Central European leaders to discuss EU economic recovery

The prime ministers of the Visegrád Four (V4)—composed of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia—will meet today to discuss

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Photo: Prague Morning

The prime ministers of the Visegrád Four (V4)—composed of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia—will meet today to discuss the framework of the contentious Next Generation EU program, which essentially constitutes the bloc’s COVID-19 recovery fund.

Since its unveiling, the recovery fund has garnered accusations of unfairness from sceptical member states. The largest and most controversial portion of the fund would see $636 billion allocated to struggling states with a poor track record of fiscal responsibility; Italy, which has grappled with extended lockdown measures, would be among the largest beneficiaries. Comparatively frugal members such as the V4 oppose the criteria used to determine allocations, arguing that a state’s unemployment data between 2015-2019 is unrelated to its pandemic-induced hardships.

Today’s meeting could produce amended criteria that would provide a more accurate cross-country comparison of the pandemic’s economic fallout. Criteria more favourable to the V4 would focus on increasingly current metrics—such the percent reduction in GDP between spring and autumn—rather than pre-pandemic unemployment statistics.

An amended proposal would expedite recovery progress at the European Council meeting later this month. However, current negotiations are strained by manoeuvres by Hungary and Poland to amplify state control of the economy, which have drawn condemnation from Germany and France. Expect greater friction between Western Europe and V4 states if meaningful changes aren’t made to the current design of the recovery fund.

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