Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu at the Three Seas Foreign Ministers' meeting. Photo by Raigo Pajula.
Statement by Urmas Reinsalu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!
I am very happy to greet you from Tallinn, from a fascinating Creative Hub at the shore of the Baltic Sea – one of our three seas! It is a historic moment, as it is the first Three Seas foreign ministers’ meeting, though I would like to pay credit to our Polish colleagues for organising the first ministerial meeting in Warsaw already in September 2019.
I would have loved to welcome you all in person in Tallinn, where the fifth Three Seas Summit and the third Business Forum is going to take place. In a way I’m doing it, as I stand exactly on the spot where our presidents will meet on the 19th and 20th of October.
I hope our meeting today lays a solid basis to the tradition of conveying annual Three Seas ministerial meetings and our discussion paves the way to the success of the Tallinn Summit. I am honored to have all the participating states of the Three Seas and its partners at today’s meeting, which demonstrates the growing importance of the Initiative to the development and well-being of our region.
The Three Seas Summit and Business Forum is one of the main foreign policy events for Estonia in 2020. In four months’ time, here, in the Creative Hub of Tallinn, we bring together the heads of states and up to 500 high-level business representatives and international investors to introduce them the potential of our region.
We see the Tallinn Summit foremost as a summit of consolidation – we take stock of what has been achieved so far, set new goals and decide how to best move forward. For us, the success of the Summit is about generating and agreeing upon the practical deliverables. There are many we are working on, but let me highlight some of them.
First, before the COVID outbreak the Three Seas region had the fastest economic growth in Europe and we should be looking for the ways to make sure we stay the driving force in Europe. Therefore, it is of utmost importance and only timely to increase the role and engagement of the governments in the Three Seas process today. It fact, it is indispensable as is enhancement of intergovernmental cooperation in our region in order to bridge the gap of disparity in infrastructure and connectivity and achieve new economic growth.
By now, our presidents have met for four consecutive years. While the presidential level gives the Three Seas Initiative undoubtedly a valuable strategic vision, the Initiative as such has matured, compared to what it was in Dubrovnik five years ago. It is more focused and has a strong emphasis on economy.
It is in the competence of the ministers of the Three Seas to ensure legal and business - friendly environment conductive to a specific project. And again, it is the governments who need to implement the vision of the Three Seas. We have to turn willingness into practical results in the form of tangible infrastructure projects – railways, roads, pipelines and digital corridors. As members of the European Union, we have a unique advantage in pursuing our economic goals, as we are already part of a common economic and customs space.
As I stated before, Estonia sees merit in holding annual Three Seas ministerial meetings. We need efficient channels of coordination between the Three Seas governments. I’m happy to note that majority of our governments have entrusted foreign ministers with that responsibility.
Second, another important deliverable of the Tallinn Summit is to achieve the full operability of the Three Seas Investment Fund with all the participating states and partners joining and investing into the Fund.
According to the most recent IMF assessment, the Three Seas countries need to invest approximately 1,3 trillion dollars over the next ten years to bridge our region’s infrastructure development gap with Western Europe. The Three Seas Fund was established with this aim in mind. By now, the Fund has reached full operability and is ready to start investing. I am happy to note that this year the governments of Estonia,
Latvia and Hungary joined Poland and Romania as members and investors of the Fund. I call on our other colleagues to show their political will and follow our example!
The new impetus was given to the credibility of the Fund and to the whole process by recent US announcement at the Munich conference to invest up to 1 billion dollars into the development of the Three Seas infrastructure.
Which brings me now to our third deliverable – the progress report of the priority infrastructure projects that we wish to see implemented soon. In September we will launch the progress report in a modern, interactive and digital format, easily accessible to everybody online, and the most importantly, to the Fund for their feasibility studies on potential investment plans.
Fourth, a few words on digitalisation and smart connectivity that our Summit will focus on. Deployment of digital solutions gives the Three Seas region a competitive edge. The overall vision for the Three Seas digitalisation is to expand digital components across key infrastructure. As we are digitally like-minded group of countries, we have strong potential to become an investment platform for smart connectivity services, provided it is supported by the political will of the governments. At the Tallinn Summit Estonia is going to present a thorough analysis paper on smart connectivity with concrete proposals how to move forward and strengthen our potential as the digital spearhead of the EU.
Let me introduce briefly our next deliverables – strengthening the identity and visibility of the Three Seas Initiative and creating the Three Seas Secretariat. We have set up a permanent website for the initiative as our exemplary on-line business card, with a permanent logo and corporate visual identity.
Also, we have created the Three Seas technical Secretariat for the smooth preparation of the Tallinn Summit. We did it to help ourselves, but we are ready to keep it up until the end of the year, if that is the wish of the participating states. Let me underline that the future and the format of a secretariat is a consensual decision, hopefully made at the Tallinn Summit.
Last but not least, I would like to express our appreciation to the partners of the Three Seas. From the outset, the Three Seas was designed to complement the objectives and actions of the European Union. It adds value to the cohesion instruments, to the Connecting Europe Facility and strategies already available in the European Union. This close cooperation is reflected in the European Commission’s involvement and participation in the initiative and at the summits.
The United States of America has been a strong supporter and valued partner to the Three Seas from its inception. The continuous economic and strategic presence of the US and the growth of their investments in the Three Seas region keeps our transatlantic link strong and active, it also increases our space of security. We are looking forward to the high-level participation of the US at the Summit in Tallinn as it elevates the profile and adds strategic dimension to the Initiative.
Likewise, we value the partnership and growing involvement of Germany in the Three Seas. Germany shares the Three Seas Initiative’s rationale which aims at a more rapid development of the region, real convergence and cohesion among EU member states.
As I said, the Tallinn Summit is foremost a summit of consolidation, but I do believe that before long we face the situation, where we have to agree on the principles of including new partners to the Initiative. After all, we are interested in the harmonisation of economic development both within the EU, as well as in its neighbourhood. We are looking for new cooperation opportunities in the south-eastern part of the EU and in Eastern Partnership countries. Successful, practical and visible Three Seas hopefully encourages our Nordic partners to engage with it.
As it often happens, ambitious initiatives serve very simple and essential obligations. In the end, the Three Seas Initiative stands for the well-being of our societies and our citizens. Let’s connect and complete Europe! I am looking forward to hear your views on how to do it best.
Thank You for your attention!
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