PM David Cameron is trying to find allies which will support his reform proposals re EU. Cameron met Slovak PM Robert Fico and he had delivered speech at Globsec conference. In your opinion, what kind of support, if any, he may expect from Central and Eastern European countries? Read few comments.
Seán Hanley, Senior Lecturer in East European Politics, University College London
Given that restrictions on free movement of labour (access to UK labour movement) are likely to be unattainable, David Cameron’s strategy will probably centre on securing concessions allowing the UK to restrict EU citizens’ access to welfare benefits and create the appearance that any concessions have been wrung from other EU government after a tough political confrontation. This would address the concerns of the eurosceptic right-wing within his own party and of many potential No voters, although its
I think he can expect at most acquiescence and lukewarm support/understanding from CEE states for this type of demand, probably limited for very specific measures such as denying child benefit to non-resident children of the EU citizens, who live in the UK. However, one can also imagine indifference and resistance to it.
To what Cameron is seeking, given that for many CEE member state the interests of quite large numbers of their citizens are concerned and – despite David Cameron’s efforts to tap into concerns about a ‘brain drain and emigration of young people – the whole British immigration-EU debate casts CEE citizens as undesirable and/or a problem. Indeed, Central and East Europeans have, in my view, been fairly brutally scapegoated in the British media and used as group against whom it is acceptable to channel all manner of xenophobic sentiment
While UK and CEE interests/preferences coincide on other policy areas – their view on managing the refugee crisis and opposition EU-allocated quotas of Mediterranean migrants, for example, seem to overlap – the British government’s strategy of disengaging from the EU through opt-outs and negotiating special arrangements – and, should the voters decide on it, Brexit – rather than trying to reform the wider Union, suggests that the UK-CEE axis in the EU that once appeared to exist has evaporated.
Dániel Hegedüs, Associate Fellow, Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik
Taking the current political constellations and positions of CEE governments into consideration, it is rather improbable that Cameron could get significant support from Poland, Slovakia or even the Czech Republic to his EU policy. Not only because of the clear differences in some important EU issues, like the right to the free movement of EU citizens’, but because Cameron’s package is rather unclear and therefore is not a suitable platform neither to be discussed, nor to be supported. A more intensive mutual rapprochement between London and Warsaw is not impossible, if PiS will be able to form a government after the autumn elections. However in the case of Slovakia, which has traditionally good ties to European Commission and actually very good positions within it, while the country pursues a very ambitioned EU-politics, such a rapprochement is rather unlikely. Cameron’s only real friend is Mr. Orbán in the region. Although important mutual positions can bind London and Budapest together, like the anti-emigration discourse of both government or the mutual desire to limit the Commission’s power and carry back competences from EU-level to the national one, it is still not an all-around alliance. In budgetary issues CEE countries and the UK have exactly the opposite interests and money matters first of all. One cannot know, what will be in the basket of Mr Cameron, but supporting him with hearts and minds would be a dumb failure of the governments in the region.
Vihar Georgiev, Associate Professor, European Studies Department, Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski
Cameron appears hugely isolated both in the EU, and in the transatlantic “special” relationship with the US. He has courted leaders from Central and Eastern Europe before. However, his success will be very limited, because he’s aiming to overturn the principle of free movement of European citizens. This is a painful issue for the whole Central and Eastern Europe block in the EU, and no compromises can be made there. In addition, I think that governments in Central and Eastern Europe are very sensitive to the criticism by the Obama administration towards Cameron’s attempt to renegotiate the EU Treaties.