Public Webinars on the Comparative Analysis of Discourse and Policy research in the V4 countries
Following up on national research into the policy and discourse approaches to the key topics of migration, climate, post-pandemic recovery and the rule of law, the expert team behind the project put together a comparative analysis, looking into how these topics resonate across the V4 countries, what are the similarities and where the countries differ. Using the comparative analysis research, the partner institutions organised several national and international webinars during the autumn of 2023, presenting the most interesting findings to their audience, and providing the participants with a platform to both share their own opinions and ask follow up questions about the research.
During the 100-minutes webinar in Hungary, held on the 19th of September, the organisers decided to focus mainly on the climate part of the comparative analysis and the energy policies both in Hungary and compared to the three other countries, due to the topic´s current relevance in the public discourse. The 21 Research Center, one of the project´s partner organisations, presented their comprehensive findings, followed by insights from guest speakers Alexandra Köves, an ecological economist, and András Deák, a researcher of Eastern-European energy politics. After brief introductions of the guest speakers´ work and backgrounds, the discussion moved to the energy strategies and climate policies throughout the V4, where Hungary remains an outlier, given its position on various energy source and lack of enthusiasm about the renewables.
A key poll insight revealed Hungarian reluctance towards joint EU energy actions, significantly influenced by the prevalent anti-EU sentiment in Hungarian politics. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict’s impact on the region’s energy strategies was also discussed, noting Hungary’s significant dependency on Russian gas. Notably, both government and opposition voters in Hungary view climate change as a major, human-induced concern. The lack of a climate-skeptical stance by the Hungarian right suggests the issue isn’t yet polarizing in domestic discourse. Discussing responsibility in climate change mitigation, corporations emerged as major contributors. However, private homes, particularly those with poor energy management, are equally impactful. On individual and societal action, the experts emphasized that while large corporations have a major role in global climate trends, individual efforts like home insulation and green energy adoption are crucial for EU objectives.
After the discussion on these topics, the session concluded with a Q&A session, where a question about Hungarian organizations specializing in energy management was addressed, introducing the “Egyensúly Intézet” (Equilibrium Institute) and mentioning Dóra Csernus’s participation in a previous 21Research Center discussion. Another query on enhancing public awareness about climate issues highlighted the need to simplify the topic, making it more relatable for the public.
Most of the discussions about the comparative analysis in Slovakia were dedicated to the topic of Rule of Law, which, due to the elections in Slovakia and Poland was something that participants were the most interested in, and were held in September ad October 2023, all lasting from 35 minutes to almost 2 hours. During the webinars, the participants discussed the conclusions of the analysis and compared the current political situation in all V4 countries, expressing significant interest in the potential challenges posed by political parties, like SMER, the Slovak National Party, and the Republic, the more extremist of the election actors during the time.
Additional time of the sessions was devoted to comparing climate policies and the different dynamics in the Visegrad Group (V4) countries. Notably, the V4 countries generally view climate policy as a non-confrontational, expert-driven topic, except for the Czech Republic, where it stands out as a polarizing issue. Surprisingly, public attitudes toward climate change in Slovakia are not significantly influenced by their views on the European Union. Slovaks, despite their support for climate policies, primarily attribute responsibility for addressing climate change to major non-EU polluters such as the United States and China.
Finally, during discussions on the topic of migration, the most striking aspects of the analysis was the V4 countries’ united rejection of refugee quotas, their coordinated opposition to the EU’s open-door policy during the migration crisis, and the varying responses within the group. Participants were particularly interested in the distinctions in the Slovak and V4 attitudes towards refugees and their contrasting treatment of those from African or Muslim backgrounds compared to the Ukrainian refugees.
Throughout October 2023 (on the 4th, 9th, 12th, 23rd and 25th), researchers from EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy led a series of webinars, lasting from 40 to 75 minutes on average, in Czech and English, split based on the researched topics of the comparative analysis. They took the form of a presentation followed by questions posed to the audience to facilitate discussion and concluded with an open Q&A session.
Topic-wise, the most interest was shown to the topic of climate change, with participants being particularly interested in the perceived conflict between the results of the citizens´ consultations carried out earlier in the year, which showed that the V4 citizens are aware of the climate change and that they perceive it as a threat, while on the other hand, the policy steps and narratives of the V4 politicians do not necessarily reflect that.
Following that the participants also engaged in the topic of migration, and how it´s continuously used in public discourses and political campaigns. During the webinar in English language the participants were particularly interested in the Slovak and Polish parliamentary elections that took place just before the event, the roots of the results, and their repercussions for the Central European political landscape. Altogether the participants were interested in the research and stated they would like to hear more in the future, but would prefer an in-person format, as opposed to the online webinars.
The webinars organised by the Polish partner of RevivEU, Projekt: Polska, took place on 5th and 31st of October and both running for approximately 90 minutes. The first webinar was led by Magdalena Brukwińska, a programme organizer at Projekt: Polska and the second one by Dr. Milosz Hodun, president of Projekt: Polska. Adam Szłapka, the president of the Future of the EU Group in the Polish Parliament, was the special guest of the first webinar, giving an introduction to the topic and summarising the discussion.
During each webinar the main findings of the comparative reports prepared within the RevivEU project were presented. They covered the rule of law, migration, the post-pandemic recovery policy, and climate topics of the project. The presentation was important to gain a better understanding of what challenges other V4 states, i.e. Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary, are facing, and additionally, what challenges the EU will face in the years and quite possibly even decades to come.
Because the first webinar took place only ten days before the general elections in Poland, when the ruling party used migration as its key campaign issue (by creating fear to polarize the society), the part of the research covering migration appeared to be the most interesting and was the most discussed by the participants. The webinar helped to understand that the V4 countries are almost identical in their approach to migration. Their common ground has been the rejection of quotas linked to the mandatory redistribution of refugees and prioritizing the safeguarding of the internal security of their countries. The migration crisis has strengthened cohesion among the V4 countries. However, it was also stressed that the V4 countries differ. While in Poland and Hungary, the illiberal sovereignist narrative prevailed, the Czech and Slovak governments took a more pragmatic approach to the EU. These differences were the most visible in the realm of political discourse. Another significant difference is that Hungary undertook the most tangible anti-immigration measures, partly due to its geographical position in the Schengen zone and its transit country status.
Also during the second webinar the topic of migration was the most discussed, but more in the context of the election results in Slovakia and their implications for the entire CEE region. As this event took place after the elections in Poland, the participants were interested in how – and when – the discourse in Poland would change regarding all four topics covered by the RevivEU project. The participants expressed concerns about the access of Poland to the recovery fund (is it too late to benefit?).