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Visegrad bloc at odds over workers rights – but must UNITE to halt multi-speed Europe

Visegrad group .

The Visegrad group was formed in 1991

The central European group has come into direct confrontation with the 28-member Brussels bloc over their unwillingness to have open borders and their opposition to the European Union’s push to create a two-speed EU.

And tensions spilled over last week after Poland and Hungary refused to follow Slovakia and the Czech Republic in backing proposals to tighten regulations on employees posted to work outside their home countries.

While it is also feared that Prague could turn its back on the alliance after the election of its new leader Andrej Babiš earlier this month.

The 63-year-old billionaire, dubbed the Czech Republic’s answer to Donald Trump, has not indicated what his foreign policy will look like – but it is thought he could pull his nation out of the central bloc.

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Hungary and Poland have dominated headlines over the past year, with confrontations with the EU over rule of law and migrant quotas taking front and centre stage.

And while Slovakia and the Czech Republic seem to have kept their distance from their populist neighbours so far, a split could be in the pipeline as the divide between nations becomes ever more apparent.

A Czech official told Politico that Babiš is likely to now try and stake out his own course, adding: “Babiš doesn’t really care about Visegrad.”

The possibility of a greater divide between the nations – which covers a region of around 65 million people – has raised doubts about how the bloc will move forward at a critical time in EU history.

Visegrad group.

Visegrad are determined to halt plans for a “multi-speed” Europe

EU's Donald Tusk.

Visegrad confronted the EU over rule of law and migrant quotas

Visegrad are too divided on fundamental issues to push a common agenda, but they want to also prove that it’s not over

Milan Nič

Milan Nič, an analyst with the German Council said: “The attempt to turn this club into a counterweight failed.

“They’re too divided on fundamental issues to push a common agenda, but they want to also prove that it’s not over. All four need the club.”

But while rumours of a split continue to spread, the central European bloc still has a lot at stake.

Visegrad is determined to influence or even halt plans for a “multi-speed” Europe – with Hungary already questioning the suitability of such a two-tier EU.

In June, Szabolcs Takacs, state secretary for EU Affairs in Mr Orban’s office, said Brussels should instead strive to strengthen cooperation among member states in individual areas.

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He said: “A two-speed Europe I think is simply not viable because it might mean such a deep division that eventually it would be… the end of the EU in its present form.”

And as Visegrad’s only euro member, Slovakia has a clear interest in remaining close to the EU’s “core”.

But Prime Minister Robert Fico has made it clear he doesn’t want to be relegated to a “second tier” if the initiate champion by France and Germany goes ahead.

Ivan Korčok, the Slovak state secretary for Europe, says any talk of a Visegrad split is exaggerated.

He added: “You have to look at the end result. Thanks to Visegrad, all four countries got more than was on the table when we started.”

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