Visegrád Group

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Visegrád Group
  • Visegrádská skupina (Czech)
  • Visegrádi Együttműködés (Hungarian)
  • Grupa Wyszehradzka (Polish)
  • Vyšehradská skupina (Slovak)
The group's logo, representing the relative positions of the four member states' capitals of The Visegrád Group
The group's logo, representing the relative positions of the four member states' capitals
  Visegrád Group members
Czech Republic
Establishment15 February 1991
• Total
533,615 km2 (206,030 sq mi)
• 2019 estimate
Increase 63,845,789[1]
• Density
120.0/km2 (310.8/sq mi)
GDP (nominal)2022[2] estimate
• Total
Increase €1.213 trillion
• Per capita
Increase €19,000

The Visegrád Group (also known as the Visegrád Four or the V4) is a cultural and political alliance of four Central European countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.[3] The alliance aims to advance co-operation in military, economic, cultural and energy affairs, and to further their integration with the EU.[4] All four states are also members of the European Union (EU), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Bucharest Nine (B9).

The alliance traces its origins to the summit meetings of leaders of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland, held in the Hungarian castle town of Visegrád[5] on 15 February 1991. Visegrád was chosen as the location for the summits as an intentional allusion to the medieval Congress of Visegrád between John I of Bohemia, Charles I of Hungary, and Casimir III of Poland in 1335.

After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia became independent members of the alliance, increasing the number of members from three to four. All four members of the Visegrád Group joined the European Union on 1 May 2004.


Background (1335-1989)[edit]

A castle atop a forested hill, surrounded by mountains.
The Castle of Visegrád, where the 1335 and 1339 Congresses of Visegrád took place

The name of the Visegrád Group references the place of meeting selected for the 1335 Congress of Visegrád held by the Bohemian (Czech), Polish, and Hungarian rulers in Visegrád. Charles I of Hungary, Casimir III of Poland, and John I of Bohemia agreed to create new commercial routes to bypass the city of Vienna (a staple port, which required goods to be offloaded and offered for sale in the city before they could be sold elsewhere) and to obtain easier access to other European markets. The recognition of Czech sovereignty over the Duchy of Silesia was also confirmed. The second Congress of Visegrád took place in 1339 and decided that if Casimir III of Poland died without a son (as actually happened in 1370), then the son of Charles I of Hungary, Louis I of Hungary would become the King of Poland.[6]

From the 16th century, large parts of the present-day territories of the group's members became part of, or were influenced, by the Vienna-based Habsburg monarchy. This situation continued until the end of World War I and the dissolution of Habsburg-ruled Austria-Hungary in 1918. In the three years after the end of World War II in 1945 the countries became satellite states of the Soviet Union, as the Polish People's Republic, the Hungarian People's Republic and the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of communism in central and eastern Europe enabled Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia to adopt capitalism and democracy. In December 1991, the fall of the Soviet Union occurred, further allowing the three countries to look westward.

Establishment (1990s)[edit]

The Visegrád Group was established on 15 February 1991 at a meeting between the President of the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, Václav Havel, the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Wałęsa, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary, József Antall, in the Hungarian town of Visegrád.[6][7] The group was created with the aim of moving away from communism and implementing the reforms required for full membership of the Euro-Atlantic institutions, such as NATO and the EU.[8]

After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia became independent members of the alliance, incrementing the number of members from three to four. All four members of the Visegrád Group joined the European Union on 1 May 2004.

Contemporary history (2004-present)[edit]

With all four Visegrad countries joining the EU in 2004, the primary goal of the group was achieved. Since then, the Visegrad Group has focused mostly on cultural cooperation through the Visegrad Fund and expert-level cooperation on topics such as infrastructure. The group became politically active and media visible during the European Migration Crisis in 2015. The Visegrad countries forcefully fought against the EU quota that aimed to distribute Syrian refugees from the overwhelmed southern EU countries across the continent. The coherence of the group decreased with the lower salience of migration in the subsequent years.

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia in 2022 caused a rift within the group. The Hungarian government under Viktor Orban and the Slovakian government under Robert Fico rejected support for Ukraine and even spread Russian propaganda claims about the war being provoked by NATO. On the other hand, the Czech government under Petr Fiala and the Polish government under Donald Tusk are among the strongest supporters of Ukraine. Some media outlets have renamed the Visegrad Four to ‘Visegrad Two Plus Two’ to highlight the political rift. This rift was highlighted by the summit in Prague in 2024. The Polish Foreign Minister later reiterated that the priority for Poland (the largest country in the group) should be collaboration within the Weimar Triangle (Poland, Germany, France) and with the US, rather than with the Visegrad Four.


The Visegrád Group signing ceremony in February 1991

All four nations in the Visegrád Group are high-income countries with a very high Human Development Index. V4 countries have experienced more or less steady economic growth for over a century.[9] In 2009, Slovakia adopted the euro as its official currency, being the only member of the group to have done so. All four countries are eventually obliged to adopt the euro in the future and to join the Eurozone once they have satisfied the euro convergence criteria by the Treaty of Accession since they joined the EU.[10]

If counted as a single country, the Visegrád Group's GDP would be the 4th in the EU, 5th in Europe and 15th in the world.[11][12] In terms of international trade, the V4 is not only at the forefront of Europe, but also of the world (4th in the EU, 5th in Europe and 8th in the world).[13]

Based on gross domestic product per capita (PPP) estimated figures for the year 2020, the most developed country in the group is the Czech Republic (US$40,858 per capita), followed by Slovakia (US$38,321 per capita), Hungary (US$35,941 per capita) and Poland (US$35,651 per capita). The average GDP (PPP) in 2019 for the entire group is estimated at US$34,865.

Within the EU, the V4 countries are pro-nuclear-power, and are seeking to expand or found (in the case of Poland) a nuclear-power industry. They have sought to counter what they see as an anti-nuclear-power bias within the EU, believing their countries would benefit from nuclear power.[14][15]

Czech Republic[edit]

Prague, Czech Republic

The economy of the Czech Republic is the group's second largest (GDP PPP of US$432.346 billion[16] total, ranked 36th in the world).

Within the V4, the Czech Republic has the highest Human Development Index,[17] Human Capital Index,[18] nominal GDP per capita[19] as well as GDP at purchasing power parity per capita.[20]


Budapest, Hungary

Hungary has the group's third largest economy (total GDP of US$350.000 billion, 53rd in the world). Hungary was one of the more developed economies of the Eastern bloc. With about $18 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) since 1989, Hungary has attracted over one-third of all FDI in central and eastern Europe, including the former Soviet Union. Of this, about $6 billion came from American companies. Now it is an industrial agricultural state. The main industries are engineering, mechanical engineering (cars, buses), chemical, electrical, textile, and food industries. The services sector accounted for 64% of GDP in 2007 and its role in the Hungarian economy is steadily growing.[citation needed]

The main sectors of Hungarian industry are heavy industry (mining, metallurgy, machine and steel production), energy production, mechanical engineering, chemicals, food industry, and automobile production. The industry is leaning mainly on processing industry and (including construction) accounted for 29.32% of GDP in 2008.[21] The leading industry is machinery, followed by the chemical industry (plastic production, pharmaceuticals), while mining, metallurgy and textile industry seemed to be losing importance in the past two decades. In spite of the significant drop in the last decade, the food industry still contributes up to 14% of total industrial production and amounts to 7–8% of the country's exports.[22]

Agriculture accounted for 4.3% of GDP in 2008 and along with the food industry occupied roughly 7.7% of the labour force.[23][24]

Tourism employs nearly 150,000 people and the total income from tourism was 4 billion euros in 2008.[25] One of Hungary's top tourist destinations is Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe, with 1.2 million visitors in 2008. The most visited region is Budapest; the Hungarian capital attracted 3.61 million visitors in 2008. Hungary was the world's 24th most visited country in 2011.[26]


Warsaw, Poland

Poland has the region's largest economy (GDP PPP total of US$1.353 trillion,[27] ranked 22nd in the world). According to the United Nations and the World Bank, it is a high-income country[28] with a high quality of life and a very high standard of living.[29][30] The Polish economy is the fifth-largest in the EU and one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe, with a yearly growth rate of over 3.0% between 1991 and 2019. Poland is the only European Union member to have avoided a decline in GDP during the late-2000s recession, and in 2009 created the most GDP growth of all countries in the EU. The Polish economy had not entered recession nor contracted. According to Poland's Central Statistical Office, in 2011 the Polish economic growth rate was 4.3%, the best result in the entire EU. The largest component of its economy is the service sector (67.3%), followed by industry (28.1%) and agriculture (4.6%). Since increased private investment and EU funding assistance, Poland's infrastructure has developed rapidly.

Poland's main industries are mining, machinery (cars, buses, ships), metallurgy, chemicals, electrical goods, textiles, and food processing. The high-technology and IT sectors are also growing with the help of investors such as Google, Toshiba, Dell, GE, LG, and Sharp. Poland is a producer of many electronic devices and components.[31]


Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava, Slovakia

The smallest, but still considerably powerful V4 economy is that of Slovakia (GDP of US$209.186 billion total, 68th in the world).[32]


The population is 64,301,710 inhabitants, which would rank 22nd largest in the world and 4th in Europe (similar in size to France, Italy or the UK) if V4 were a single country. The most populated country in the group is Poland (38 million),[33] followed by the Czech Republic (~11 million),[34] Hungary (~10 million),[35] and Slovakia (5.5 million).[36]

V4 capitals[edit]

  • Warsaw (Poland) – 1,790,658 inhabitants (metro – 3,105,883)
  • Budapest (Hungary) – 1,779,361 inhabitants (metro – 3,303,786)
  • Prague (Czech Republic) – 1,318,688 inhabitants (metro – 2,647,308)
  • Bratislava (Slovakia) – 432,801 inhabitants (metro – 659,578)

Current leaders[edit]


Visegrád Fund building in Bratislava.

International Visegrád Fund[edit]

The International Visegrád Fund (IVF) is the only institutionalized form of regional cooperation of the Visegrád Group countries.

The main aim of the fund is to strengthen the ties among people and institutions in Central and Eastern Europe through giving support to regional non-governmental initiatives.[citation needed]

Defence cooperation[edit]

Visegrád Battlegroup[edit]

On 12 May 2011, Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich said that Poland will lead a new EU Battlegroup of the Visegrád Group. The decision was made at the V4 defence ministers' meeting in Levoča, Slovakia, and the battlegroup became operational and was placed on standby in the first half of 2016. The ministers also agreed that the V4 militaries should hold regular exercises under the auspices of the NATO Response Force, with the first such exercise to be held in Poland in 2013. The battlegroup included members of V4 and Ukraine.[37] Another V4 EU Battlegroup was formed in the second semester of 2019 (V4 + Croatia) and another will be on standby in the first semester of 2023.[38][39]

Other cooperation areas[edit]

On 14 March 2014, in response to the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine, a pact was signed for a joint military body within the European Union.[40] Subsequent Action Plan defines these other cooperation areas:[39]

  • Defence Planning
  • Joint Training and Exercises
  • Joint Procurement and Defence Industry
  • Military Education
  • Joint Airspace Protection
  • Coordination of Positions
  • Communication Strategy

V4 Joint Logistics Support Group Headquarters (V4 JLSG HQ) was established in 2020 and will reach the full operational capability by the beginning of 2023.[39]

Visegrád Patent Institute[edit]

Created by an agreement signed in Bratislava on 26 February 2015, the Institute aims at operating as an International Searching Authority (ISA) and International Preliminary Examining Authorities (IPEA) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) as from 1 July 2016.

Neighbor relations[edit]

European Union[edit]

All members of the V4 have been member states of the European Union since the EU's enlargement in 2004, and members of the Schengen Area since 2007.


The countries participating in the Austerlitz format. (From North to South: Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria.)

Austria is the Visegrád Group's southwestern neighbor. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria launched the Slavkov format for the three countries in early 2015. The first meeting in this format took place on 29 January 2015 in Slavkov u Brna (Austerlitz) in the Czech Republic. Petr Drulák, the deputy foreign minister of the Czech Republic, emphasized that the Austerlitz format was not a competitor, but an addition to the Visegrád group, after proposals to enlarge the V4 with Austria and Slovenia were rejected by Hungary.[41][42]

The leadership of the Freedom Party of Austria, the junior partner in the former Austrian coalition government, has expressed its willingness to closely cooperate with the Visegrád Group.[43] Former Chancellor and leader of the Austrian People's Party Sebastian Kurz wanted to act as a bridge builder between the east and the west.[44]


Germany, Visegrád Group's western neighbor, is a key economic partner of the group and vice versa. As of 2018, Germany's trade and investment flows with the V4 are greater than with China.[45]


On 24 April 2015, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia established the Craiova Group. The idea came from Victor Ponta, the then Romanian Prime Minister, who said he was inspired by the Visegrád Group.[46] Greece joined the group in October 2017.[47]

Romania has been invited to participate in the Visegrád Group on previous occasions. However, several incidents, such as the Black March ethnic clashes, made this impossible.[citation needed]


Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia border Ukraine on their east. Poland additionally borders Belarus and Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast to the northeast. The Czech Republic is fully surrounded by other EU members. Hungary borders Serbia, a candidate for EU accession, in the south.


Ukraine, an eastern neighbor of the V4 that is not a member of the EU, is one of largest recipients of the International Visegrád Fund support and receives assistance from the Visegrád Group for its aspirations to European integration.[48] Ukraine joined the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the EU and therefore with the V4 in 2016.[49]

The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to tensions within the Visegrád Group with Hungary under Viktor Orban, opposed to harsher sanctions against Russia, while the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland strongly supporting Ukraine.[50][51] In November 2022, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala stated, “This is not the best of times for the (Visegrád) format, and Hungary’s different attitudes are significantly influencing and complicating the situation.”[50]

Country comparison[edit]

Name Czech Republic
(Česká republika)
Hungary (Magyarország) Poland Slovakia
Official name Republic of Poland (Rzeczpospolita Polska) Slovak Republic (Slovenská republika)
Coat of arms
Flag Czech Republic Hungary Poland Slovakia
Population Increase 10,649,800 (2019)[52] Decrease 9,772,756 (2019)[52] Decrease 37,972,812 (2019)[52] Increase 5,450,421 (2019)[52]
Area 78,866 km2 (30,450 sq mi) 93,028 km2 (35,918 sq mi) 312,696 km2 (120,733 sq mi) 49,035 km2 (18,933 sq mi)
Population Density 134/km2 (350/sq mi) 105.9/km2 (274/sq mi) 123/km2 (320/sq mi) 111/km2 (290/sq mi)
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
Capital  Prague – 1,318,688 (2,647,308 Metro)  Budapest – 1,779,361 (3,303,786 Metro)  Warsaw – 1,783,321 (3,100,844 Metro)  Bratislava – 429,564 (659,578 Metro)
Largest City
Official language Czech (de facto and de jure) Hungarian (de facto and de jure) Polish (de facto and de jure) Slovak (de facto and de jure)
First Leader Bořivoj I, Duke of Bohemia (first historically documented Duke of Bohemia, 867–889) Grand Prince Árpád (traditional first leader of tribal principality, 895–907)
King St. Stephen (of Christian kingdom, 997–1038)
Duke Mieszko I (traditional first leader of unified state, 960–992) Pribina (traditional ancestor, ?–861)
Current Head of Government Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS; since 2021) Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Fidesz; 1998–2002, since 2010) Prime Minister Donald Tusk (Civic Platform; 2007–2014, since 2023) Prime Minister Robert Fico (Smer; 2006–2010, 2012–2018, since 2023)
Current Head of State President Petr Pavel (independent; since 2023) President Tamás Sulyok (independent; since 2024) President Andrzej Duda (Law and Justice; since 2015) President Zuzana Čaputová (Progressive Slovakia; since 2019)
Main religions 44.7% undeclared, 34.5% irreligious, 10.5% Roman Catholic, 2% other Christians, 0.7% others 38.9% Catholicism (Roman, Greek), 13.8% Protestantism (Reformed, Evangelical), 0.2% Orthodox, 0.1% Jewish, 1.7% other, 16.7% Non-religious, 1.5% Atheism, 27.2% undeclared 87.58% Roman Catholic, 7.10% Opting out of answer, 1.28% Other faiths, 2.41% Irreligious, 1.63% Not stated 62% Roman Catholic, 5.9% Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia, 3.8% Slovak Greek Catholic Church, 1.8% Reformed churches, 0.9% Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church, 0.3% Jehovah's Witnesses, 0.2% Evangelical Methodist, 10.6% not specified, 13.4% no religion
Ethnic groups 64.3% Czechs, 25.3% unspecified, 5% Moravians, 1.4% Slovaks, 1.0% Ukrainians, 3.0% Other 83.7% Hungarian, 3.1% Roma, 1.3% German, 14.7% not declared 98% Poles, 2% other or undeclared 80.7% Slovaks, 8.5% Hungarians, 2.0% Roma, 0.6% Czechs, 0.6% Rusyns, 0.1% Ukrainians, 0.1% Germans, 0.1% Poles, 0.1% Moravians, 7.2% unspecified
GDP (nominal)
External debt (nominal) $77.786 billion (2019 Q2) – 31.6 % of GDP $112.407 billion (2019 Q2) – 66.6 % of GDP $281.812 billion (2019 Q2) – 47.5 % of GDP $51.524 billion (2019 Q2) – 46.9 % of GDP
Currency Czech koruna (Kč) – CZK Hungarian forint (Ft) – HUF Polish złoty (zł) – PLN Euro (€) – EUR
Human Development Index
0.891 very high[54] 26th
0.845 very high[54] 43rd
0.872 very high[54] 32nd
0.857 very high[54] 36th

See also[edit]

Other groups in Central Europe[edit]

Similar groups[edit]



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External links[edit]