The Three Seas Initiative – what is it, what does it do and what are the advantages?
Opinion editorial by Urmas Reinsalu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia
To put it simply, the participating states of the Three Seas Initiative – twelve European Union member states between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas – all share an interest in new investments in infrastructure, economic growth and energy security.
However, given our geographical location and history, meeting these goals requires an extra effort. And investments. To meet this objective, the United States, Germany and the European Commission have been included in the project as partners. The Three Seas Initiative has also been called a self-help project of the region.
Last summer in Ljubljana, when Estonia took up the baton of organising the Three Seas Summit, we immediately got to work to make the most of our coordinating year, binding together the various branches of the initiative and getting practical results.
The virtual summit and web forum held in Tallinn on Monday 19 October was the culmination of Estonia’s work as the coordinator of Three Seas Initiative. This year has been extremely intense but, from the perspective of the initiative’s progress, successful in all respects.
Despite the paralysing impact of the global pandemic, we can safely say that Estonia has met the objectives it set for its Three Seas coordinating year. One of the most significant steps, engaging the executive in the cooperation format that has operated on the presidential level for five years, became a real and natural part of how the initiative works. Hosting the first video meeting of foreign ministers in June 2020 paved the way for the inclusion of the executive in the Three Seas Initiative.
This has already brought clear results – the majority of the participating states of the initiative have decided to join the Three Seas Investment Fund established by Romania and Poland in 2018.
At Monday’s summit, the Polish State Development Bank announced an additional investment of €250 million into the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund and fund manager Amber Infrastructure Group announced their plans to join the fund in addition to participating states, which brings the value of the fund to nearly a billion euros. The United States affirmed it was moving forward with the plan to meet its promise of contributing up to $1 billion.
The investments of participating states and partners are the hallmark of the region’s economic potential.
Characteristically and, as the Three Seas countries were expecting, Estonia focused on digitalisation and smart connectivity. We believe that the application of digital solutions in all infrastructure sectors gives us a competitive edge that sets the Three Seas region apart from competitors and makes the region a pioneer.
A smartly developed infrastructure is greener and contributes to meeting global climate goals. At the web forum, Estonia presented a comprehensive overview on the possibilities and challenges of smart connectivity for the Three Seas region, accompanied by detailed proposals for moving forward and reinforcing our position as the digital advocate of the European Union.
A tangible result of Estonia’s coordinating year is the compilation of an interactive progress report for the key energy, transport and digital infrastructure projects of the region.
Updated information about more than 70 projects is readily available for the cost-benefit analyses of potential investment plans to all potential private investors – and most importantly, for the Three Seas Investment Fund.
The host of the next summit will receive a comprehensively designed identity and functioning tools from Estonia for further bolstering cooperation in the Three Seas region. We laid the foundation for the Secretariat of the Three Seas to ensure an efficient information exchange. The format also received a visual identity with a logo and an official website.
Estonia has every reason to be happy with its work – the Three Seas Initiative and the region has all the preconditions for succeeding.
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The Civil Society Forum of the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) will take place at the Riga Castle on May 20 and 21, 2022 to discuss issues relating to the 3SI priorities of connectivity, digitalisation, security and governance.
The Three Seas Initiative’s (3SI) event “Business Opportunities in Filling the North-South Connectivity Gap” on the morning of May 12th has become an example of well thought through strategies turning into real life investments of the initiative’s participating member countries and entrepreneurs. The meeting provided a discussion platform to investigate opportunities for strengthening connectivity and security in infrastructure, digital, and energy sectors on the North-South axis, but also to recognize the future economic advantages, exclusively, with case studies from the Three Seas region on various projects developed and planned within the Investment Fund.