The revival of 'Central Europe' among Hungarian political elites: its meaning and geopolitical implications

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Balogh, Péter
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Over the past years, the concept of ‘Central Europe’ has been revived by Hungarian political elites and this study aims to find out how and why. It is based on a content analysis of political speeches and communications, compared with actual policies and statistical data. It is observed that the government is the only political force to engage in the new discourse of ‘Central Europe’. The study finds that both the geographic extension and the connotations of ‘Central Europe’ have changed fundamentally. Often associated with the territories of the Dual monarchy up until the early 2000s, the notion today appears to be used synonymously with the likewise reinvigorated Visegrad Four. Yet while the latter has kept its geographic confines intact, ‘Central Europe’ has no clear boundaries. Such a malleable concept can more flexibly serve various geopolitical goals, such as Hungary’s intention to include Croatia and Serbia. The meanings associated with ‘Central Europe’ have changed just as much. Not long ago a symbol for Hungary’s (and its neighbours’) ‘return to Europe’, Central Europe has re-emerged as a ‘channel of protest’ vis-á-vis the West. Disillusioned by the EU following the financial and refugee crises, Hungarian political elites have been envisioning ‘Central Europe’ as the continent’s new growth hub and a safe space free from migrants. Economic data contradict the former vision. As Euroscepticism and a hard-line stance against refugees are no (longer) unique stands of the Visegrad Four, the question is what remains of ‘Central Europe’.
Közép-Európa , geopolitika , visegrádi országok
Hungarian Geographical Bulletin 66:(3) pp. 191-202. (2017)