ARTICLES Three Seas Partnership
Greater Regional Investment and Security Cooperation: Latvian Priorities for the Three Seas Initiative
In June of this year [2022 – ed. note], Three Seas Initiative members and partners met in Riga, Latvia to discuss priorities, investment, and projects of critical importance for the ongoing development of greater regional interconnectedness between the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic Seas.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe regained the longed-for freedom and for the first time in centuries were able to independently decide about their future. In the 1990s, they set Euro-Atlantic integration as their overriding goal. However, one of the criteria for membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance was participation in regional cooperation formats. At that time, agreements were signed that established the Visegrad Group (V4) and the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), two cooperation platforms that laid the foundations for further mechanisms of Euro-Atlantic integration. In 2007, most Central European countries could already boast membership in the European Union and NATO.
Although the Czech Republic is a member of the Three Seas Initiative, it approaches this format of cooperation in the region with some reserve. There were many reasons for this, the most important of which turned out to be a pragmatic attitude towards the aforementioned geopolitical project. As part of it, no specific projects have been implemented so far, with the exception of annual summits and the creation of the Three Seas Fund.
Since its inception in 2015, the Three Seas Initiative (3SI or TSI) has gradually flourished in the Trimarium countries, gathering more and more support from private entities and becoming the focus of research centers. Countries such as Poland, Croatia and the Czech Republic continuously supported the Initiative, which consequently led to its gradual development.
Austria sees the Three Seas Initiative as a useful format and expects to benefit from its membership
Austria has been a supporter of the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) from its very start in 2016. Even though Austria’s economic development and infrastructure are more advanced compared to the other member states of the Initiative, the country expects to profit from its membership economically but also politically.
The Three Seas Initiative is not one of the well-known formats of regional cooperation in Europe. Only experts and some interested people know about the various organizations that exist in the European Union, but also in the combination of EU countries and non-EU countries. It is enough to give a few examples: Baltic cooperation established in 1994, Nordic-Baltic cooperation in 1992, Visegrad Group in 1991, Black Sea Economic Cooperation in 1992, Cooperation Processes in Southeastern Europe in 1996, Strategy EU for the Danube Region in 2010, or the Three Seas Initiative in 2016.
The Three Seas Initiative is an excellent example of a sensible idea whose positive impact has been neutralized due to limited and delayed implementation. A denser energy, transport and digital infrastructure network, which is the main idea of the Three Seas Initiative, would provide us with a stronger and more resilient position in the face of the consequences of a Russian military attack on Ukraine. Better connectivity means more options. Greater infrastructure capacity means greater resilience. Together, this means greater freedom of action and less vulnerability, which are key features if we want to emerge victorious in the ongoing conflict with the Kremlin. Even without the war, the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Sea regions would greatly benefit from a solid north-south infrastructure axis in terms of potential for economic growth, energy security.
Completed in June this year. The summit of the Three Seas Initiative in the Latvian capital was another annual meeting at the presidential level, which showed the durability of this relatively new format of Central European cooperation.
The Three Seas Initiative has received subdued rather than committed and vigorous support in Bulgaria. Limited public awareness, coupled with distrust and opposition to the Initiative by Russophile and nationalist social and political networks, limited Bulgaria’s full anchoring in the format and limited discussions to the technical and economic dimension of regional cooperation. In turn, the political and conceptual aspects of the Three Seas Initiative were the subject of unjustified interpretations, multiplied in the pro-Russian disinformation. The latter called the project a “sanitary cordon”, a new “iron curtain” and a “geopolitical battlefield” allegedly motivated by Polish Russophobia, aimed at isolating Russia and China and promoting Western hegemony, including through military means.
In the 21st century, the sea continues to be the most common way to transport goods and people. The context and importance of the seas can be a key factor in an international show. So why not take advantage of this factor and unite? Working together for the common good may be an old concept, but it still works. Until it becomes too political when it comes to endangering other political groups, unions and organizations. That is why it is important to perceive the Three Seas Initiative as something important, something new and innovative, but above all – something good. As stated in the official definition, it is “a politically inspired, commercially driven platform to improve connectivity between Member States”.