1. The Three Seas summit
BSSB.BE gisreportsonline.com 09.10.2108
* The Three Seas Initiative includes several proposed railways, highways, and energy pipelines that would link the group’s 12 member states
- Poland is leading the Three Seas Initiative, aiming to improve integration in Central and Eastern Europe
- A lack of integration on issues like energy and transportation makes the region feel vulnerable
- Most of the proposed projects are on paper, awaiting outside investment and support from the EU
On September 17, leaders from Central and Eastern Europe gathered in Bucharest to take part at the third Three Seas Initiative (TSI) summit. Jointly led by Poland and Croatia, the TSI promotes cooperation between the Baltic, the Adriatic and Black Seas, and includes 12 European Union member states: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Polish President Andrzej Duda proposed the initiative during his inauguration speech and has been its driving force. But as the largest power among the TSI states, Poland was circumspect enough to let Croatia begin the summit.
What is the Three Seas Initiative?
The Three Seas Initiative is a forum of European Union countries in Central and Eastern Europe located between the Baltic, Adriatic, and the Black Sea. It has been created to promote regional dialogue on a variety of issues affecting the countries of the region.
The Three Seas Initiative is made up of twelve member countries: The three Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) the Visegrad four (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary), Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Slovenia.
The Three Seas Initiative aims at increasing Central European cooperation in the fields of energy security, infrastructural development, communication and transportation. The regions and the whole continent need a more North-South connection to achieve the completion of the internal market that had been so far connecting the continent along an East-West axe.
The initiative has been closely related to two major infrastructure projects in the region. The first North-South highway “Via Carpathia”, connecting Klaipėda in Lithuania with Thessaloniki in Greece. The second is the Liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure project, with ocean terminals in Poland and Croatia and a connecting pipeline.
The initiative held its first summit in Dubrovnik on August 25-26, 2016. The two-day event ended with a declaration of cooperation in economic matters, particularly in the field of energy as well as transport and communications infrastructure.
The initiative’s second summit was held July 6-7, 2017 in Warsaw. US President Donald Trump attended and spoke at the summit. The participating countries unanimously agreed to set up a Three Seas Business Forum.
A limited framework for regional cooperation
The regional cooperation is not unconditional and all-encompassing. On the contrary, it is focussed on economic matters, notably on energy, transportation, and digital communication.
At the first Dubrovnik summit, the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic stated that the cooperation “would benefit not only these twelve EU country members but the whole European Union”.
The Dubrovnik declaration of 2016 is a political framework based on which concrete projects will be designed to help Central and Eastern European countries catch up on their European partners. Still, the cooperation is informal, based only on a “declaration” which means that it is not legally binding for the signatory parties.
Key plan of Polish foreign policy
- Since taking power in October 2015, Poland’s ruling party’s (Law and Justice) leading politicians have been tirelessly trying to build close collaborations with their neighbours. By doing so, they want to counterbalance the influence of “old Europe” in Brussels. “Old Europe” refers to the pre-2004 EU-members minus Great Britain.
- Since 2015, the “Three Seas Initiative” has been a topic for discussion which gained international visibility with Donald Trump’s visit in Warsaw in July 2017.
- Comments on this project of regional cooperation are often misleading because the Three Seas Initiative is usually described in the light of what is perceived as its ideological roots: Intermarium, a project of regional integration of Central Eastern Europe dating from the interwar period.
- The confusion with the Intermarium project stems to some extent from Poland’s multi-layered foreign policy since 2015 (a search for various alliances at regional, European and international levels).
The term Intermarium refers to a geopolitical concept developed by the interwar Polish leader Józef Piłsudski. After the division of the Russian empire in the wake of the First World War (1919), Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus formed independent nation-based states. Piłsudski believed that an alliance of those four states in a federal body could safeguard their respective sovereignties.
The concept was extended to Hungary, Italy, Yugoslavia, and Romania in the later 1930’s by the Polish minister for foreign affairs Józef Beck. For both Piłsudski and Beck, the federal entity would be located at the core of the 16th- and 17th-century Europe political entity of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and would be marked by Polish leadership.
The scope of the Intermarium varied depending on the time and place of its formulation, sometimes stretching from the Scandinavian countries up to the Balkans. The concept survived in Polish and Central Eastern European political thinking during the communist time thanks to exiled elites.
At the same time, the keyword ‘Intermarium’ remained censored in Central and Eastern Europe during the postwar era. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the concept did not arise because the geopolitical offer toward which countries In the region were striving was that of EU and NATO membership.
The Intermarium is a historical project of regional integration, while the Three Seas Initiative is a project of regional cooperation. The geopolitical confusion between Trimarium and Intermarium lies in the fact that the same question is raised by both projects: Is Poland looking to become the leader of the region and where lie its own national interests in this proposal?
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: gisreportsonline.com