The third Three Seas summit, which will take place in Bukarest on 17-18 September this year, is still the beginning of a long road of the 12 countries of Central and Southeastern Europe, whose goal is the economic and civilization consolidation of the region. Very late-develope, compared with Western Europe. The U.S. entered the game, and so wants Germany – writes Teresa Wójcik, editor of BiznesAlert.pl.
Positive response to blatant disproportions
The Thee Seas states are about 1/3 of the entire territory of the European Union. The population of “Twelve” which is part of the Three Seas initiative is 105 million. That’s 22 percent of EU population, but their economies together give only 10 percent of EU’s GDP. That’s a glaring disproportion in relation to the “old Union”, undermining the very principle of European Union unity. Trójmorze is a positive reaction to the European, regional and local dilemmas resulting from this disproportion. And also the dangerous concept of a “two-speed Europe”. A kind of undoubted crisis in the European Union.
One can not ignore the causes of imbalances in the EU – more than 40 years of dependence of most of the Twelve countries on Soviet Russia and imposed communist regimes. Since the transformation of 1989 in the countries of the region, this developmental and civilizational imbalance existing between it and Western Europe has been at hand.
The Three Seas is to act to stimulate development; primarily as a platform for tightening economic ties – cooperation in three key areas: energy, transport and digitization.
The first summit of the Three Seas initiative took place in Croatia in Dubrovnik on 25 and 26 August 2016. A Declaration was adopted, specifying the objectives of cooperation in the field of energy – including gas – road and rail transport (Via Carpatia and Via Baltica) and digital communication. The Declaration emphasized that the Three Seas region of Central and Southeastern Europe will make a civilizational leap, become more secure and more competitive. And thus contribute to the strengthening of the European Union as a whole. Three Seas is to be the bridge connecting Europe on the neglected north-south line. Therefore, the region’s politicians chose projects that connect Europe, not divide.
Europe of regions instead of two-speed Europe?
There are more and more opinions that an EU reform is needed to restore its original assumptions. But this is not about the reform of “building a two-speed Europe”. There is no allowance for such reform, not only in Central and Southeastern Europe. Critical voices also come from Scandinavia, where the idea of the Nordic Union – the alliance of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland – gains popularity. A survey conducted by Sentio Research, a well-known Scandinavian survey agency, surprises with the results. If the Nordic Union was established, almost half of the Swedes and Danes would prefer this Union than to belong to the EU.
Certainly, in today’s European Community conditions, there is a need for regional blocks. However, they do not have to be contrary to membership in the EU as well as in NATO. The vision of the initiators of the Three Seas – Polish President Andrzej Duda and the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis – is on the one hand the cohesion and integration of European space, on the other – the dynamics and competitiveness of our economies.
At the summit in Bucharest
The Three Seas is not aimed at any of the western neighbors – the policy in this concept is to give way to the economy. The declared objectives were specified at the second Three Seas summit, in Warsaw on 7 July 2017. President Andrzej Duda recently emphasized that the Three Seas initiative now needs to strengthen regional cooperation and focus the efforts of the region’s countries on specific infrastructure, energy and business projects. On the implementation of the Northern Gas Corridor, Via Carpatia and Via Baltica. On the joint transition from the phase of theory and political talks to the phase of practical implementation of intentions. Therefore, on the second day of the Bucharest summit, there will be a Business Forum deserving special attention. At the next Three Seas summit, the “Twelve” countries intend to set specific tasks for this transition.
The most important of them will be the creation of the Three Seas Fund on 17 September with, at the beginning, around 100 billion euros for joint investments. It was announced in April this year BiznesAlert.pl.
On the second day, the first edition of the Business Forum will take place. The aim of the Forum is to stimulate economic activity in the region, and to stimulate high factors driving growth and innovation. In particular, support for small and medium-sized enterprises and business incubators. It is important to generate an economic regional dialogue and new business ideas in the geographical area of the Three Seas. The network of chambers of commerce of participating countries is to be established to support the activities of the Business Forum and to connect business communities in the region. A joint statement on the creation of the network will be signed during the Bucharest Business Forum.
Washington: Three Seas on the list of priorities
On the second day of the summit, on September 18, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, also as the representative of the entire Three Seas region, will visit Washington officially.
The United States partner declared itself as a partner of the Three Seas, which was reflected in the participation in the Warsaw summit on 7 July 2017 by President Donald Trump. It is the transatlantic dimension of the third summit of the Three Seas. The Departamet of State of the United States announces that Three Seas will be on Washington’s list of priorities.
The US wants to support the initiative of the Three Seas, considering it as strategic for at least two reasons. One is a threat of Nord Stream 2 to Europe and to NATO. Washington attaches great importance to the blocking of the construction of the Russian gas pipeline, firstly because Europe is the most important partner of the USA. The second – the gas market in Europe is a very attractive and solvent market for Russian gas. Profits go to the Kremlin’s aggressive and imperial goals. Thanks to the US involvement in the Three Seas, Central and Southeastern Europe will become more secure and more competitive. What is not indifferent to strengthening the European Union as a whole.
Pro-Russian cracks in the region?
Not all Three Seas countries will be interested in the entire investment package connecting the region. It’s about Hungary, Austria and Bulgaria. This is especially true for the North-South Gas Corridor. Hungary has signed a long-term agreement with Gazprom and from 2019 will buy 8 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Russians. Almost 100 percent demand. For now, it is not known whether it will be gas from Nord Stream 2 or Turkish Stream. The Austrian gas market is supplied by the large domestic OMV group, which is gas from Gazprom at exceptionally competitive prices. Understandable, because OMV is one of the five western energy companies investing in the expansion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The Austrian concern has injected 950 million euros into the first Nord Stream bus. At present, OMV is intensively lobbying for the construction of the new Nord Stream 2 line. Transparency International recently announced that the Russians are financing this gas lobbying.
The third country fully dependent (100% of domestic imports) on the supply of Russian gas is Bulgaria. Sofia is currently negotiating new long-term contracts with Gazprom. In addition, exports of gas fuel from the Russian giant to Bulgaria have been steadily growing since 2013.
Germany appreciates …
The Three Seas initiative for almost two recent years has been critically assessed by some countries of the “old Union”, especially by Berlin. Unexpectedly, these grades have changed. For some time, Germany has declared great interest in participating in the Three Seas initiative. From the source information I have obtained, it appears that in recent weeks Germany has consulted by telephone the authorities of all 12 countries regarding their participation in the Three Seas. The president of Croatia was the first to say about the interest of Berlin in the Three Seas, in an interview with the Polish Gazeta Bankowa. You have to agree with it, that this is evidence of the growing importance of the initiative of the Three Seas.
August 28 this year Minister Krzysztof Szczerski, head of the president’s cabinet, informed that Germany had Poland’s support in admitting them to participate in the work of the Three Seas Initiative as a partner country. If the other countries of the Initiative agree, a friendly participation of the German representative in the September edition of the Three Seas is possible.
You can see Berlin changed its opinion about the anti-EU goals of the Initiative. Perhaps they believe that Three Seas is to act as a platform ensuring tightening of economic ties – cooperation in the sphere of energy, transport and digitization, which should not take place without influence – and preferably under the influence of Germany. However, I also see a different subtext in Berlin’s decision. Berlin can not allow the US to be the exclusive partner of the Three Seas. That is, to ensure their exclusive influence on an important new format of Euro-Atlantic integration.