International Visegrad Fund

LESSONS FROM THE PANDEMIC Potential for Radical and Sustainable Change in the Visegrad region


The pandemic crisis has proved that current economic and social systems will not remain constant over time. Likewise, it has revealed that the health and education systems, industries, sectors and value-chains of the future will be significantly different than those of today.

Identifying how the possible pathways of technological and social innovations will shape the future of the Visegrad region, or any other region, in post-COVID times is still a matter of considerable uncertainty and speculation. A systemic, evidence-based and participatory approach was thus needed to collectively envision an array of potential emergent futures and opportunities to stimulate post-COVID pandemic transformation in the Visegrad region toward desirable sustainable futures.


4CF The Futures Literacy Company and three universities: Corvinus University of Budapest, Palacky University Olomouc, and University of Economics in Bratislava, therefore undertakook the task to identify priorities for post-COVID-19 recovery of the Visegrad Group countries, build a sense of solidarity within the region and competently contribute to the ongoing debate in the EU on the future of the region. The project was funded by the International Visegrad Fund.

In the first step, project partners identified key trends shaping the future of the Visegrad region.  The trends were further investigated and consulted with numerous experts from all Visegrad Group countries during the Delphi survey. Experts also analysed issues that could accelerate the trends or slow them down. In total, fourteen trends were analysed by the panel of international experts in the online Delphi study. The results were organised under the seven thematic categories: Geopolitics, Economy, Technology, Environment, Society, Education and Health. 

The results of the study were shown during the Foresight Europe Network meeting held in June 2022. The presentation included the outcomes of the work performed by the research team including: trends shaping the future of the Visegrad region and their analysis based on the Delphi survey results. Also a scenario impact analysis, based on the three EU 2050 scenarios, was performed and discussed with its participants during the meeting.

Moreover, a policy brief directed to decision makers was developed and delivered to decision makers in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, directly and via a targeted social media marketing campaign. Both the methodology and results of the project are presented in a scientific publication in the “Foresight” journal (forthcoming in 2023).


The study identified 14 trends that could significantly  affect sustainable development in Visegrad countries  and assessed the enablers and blockers of these trends. There were two trends within each of the 7 categories:  Geopolitics,  Economy, Technology, Environment,  Society, Education, and Health. The wider influence of the trends was considered within the confines of three scenarios

  • Scenario 1 – “Somewhat satisfied” – described a future  where most of the EU’s long-term strategic plans  progressed relatively well, 
  • Scenario 2 – “Gritting our teeth” – described a future  where the EU had to cope with a cumulation of crises  (climate, economic, social) negatively impacting  its functioning, 
  • Scenario 3 – “Watching the dawn” – described a future  where democracies around the globe were cooperating  for the common good. 

Out of the 14 trends, six were assessed as impactful  on the Visegrad region’s future regardless of the considered scenario and were, therefore, selected as most important: 

  • Increasing polarisation of societies, 
  • Emerging energy sector transitions, 
  • Rising popularity of remote hybrid work, 
  • Growth of artificial intelligence use in the healthcare industry, 
  • Rising popularity of cyberattacks, 
  • Growing number of people suffering  from mental health issues. 

Three other trends that deserve mention due to their critical influence on sustainability in Visegrad countries include: 

  • Increasing disinformation and circulating conspiracy theories, 
  • Persisting gap in quality of education between the V4 countries and better performing EU states,
  • Deterioration  of the rule of law. 

A particularly interesting result of the study concerned trend blockers. According to the experts’ assessment, the blockers that could stop negative trends from developing have a much higher influence on sustainability  than the blockers of positive trends. Moreover,  the influence  of negative trends on the V4 region’s sustainability  is much stronger than that  of positive ones.  A combination  of these two facts leads to a conclusion that is highly relevant  from a policymaking perspective: the most effective  strategy for reaching the desired level of sustainability  has to include policies built around the blockers  of negative trends.

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