Updated: Jun 19
Image Credits: Tumblr
The Three Seas Initiative (3SI or TSI), often known as the Baltic, Adriatic, and Black Sea (BABS) Initiative or simply as the Three Seas, is a forum of twelve European Union member states that runs from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic and Black Seas in Central and Eastern Europe on a north-south axis. It was launched in 2015 by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovi and Polish President Andrzej Duda to promote connectivity among the nations of Central and Eastern Europe. The twelve states that are part of the initiative are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Since its inception in 2016, 6 summits have been held.The first one was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, from August 25–26, 2016. The second summit was held in Warsaw, Poland, from 6–7 July 2017, which was attended by the former US President Donald Trump. The third summit took place from 17–18 September 2018 in Bucharest, Romania. There were 3 more summits after this, one of which was held in 2020, and the other was an online summit hosted by Estonia.
The Three Seas Initiative arose from a common desire to improve transportation, energy, and digital infrastructure connections along the EU's north-south axis. Connections must be trustworthy, long-lasting, and inclusive to strengthen EU cohesion and enrich transatlantic ties. 3SI seeks to expand the region's expertise across the EU and around the world. The US, Germany, and the European Commission, all 3SI partners, are heavily involved in this process.
The ambitious Three Seas Initiative was started with some major objectives. Economic growth, being one of the main goals, aims at making Europe more competitive globally through increased trade and expanded services within the region.
Secondly, it focuses on making countries under the Three Seas Initiative financially more attractive to investors in order to raise their interest.
Thirdly, energy security is the biggest concern due to its huge reliance on Russia, making it not only an economic issue but also a strategic and geopolitical issue. Therefore, they intend to build up a "cohesive and well functioning" market to expand the supply options and promote competition to enhance security. They also wanted a "geopolitical edge" by defending current geopolitical interests and standing against those that are not facilitative. Keeping the greater investments in mind, smarter connectivity becomes necessary. They seek not only to develop digital infrastructure but also smarter solutions to data exchange and the efficient use of information. Amidst the climate crisis, this initiative also incentivises achieving climate goals of net carbon emissions to zero and attaining carbon neutrality.
INVESTMENTS AND FUNDING
Three Sea Initiative investment plans to focus on developing transportation, energy, and digital infrastructure, particularly in northern and southern Europe, as they launch their own investment funds in 2019. It was done to develop the Central-Eastern part of Europe as it is less developed compared to Western Europe. Funds for these investment funds are invested primarily by private companies and investors.
To select the investors, the 3SI follows a commercial and market-driven approach to find the best investors to invest in. Many international investors around the world and many local investors have invested in the 3SI funds. It is estimated that there is an investment of around 100 billion euros in the different developmental projects of the initiative.
Image Credits: Three Seas Initiative
In 2019, Amber Infrastructure joined hands with the Three Sea Initiative Investment Fund (3SII). Amber will target developing transport, digital and energy infrastructure. It has been done by developing one of the first railway projects, Cargounit. This rail project is developing majorly in Poland to connect the railway infrastructure with all the countries of 3SI. This will give a boost to the connectivity and transportation of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
It has also developed a sustainable energy infrastructure by establishing solar energy generating infrastructure which can generate up to 156 MW of energy. The infrastructure for solar energy production is built in the regions of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and it is expanding across the different countries of the region. 3SI aims at becoming its own power producer and reducing its dependency on other European countries like Germany and Russia. 3SI also aims to establish net-zero emissions and attain sustainable forms of energy-producing sources.
In 2020, Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego ("BGK"), EximBank Hungary, and other financial institutions from Poland and Romania joined hands within the geographical organisation to develop its transportation connectivity and energy requirements. EximBank Hungary has made an investment of 20 million euros and BGK announced its investment of 850 million euros in 3SIIF. These investments and capital funding will give growth to the 3 Sea Initiative to develop its infrastructure and energy requirements. This would help to match Central and Eastern European countries with Western Europe.
RELEVANCE OF THE 3SI
Despite its 12 member states' having defined a concrete interest in developing the regional infrastructure linkages, as of yet, the institutional profile of the Initiative still amounts to merely a forum for deliberation and coordination. Hence, it is necessary for the countries of this often neglected region to coordinate and pursue common interests in a challenging security environment that is also replete with opportunities.
THE 3SI AS AN ANTIDITE TO RUSSIA'S ENERGY COERCION
In the context of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the significance of the Three Seas initiative has been elevated inevitably, especially for the transatlantic region. This region needs to diversify its energy supply chains to counter Russia’s energy weaponization. The 3SI forum, as a vibrant energy sector, promises to provide the same through a model of cooperation that creates a strong backbone for modern cross-sectoral infrastructure, fostering transatlantic cooperation in a variety of fields such as energy, transportation, and digital economy.
Since its origin, the potential for the enlargement of The 3 Seas Initiative has largely remained ambiguous. However, in the wake of the Russian aggression, the United States has elevated its strategic engagement in the Initiative for diversifying its energy sources, thereby facilitating the much-needed greater energy cooperation and connectivity to weaken Russia’s geopolitical position and shift the power dynamic in Europe. During a virtual speech given at the Three Seas Initiative summit in Bulgaria in July 2021, President Joe Biden declared that the United States would be an "unfailing partner" of the Three Seas Initiative countries.
In the present-day context, there’s an added urgency to the initiative. This year is likely to be a crucial year when America and its allies will decide whether the Three Seas Initiative remains merely a diplomatic agenda or can become a serious pragmatic project ain the current geopolitical scenario.
Capitalizing on all opportunities to deepen the trade relations is clearly in the mutual interests of the United States as well as the member countries. Now is the time to rapidly operationalize the 3 Seas Initiative through its upcoming summit which is set to take place from 20-21 June in Riga, Latvia, and make it the most productive one.
BY MIHIR, STUTI AGARWAL, YUKTA, DIPIKA