What is The Three Seas Initiative?

October 18, 2019

The Three Seas Initiative (TSI) is a forum of twelve Eastern European states. Most members are former communist countries from Central and Eastern Europe: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The main aim of the initiative is to create regional cooperation between the countries to develop the infrastructure in Eastern Europe. It is a vision for the establishment of the North-South Corridor in energy, transportation and communication, which aims to connect countries located in the Baltic Region as well as the Adriatic and the Black Sea.

In 2016 leaders from the majority of the Central and Eastern European countries met in Dubrovnik, Croatia to discuss the formation of TSI. The first summit took place on 25–26 August 2016. At the two-day event politicians and representatives signed a declaration of co-operation in economic matters, particularly in the field of energy, transport and communications infrastructure. Polish President Andrzej Duda called the initiative “a new concept to promote Europe’s unity and cohesion, it is an idea of cooperation among 12 countries located between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas, the three seas of Central Europe’’. The project involves investments in a North-South highway called “Via Carpathia” which will connect Klaipėda in Lithuania and Thessaloniki in Greece. Another important development associated with the TSI is the creation of liquefied natural gas infrastructure, with sea terminals in Poland and Croatia and a connecting pipeline. The LNG terminal was already built in Swinoujscie in Poland and is now receiving significant amounts of liquefied gas. The enterprise also plans to develop further connection lines and projects as for example, the Baltic-Adriatic Corridor, Via Baltica road, Rail Baltica and Amber Rail Freight Corridor rail connections.

The geographical area of the countries involved stretches from Estonia in the north, to Croatia in the south, and extends east to Romania and Bulgaria. What these all countries have in common is that they are all members of the European Union, and the majority of them, joined the EU in 2004. They aim is to strengthen cooperation, especially in the areas of infrastructure and energy security. The direct motives to form such a coalition lie, in the broader political disturbances which shook the region in recent years. This includes the energy cuts in Ukraine in 2009 during which Russia disrupted their gas supply, the conflict with Georgia in 2008 and later the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Many Eastern European countries feel threatened by Russia’s plans to assemble a second direct gas connection with Germany – the Nord Stream 2. Almost all countries which joined the Three Seas Initiative project, are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas and oil supplies. Although in 2014, the European Commission issued a unified European Energy Strategy, the European directives and regulations do not apply to privately financed projects. The Russian Nord Stream 2 project, established with the cooperation of private capital from Germany and France, may significantly impact the energy market in Eastern Europe as it eliminates the need for transit countries. Additionally, in the light of the recent 20/20/20 Climate Action policy (20% cut in greenhouse gas emission, 20% EU energy from renewables, 20% improvement in energy efficiency) set by the EU Commission, the forecasts predict an increase in natural gas consumption in Europe in the next 30 years by approximately 30%. It is expected that the formation of the Three Seas Initiative can provide a remedy for the existing problems and will help to tackle and resolve the majority of challenges which Eastern Europe face currently.

Members of the TSI would like to enhance their energy security and become more independent in regard to their energy supply. The 12 countries felt that their concerns not always were considered and discussed enough in Brussels. The development of infrastructure in those countries will also help to increase the economic output of the region. It is expected that the improvements will help to increase the overall gross domestic products GDP of the countries and areas involved.

Alicja Prochniak

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