrad states' average as having greater acceptance of a two-speed Europe. However, in another respect, their percentage difference with the EU average has steadily dropped, having previously been significantly more accepting, now coming ever closer with the EU average; and, still, with less than 50 percent of respondents favoring such dichotomy of inter-regional development. (43) One might say that when it comes to skepticism of the European integration project as a whole, perhaps, the subregion has simply caught up with its other members. (44) Perhaps, here, there is some "convergence," in that the publics' feelings of cohesion seem a bit elusive.

Social historian Hartmut Kaelble explains well why this is the case when he writes, "Lacking are the typical ingredients of national history--a common war of independence, a common period of defeat and suffering, a common period of subsequent reaffirmation of the body politic, a history of common frontiers, and a common historical memory." (45) Even Jacques Delors once expressed that "there is no dream, no vision that strikes a chord with today's European citizens in the way that reconciliation and an end to war did [in the years following World War II]." (46) The lack of such, Katzenstein and Checkel remind us, is due to the presence of multiple European identities. (47) However, for as much as has been said regarding the inability to find a common Europe for all member states, being European has not been lost nor forfeited, not in the least.

To some degree it may be said that European identification has been on the rise, though not in correlation with support for European integration. Here, we must draw a distinction, aptly raised by a study conducted by political scientist Michael Bruter, between a cultural versus a civic dimension to "Europeanness." (48) Feeling culturally and historically European is much different from associating that "Europeanness" with belonging to and supporting EU institutions. This is not paradoxical when one separates the idea of Europe as home from the idea of Europe as a pan-regional institution. While support for integration has declined, the perception of being European is nevertheless on the rise. The study adds that "as citizens feel more and more European, as they appropriate the EU as their political system, they are also less and less willing to accept its institutional and policy shortcomings." (49) As such, with the rise in European culturalism, recognition of the faults of its institution have become more readily apparent, and with this recognition, increasing disinterest in the current course of Europeanization. But where or what is the source of this divide?

Troubles of Regionalism

It should be remembered that following accession political leaders in CEE, particularly in the Visegrad states, began to be more vocal in their doubts with regard to effective representation. While Vaclav Klaus, the Czech Republic's president during the country's accession to the EU, had words of praise for how the EU "opened up" Europe through its integration process, he believed that the Union had changed, saying that it had "gradually, and for many Europeans invisibly, metamorphosed into something else, in the building of a centralized, supranational entity with only very limited residual sovereignty left in individual member countries and with ambitions to mastermind Europe from above." (50) Subregional scholar Zdenek Kriz notes, for example, the "tendency among some of the key actors, specifically France and Germany, to present their particular interests as European interests in general, without first discussing them with the other EU members and without trying to determine the common European interest on the basis of this discussion." (51) Related sympathies, actually, began in the pre-accession process as both Poland and the Czech Republic argued for voting weights equal to those of other EU members. (52)

Sociologist Neil Fligstein explains that with the change in voting rules within the Union due to the Single European Act, moving from unanimity to a qualified majority (QMV), member states have "ceded sovereignty to a supranational political body," with a consequent lack of political participation that is even possible for the citizenry; and that this "restricts the ability of citizens to participate directly in EU politics." (53) Klaus described membership as having "a huge democratic gap." (54) This is precisely what QMV threatens, the equality of states within EU decision-making: by giving larger more populated states greater "weight" in policy making, it potentially ignores the will of smaller states. The consequence of this is that the EU is seen to be remote from the average person. (55) And while it is an institution entered into freely, acceded to voluntarily, it has also been one much criticized since; it spawns, as journalist Gareth Harding relates, "resentment toward political elites," as well as "bruised national identities, and the desire for self-determination." (56)

More broadly, Cecile Leconte similarly relates how the process of integration has shown the EU to be a "monster bureaucracy" managing integration from the "top-down," revealing itself to be an actor best avoided. (57) The bureaucracy that we now see in Brussels, a complex, centralized federal entity, is not how the regional project began. Originally, based upon the functionalism of David Mitrany, the EU was meant to have a bottom up approach expanding through "spillovers," as described by political scientist Ernst Haas. Obstacles and limits to regionalization, (58) however, spurred calls for a centralization of control, when regional integration then assumed a "top-down" approach instead. (59) EU consensus has since changed from, as political scientists Nathalie Brack and Nicholas Startin describe, a "permissive consensus" to Europeans now having a "constraining dissensus." (60)

Expansion, clearly, has posed challenges to both the EU and the subregion, possibly impeding further integration of EU member states. As political sociologist Markus Thiel explains, the "accession of new states [CEE] is seen by national minded citizens as a further dilution of commonality, but it is also potentially perceived by supporters as a prevention of deeper policy integration." (61) It should be remembered that the EU had already been facing significant challenges to deeper integration, having enlarged from its original six members to just fifteen. These challenges speak to the integration limit possibly already reached prior to CEE accession. (62) Without addressing these issues, perhaps, the attempt to integrate (with) the subregion was simply too much, too soon.

Considering this, contrary to calls for even greater integration or something akin to the "United States of Europe," Andrew Moravcsik counters that instead we need a "more decentralised vision." (63) A decentralized EU would be beneficial for the furtherance of a democratic and proportionally representative entity. It would seem that much of European integration has been an attempt to render, as Richard Bellamy phrases it, "a single European people, rather than [...] increasing [...] deeper forms of co-operation between them." (64) The latter lends itself to the establishment of greater democratic legitimacy within the EU through a return to intergovernmentalism, or what Bellamy refers to as "demoi-cracy." (65) The argument is that an attempt to bridge, or unionize, its member states into a unitary structure would be a suboptimal form of integration. Absent common issues and the willingness for collective action where "their most important interests are, more or less, equally tied up in that community," the experiment has allowed for socioeconomic and democratic imbalance amongst the integrating states, possibly imposing "inequitable and disadvantageous terms" upon weaker states.

Troubles of Cohesion

While originally all members joined the EU quite happily, in time many of their views began to change. The Union lost its strong foundation of order and prosperity, particularly for the Czech Republic and Hungary, following the economic crises. (66) The regional project itself also lost the initial luster of intergovernmentalism, particularly for Poland and Slovakia, as they came to the realization that the "union" is not one among equals. (67) These crises have challenged solidarity as states have risen to reassert their national interests within the Union, where the Union has been seen to interfere unnecessarily within their state's sovereign domain.

In an attempt to better understand what options are available for EU members, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) initiated a project on European cohesion and coalition building led by Josef Janning. (68) The ECFR's project seeks to map how integrated members are by analyzing their degrees of cohesion. "Cohesion," as Janning explains, "is about how we define ourselves; it is about our feelings of belonging, as well as our shared interests, if not our common destiny--and it can also be about mutual dependence. Cohesion involves trust and the management of expectations, a longstanding commitment that binds actors and people together." (69) The study began in 2007, shortly after CEE accession and just prior to the global financial crisis, which preceded of course the Eurozone crisis and the current migration crisis. They rate cohesion based on ten indicators, which are used to measure structural cohesion (economic resilience, economic ties, EU funding, common policies, geographic proximity, as well as security) and individual cohesion (measuring engagement, experiences, attitudes, and approval). Structural and individual cohesion are conveniently plotted onto a graph with four quadrants indicating weak and strong cohesion.

Unfortunately, EU cohesion is not particularly impressive at all; that is, members are ranked quite disparately, scattered on the graph. Roughly half are shown to have strong structural cohesion, with the other half being weak. As it happens, generally, the weak members are western, while the strong are eastern. With regard to individual cohesion, while the majority are shown to be stronger, many are still on or near the line, with a few notables being weak. The V4, for example, have relatively strong structural cohesion, but as a group they have weak individual cohesion. Moreover, over the ten years analyzed by the ECFR, while the V4 have gained considerably in structural cohesion, all four have dropped or remained static with regard to individual cohesion, which again was already quite low to begin with.

There is some due criticism of the reports. Janning claims that Visegrad and others in CEE have been able to "catch up" with WEU through increased structural cohesion, (70) thereby "closing the gap" of economic disparity. (71) However, as noted above, structural funds likely have had very little value-added effect upon the subregion's economic gains. (72) To his credit, Janning duly notes but fails to expand on what the results will be after 2020, when EU structural cohesion funds will be further diverted away from CEE, as previously mentioned. Not only will Visegrad drop in its structural cohesion rating, but its individual ratings are virtually guaranteed to follow suit as well, as will the remainder of CEE. For those who believe that cohesion disparity among its members is most likely due to identity and membership equality rather than wealth, (73) the nearest future may have a surprise. Furthermore, nearly all members of the Union suffered in another set of variables within structural cohesion that related to "resilience." Resilience, being variables like disposable income, debt, poverty, access to education and the labor market (all of which relate to social aspects of the local economies), fell across the board. (74) These numbers, it would seem, shed light on why the V4 and others want a return of some control to their national capitals.

In response to the observations of increased intergovernmentalism within the EU, Janning acknowledges that "[t]he reason behind this reflex stems from the effects of deep integration: the single currency and the single space of mobility have eliminated the principle of noninterference in domestic affairs."

After all, he explains, "The EU's form of cooperation extends well beyond the strictly voluntary and issue-specific cooperation that sovereigntists would like to see." (75) This desire by European citizens for a return to intergovernmentalism, where decisions to be taken at the national level are preferred, (76) has been accompanied by increased bargaining, with members interested in scrutinizing the costs and benefits of their membership. And it is precisely because of this changing sentiment that the EU Commission has begun to pursue a more "flexible" Europe.

Countries like the V4 who want a return to greater sovereignty, those who have challenged policies from Brussels and have grown wary of the influence of more powerful states, are the reason behind the pursuance by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the heads of state of Western capitals (77) of a union that might still find selective integration for particular groups of members, i.e., flexibility, in order to save the Union. (78) As Janning and Christel Zunneberg explain, "With the large number of members, the need for informal consensus-building among governments has grown." (79) Within the ECFR project, just as surely as within the capitals of fellow member states, those states that have challenged the EU and grown wary have been labeled troublemakers and rebels. (80) To counter them, Janning suggests that such coalitions as Juncker proposes may be pursued in order to "scare them enough to stop obstructing political processes in the EU, and may actually encourage sector-specific deepening of integration." (81) The cohesiveness of such coalitions is analyzed in Janning's most recent contribution to the matter.

Various groupings of member states, five in total, are parsed and scrutinized in the ECFR's EU Coalition Explorer: the Founding Six, the Big Six, the Affluent Seven, the Southern Seven, and the Visegrad Four. (82) A few are geographically organized and some overlap, having members that belong to one or another group. The central purpose of the study was to determine the potential for possible coalitions of particular member states, which could be formed by the groups noted above, or a combination of their individual members with those of other groups. It would seem that all variants were examined in the study's 1000-plus pages, not to mention the vast data from which the report came. For the purposes of this article, being that its focus is on Visegrad and its relationship with WEU, what is presented below are the views of these groupings and of the four Visegrad states themselves. Unfortunately for the harmony of EU relations, it also supports the disparity of cohesion as recently outlined above, as it is the story of a failing relationship.

The combined surveys outline what must be overcome in order to further integration of the V4 in the EU, such as the amount of contact, common interests, perceived effort, sense of satisfaction, perceived commitment, and willingness to work with others; where nearly all survey questions received negative replies regarding V4 from the other groups. Unreciprocated contact: even though the V4 would contact their fellow Visegrad members more frequently than WEU, the V4 showed a willingness to initiate contact with WEU that was three times greater than that of WEU, with regard to the Big 6 (B6), and more than six times greater with regard to the Founding 6 (F6). Dissimilar interests: even though the V4 have more in common with their fellow Visegrad members than with WEU, the V4 believe they have more in common with WEU than than WEU does in return, by nearly four times the percentage vis a vis the B6 and by fifteen times vis a vis the F6. Not enough effort: although the V4 believe they play better together than with others, the V4 believe WEU is more responsive to V4 needs than vice versa, by over three times the percentage with regard to the B6 and by fourteen times with regard to the F6. Simply disappointing: here, the V4 and WEU have more similarity in their opposing views. Each side believes the other to have been the most disappointing. Some additional agreement: both East and West are in agreement that WEU is more committed to deeper integration than the V4. Finally, everyone seems willing to work with others on policies important to their national interests. However, while there are some priority differences between V4 and other groups, the other groups typically prefer to work with the B6, occasionally including Poland, though Poland nevertheless remains the geographic outlier. Conversely the V4, still having Germany at the top of their list and France in the mix, have the other V4 states listed within their top five.

Not only is there little unity in the EU, marred as it is by dissimilarity in structural and individual cohesion, but existing coalitions also raise the question of what direction member states will take along with their preferred partners. Both WEU states and V4 states are objectively more similar to member states within their group than to outsiders. And WEU's recent push toward a flexible Union of coalitions with the will to press ahead, alone, in areas less inclusive of other members is certain to provoke a reaction from the other member states. Again, as Janning suggests above, WEU has likely proposed this scenario as a way to force more intergovernmentally minded states to bend, as they may fear being left out. However, flexible Europe may well provide reasons for the V4 and other like-minded states to "counter."

What Can Be Done?

Policy-wise, actors have traditionally had two distinct choices barring neutrality, which is not an option here: to bandwagon or to balance; or, rather, to join or to counter. Now, the V4 have already joined the EU. They joined for all the reasons already mentioned, essentially--order. As unsatisfying as the present relationship is between Visegrad and WEU, one might think that balancing, then, is the only other choice. These two words, though, are insufficient; akin to having only a yes or no option. Recently, there have been additional concepts entertained, from which we might tease out a prospective approach.

First, it might be more accurate to say that V4 and other CEE states used a "sheltering" strategy, rather than bandwagoning, when joining the EU. That is, they were not forced to join simply because of the prowess of its members, but rather that the EU provided considerable convenience in alleviating the vulnerabilities which these states were left with following the Cold War. As seen above, Visegrad has and will likely continue to become less willing to rely soley on this shelter alone. But just bandwagoning represents one extreme, to balance would propose the opposite, essentially preparing for expected conflict. A middle road would seem more appropriate.

Hedging, then, can be seen as one of these other concepts, adding nuance to the traditional two policies, in its middle road approach. As explained by Goh, it is a set of counteracting policies of engagement and resistance, meant to "hedge" against the risk that may now be assumed to be associated with another prominent actor. (83) Hedging does have a general association with security, and a potential military conflict. This is a bit extreme for our purposes, here, as there is absolutely no indication that that would be thought prudent by CEE in general. But power for power's sake need not be the only reason to hedge.

Thankfully, other views have come to be proposed. Brock Tessman does elaborate on a secondary type of hedging, (84) where rather than being bent on preparing for conflict, as it were, it would instead pursue increased independence. In other words, states may wish to lessen their dependence on particular public goods provided by more powerful allies. This is useful, though its explanation still seems centered on security, and is somewhat restricted within the author's particular prism of a closed system and a falling hegemonic power. So, rather than to 'hedge' against risk or threat, perhaps simply the goal of being less restricted might be a better vision for Visegrad. "Leash-Slipping" has been proposed by Robert Art and continued by Christopher Layne and Barry Posen, (85) wherein the purpose is to lessen inferiority amongst its allies, (86) and to bring greater balance into what should be a mutual relationship. (87) Visegrad likely does not want to completely 'slip from its leash', so much as to loosen it; perhaps "leash-loosening" might be more appropriate.

Loosening the Leash, so to speak, would be a difficult task for any one state to attempt on its own. It is for that reason that such interested parties, perhaps the very ones of this focus--the Visegrad Four, should first come together. They do have a group, and that speaks for something, but more than this, I propose, the V4 should first "huddle" together. Huddling, here, may be considered a loose rather unofficial (that is, lacking official structure that stands alone outside of basic intergovernmental activities) grouping of actors that have come together for the purpose of getting and staying on the same page. Within this huddle of subregionalism, the V4 can pursue policy together.

That CEE in general seem to be socially unaccepted within the Union; that Visegrad's economic integration has come at the expense of locally sustainable value-added growth and that the resources of the Union are soon to be diverted to other member states; that qualified majority voting has reduced the level of democracy within the Union, particularly affecting smaller members; that the linkages of cohesion are being challenged everywhere geographically, and within Visegrad affectually; that coalitions have been suggested to push forward with deepening integration at the objection of those less interested, subregionalisation of Visegrad supported by its huddle would be a way forward for these countries to be heard, to be taken more seriously. Such a policy pursued internally within the EU need not be seen to be taking a back-step, away from regionalism, but a side-step: blending greater autonomy and voice while maintaining their membership, through greater subregional cooperation. All considered, bringing about a more socially and economically cohesive subregion would be in the better interest of Europe as a whole.

For, when Visegrad ran to the West following the Cold War, it did so in error. It is not that they should not be within the EU, per se, but rather that it missed a step. Since accession, these states, noted by Slovak scholar Samuel Abraham, have "been busy transforming [themselves] in isolation, directing [their] attention to Brussels or Washington and only marginally to its neighbours." (88) In their haste, they overlooked their need to first come together subregionally, in some form of organized caucus, a secondary center of gravity within the Union. (89) If EU realities have come to be other than previously expected by the Visegrad states, then the subregion's participation in the Union should also be allowed to change along with it. In doing so, as subregional scholar Wojciech Gizicki forwards, (90) "the Visegrad Group can be an important common front of action [...] a kind of pressure group," so as to become a policy shaper rather than policy takers. (91) And as current policy does not work toward the subregion's long-term interests, perhaps the EU should not play the primary role in the subregion's development. (92)

The fact is: CEE, now as an unconsolidated subregion let alone the individual member states of which it is comprised, is a minority within the European Union it joined--an organization they joined to be given a voice as relative equals; it might only be in the consolidation of their subregion that their voices may be heard. This integrative approach, yielding more functional cooperation within, (93) would greatly benefit the prospects of establishing greater autonomous growth in CEE, and with it, perhaps, the value-added development the subregion has historically lacked.

Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs

National Research University Higher School of Economics

17/1 Malaya Ordynka Street

Moscow, Russia 119017

I would like to thank Dr. Aleksandr Lukin, head of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the Higher School of Economics, for his supervision during my research; as well as Dr. Dmitrii Novikov's recommendations through to publication.

(1) European Commission, Eurobarometer--Flash EB No. 257: Views on European Union Enlargement. Analytical Report (Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication, February 2009), 6.

(2) For criticisms of enlargement, see A. Dimitrova and E. Kortenska, "What Do Citizens Want? And Why Does It Matter? Discourses Among Citizens as Opportunities and Constraints for EU Enlargement," Journal of European Public Policy 24, no. 2 (2017): 259-77. On CEE dissatisfaction with EU mobility, see Z. Ciupijus, "EU Citizens or Eastern European Labour Migrants? The Peculiar Case of Central Eastern Europeans in Britain," Politeja 20, no. 3 (2012): 29-46. For a discussion of CEE market liberalization, see L. Bruszt and J. Langbein, "Varieties of Dis-Embedded Liberalism: EU Integration Strategies in the Eastern Peripheries of Europe," Journal of European Public Policy 24, no. 2 (2017): 297-315.

(3) Tadayuki Hayashi, "Masaryk's 'Zone of Small Nations' in His Discourse during World War I," in Regions in Central and Eastern Europe: Past and Present, ed. Hayashi and Hiroshi Fukuda (Hokkaido: Slavic Research Center at Hokkaido University, 2007), 9-11.

(4) Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, "Pangermanism and the Zone of Small Nations," New Europe 1, no. 9 (1916): 271-77.

(5) Stephen Borsody, The New Central Europe: Triumphs and Tragedies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), xii-xiii.

(6) John M. Stopford, Susan Strange, and John S. Henley, Rival States, Rival Firms: Competition for World Market Shares (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

(7) The World Bank, "World Development Indicators: Foreign Direct Investment, Net Inflows (Percent of GDP)" (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2015), http://data.worldbank. org/indicator.

(8) Witold M. Orlowski, "The Puzzles of Convergence: Europe's Economic History in the Twentieth Century," in Regional Development in Central and Eastern Europe: Development Processes and Policy Changes, ed. Grzegorz Gorzelak, John Bachtler, and Maciej Smetkowski (New York: Routledge, 2010).

(9) Wade Jacoby, "Managing Globalization by Managing Central and Eastern Europe: The EU's Backyard as Threat and Opportunity," Journal of European Public Policy 17, no. 3 (2010): 416-32.

(10) Rudolf Schlesinger, Federalism in Central and Eastern Europe (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1970), 463. Here, Schlesinger was speaking of Germany's hand at federalism in the last century, but his argument seems to equally hold true today.

(11) Jan Drahokoupil, Globalization and the State in Central and Eastern Europe: The Politics of Foreign Direct Investment (New York: Routledge, 2009).

(12) Alan Dingsdale, Mapping Modernities: Geographies of Central and Eastern Europe, 1920-2000 (New York: Routledge, 2010).

(13) "World Development Indicators: Foreign Direct Investment, Net Inflows (Percent of GDP)."

(14) The World Bank, "World Development Indicators: Central Government Debt, Total (Percent of GDP)" (Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2015), http://data.worldbank. org/indicator.

(15) European Commission, Taking Stock of the Europe 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable, and Inclusive Growth (Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication, 19 March 2014), 7.

(16) Eurostat, "Government Debt Up to 89.5% of GDP in Euro Area," news release Euro Indicators, 20 July 2017,

(17) Drahokoupil, Globalization and the State, 105.

(18) Data from European Commission, Cohesion Policy 2007-13: Commentaries and Official Texts (Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2007), 25; Eurostat, Regional Yearbook 2015 (Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2015).

(19) Data from Cohesion Policy 2007-13: Commentaries and Official Texts, 25; Eurostat, Regional Yearbook 2015.

(20) Data from Cohesion Policy 2007-13: Commentaries and Official Texts, 25; Eurostat, Regional Yearbook 2015.

(21) Taking Stock of the Europe 2020 Strategy, 7.

(22) Jan Jedlicka and Katarzyna Rzentarzewska, Cohesion Policy and Other EU Assistance Programmes in 2014-2020 (Vienna: ERSTE Corporate Banking Group, 2014), pi20140311-en.pdf.

(23) Calculations produced by author with help of data from Jedlicka and Rzentarzewska, Cohesion Policy.

(24) Calculations produced by author with help of data from Jedlicka and Rzentarzewska, Cohesion Policy.

(25) Janos Varga and Jan in't Veld, "Cohesion Policy Spending in the New Member States of the EU in an Endogenous Growth Model," Eastern European Economics 49, no. 5 (2011): 32.

(26) Orlowski, "Puzzles of Convergence," 12.

(27) Marek W. Kozak, Pawel Opala, and Pawel Samecki, "EU Cohesion Policy: A Decline Behind the Horizon?," in Gorzelak, Bachtler, and Smetkowski, Regional Development in Central and Eastern Europe, 288-312.

(28) Valeriu Frunzaru, "Cross-Border Co-Operation Against Social Exclusion," in Regional Co-Operation as Central European Perspective, ed. Istvan Tarrosy and Gerald Rosskogler (Pecs: Europe Centre PBC, 2005).

(29) Francois Bafoil, Central and Eastern Europe: Europeanization and Social Change, trans. Chris Turner (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

(30) Borsody, The New Central Europe, 284.

(31) Alexandra Tieanu, "From Alterity to Identity: A Central European View of Europe at the End of the Twentieth Century," Journal of the LUCAS Graduate Conference, no. 1 (2013): 29.

(32) Website of the European Union, index_en.htm.

(33) Jacques Rupnik, The Other Europe (New York: Pantheon Books, 1989), 151-57.

(34) Ibid., 13.

(35) John Neubauer, "What's in a Name? Mitteleuropa, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, East-Central Europe," Kakanien revisited forum, posted 7 May 2003, http://

(36) Barbara Curylo, "Barbarians at the Gate ... the Ideas of Europe in CEE," Central European Journal of International & Security Studies 5, no. 1 (2011): 146.

(37) Matthew Loveless, "Agreeing in Principle: Utilitarianism and Economic Values as Support for the European Union in Central and Eastern Europe," Journal of Common Market Studies 48, no. 4 (2010): 1098.

(38) Curylo, "Barbarians at the Gate," 137.

(39) E. J. Hobsbawm, "An Afterword: European Union at the End of the Century," in European Integration in Social and Historical Perspective: 1850 to the Present, ed. Jytte Klausen and Louise A. Tilly (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997), 274.

(40) Florian Hartleb, "European Project in Danger? Understanding Precisely the Phenomena 'Euroscepticism, Populism and Extremism' in Times of Crisis," Review of European Studies 4, no. 5 (2012): 45-63.

(41) Eurobarometer---Standard EB No. 66: Public Opinion in the EU, Report (Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication, September 2007), 193; and Eurobarometer--Standard EB No. 62: Public Opinion in the EU, Report (Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication, May 2005), 150.

(42) Nicole Gallina, "Political Elites in Eastern Central Europe: Paving the Way for 'Negative Europeanisation?,"' Contemporary European Studies 2, no. 2 (2007): 75-91.

(43) Eurobarometer--Standard EB No. 66, 201; Eurobarometer--Standard EB No. 70: Public Opinion in the EU, Report (Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication, June 2010), 157; Eurobarometer--Special EB No. 394: Future of Europe (Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication, December 2012), 95; Eurobarometer--Special EB No. 413: Future of Europe (Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication, March 2014), T25; and Eurobarometer--Special EB No. 451: Future of Europe (Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication, December 2016), 133.

(44) In fact, there are many signs of identity confusion within and decreasing support for the EU since CEE accession: from a significant drop in trust in the EU (Eurobarometer--Standard EB No. 78: Public Opinion in the EU, Report [Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication, Autumn 2012], 75; and Eurobarometer--Standard EB No. 87: Public Opinion in the EU, Report [Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication Spring 2017], 14), to an overall drop in support for and attachment to the EU (Eurobarometer--Standard EB No. 62, 146; and Eurobarometer--Standard EB No. 86: European Citizenship, Report [Brussels: Directorate-General for Communication, Autumn 2016], 4), as well as decreased satisfaction with the EU (Eurobarometer--Standard EB No. 86,131). This can also be seen in the steady decline in voter turnout for the European parliament and the rise of Eurosceptic parties, which indicates a significant drop in fealty toward the EU as an institution.

(45) Hartmut Kaelble, "Identification with Europe and Politicization of the EU since the 1980s," in European Identity, ed. Jeffrey T. Checkel and Peter J. Katzenstein (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 207.

(46) "Fit at 50?," The Economist, 15 March 2007.

(47) Peter J. Katzenstein and Jeffrey T. Checkel, "Conclusion--European Identity in Context," in Checkel and Katzenstein, European Identity, 213.

(48) Michael Bruter, Europolity? Seven Paradoxes about European Identity (Salzburg: Salzburg Centre of European Union Studies/Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, 2011).

(49) Ibid., 16.

(50) Vaclav Klaus, "Small Nations and Europe 90 Years After Masaryk," speech at inauguration of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, 19 October 2005.

(51) Zdenek Kriz, "Comparison of Czech and European Security Strategies," in "Easternization" of Europe's Security Policy, ed. Tomas Valasek and Olga Gyarfasova (Bratislava: Institute for Public Affairs, 2004), 39. Admittedly, he is writing on the topic of European security; nevertheless, it is an example of the general presumption of opinion of Old Europe over New Europe.

(52) Gallina, "Political Elites in Eastern Central Europe," 83.

(53) Neil Fligstein, Euro-Clash: The EU, European Identity, and the Future of Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 19.

(54) Klaus, "Small Nations."

(55) Fligstein, Euro-Clash, 18-21.

(56) Gareth Harding, "The Myth of Europe," special report in Foreign Policy, entry posted 3 January 2012,

(57) Cecile Leconte, "From Pathology to Mainstream Phenomenon: Reviewing the Euroscepticism Debate in Research and Theory," International Political Science Review 36, no. 3 (2015): 256.

(58) For a critical look at the viability of EU integration, see Stanley Hoffmann, "Obstinate or Obsolete? The Fate of the Nation-State and the Case of Western Europe," Daedalus 95, no. 3 (1966): 862-915; and Fligstein, Euro-Clash. For a critique of the rigidity of intergovernmentalism, see Alex Stone Sweet, and Wayne Sandholtz, "European Integration and Supranational Governance," Journal of European Public Policy 4, no. 3 (1997): 297-317.

(59) Ekaterina Turkina and Evgeny Postnikov, "Cross-border Inter-firm Networks in the European Union's Eastern Neighborhood: Integration via Organizational Learning," Journal of Common Market Studies 50, no. 4 (2012): 634.

(60) Nathalie Brack and Nicholas Startin, "Introduction: Euroscepticism, from the Margins to the Mainstream," International Political Science Review 36, no. 3 (2015): 239-49.

(61) Markus Thiel, The Limits of Transnationalism: Collective Identities and EU Integration (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 200.

(62) Fligstein, Euro-Clash, 5.

(63) Andrew Moravcsik, "The End of the West: The Once and Future Europe," Foreign Affairs 90, no. 5 (2011): 183.

(64) Richard Bellamy, '"An Ever Closer Union Among the Peoples of Europe': Republican Intergovernmentalism and Democratic Representation within the EU," Journal of European Integration 35, no. 5 (2013): 500.

(65) Ibid., 509, 513.

(66) Almut Moller and Dina Pardijs, The Future Shape of Europe: How the EU Can Bend without Breaking, The European Council on Foreign Relations, March 2017, pp. 15 and 22.

(67) Ibid., 30 and 33.

(68) EU Cohesion Monitor, European Council on Foreign Relations, May 2016, https://

(69) Josef Janning, Making Sense of Europe's Cohesion Challenge (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, 2016), 3, making_sense_of_europes_cohesion_challenge.

(70) Ibid., 10.

(71) Josef Janning, Crisis and Cohesion in the EU: A Ten-Year Review (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, February 2018), 4.

(72) Instead, those gains are better attributed to simply having access to the West and the EU market. These variables (trade links and investments) are captured in the ECFR's data.

(73) Janning, Crisis and Cohesion in the EU, 2.

(74) Josef Janning and Christoph Klavehn, EU Cohesion Monitor (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, May 2016), 83, This is the case throughout the EU, with the exception of Lithuania, Poland, and Luxembourg.

(75) Janning, Making Sense of Europe's Cohesion Challenge, 11.

(76) Josef Janning, Christel Zunneberg, and Christoph Klavehn, Exploring EU Coalitions (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, October 2017), 8 and 9.

(77) Jean-Claude Juncker, White Paper on the Future of Europe: Reflections and Scenarios for the EU27 by 2025 (Brussels: EU Commission, March 2017); British Broadcasting Corporation, "EU Leaders Embrace Multi-speed Europe amid Tensions," 7 March 2017.

(78) Moller and Pardijs, Future Shape of Europe, 8.

(79) Josef Janning and Christel Zunneberg, The Invisible Web: From Interaction to Coalition Building in the European Union (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, May 2017), 2.

(80) Moller and Pardijs, Future Shape of Europe; Josef Janning, Keeping Europeans Together (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, September 2016).

(81) Josef Janning, Scenarios for Europe: Deciphering Juncker's White Paper (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, March 2017), commentary_scenarios_for_europe_deciphering_junckers_white_paper.

(82) Josef Janning, Almut Moller, Christoph Klavehn, and Wiebke Ewering, EU Coalition Explorer: Results of the EU28 Survey 2018 on Coalition Building in the European Union (London: European Council on Foreign Relations, February 2018).

(83) Evelyn Goh, "Southeast Asian Perspectives on the China Challenge," Journal of Strategic Studies 30, no. 4 (2007): 809-25.

(84) Brock F. Tessman, "System Structure and State Strategy: Adding Hedging to the Menu," Security Studies 21 (2012): 205.

(85) See Robert J. Art, "Europe Hedges Its Security Bets," in Balance of Power Revisited: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century, ed. T. V. Paul and James Wirtz (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 179-213; Christopher Layne, "The Unipolar Illusion Revisited: The Coming End of the United States' Unipolar Moment" International Security 31, no. 2 (2006): 7-41; and Barry R. Posen, "European Union Security and Defense Policy: Response to Unipolarity?," Security Studies 15, no. 2 (2006): 149-86.

(86) Tessman, "System Structure and State Strategy," 206 and 207.

(87) Art, "Europe Hedges Its Security Bets," 179,180.

(88) Samuel Abraham, "The Myth of Central Europe," New Eastern Europe 2 (2014): 13.

(89) Curylo, "Barbarians at the Gate," 149-51.

(90) Wojciech Gizicki, "Architecture of the Visegrad Cooperation," in Political Systems of Visegrad Group Countries, ed. Gizicki (Tmava, Slovakia: University of SS. Cyril and Methodius, 2012), 10.

(91) Elsa Tulmets, "Introduction: Identity and Solidarity in the Foreign Policy of East Central European EU Members: Renewing the Research Agenda," Perspectives: Review of International Affairs 19, no. 2 (2011): 19.

(92) In fact, it has been shown, according to sociologist Tomasz Grzegorz Grosse, that "EU policies are more effective in a situation where they play an auxiliary role to national activites." See Grosse, "EU Cohesion Policy and the Peripheries of the New Member States," in Gorzelak, Bachtler, and Smetkowski, Regional Development in Central and Eastern Europe, 318.

(93) To avoid politics as much as is permitted; and primarily to avoid the hierarchical drive for full-subregional unification--as is portrayed by the EU.
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