Washington Must Continue to Support the Three Seas Initiative

What are the benefits of the Three Seas Initiative?

The Three Seas Initiative (3SI) is a regional effort in Europe to expand cross-border energy, transportation, and digital infrastructure and boost economic development in the area. It was launched in 2015 by Polish President Andrzej Duda and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović. The initiative gets its name from the three seas that border the region: the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic Seas. 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.

This cooperation helps counter Russian threats and influence in the region, especially in regards to energy dependence. Europe gets the majority of its natural gas from Russia, and most gas pipelines and even highways run primarily east to west, as countries remain reliant on Russian energy imports. The Three Seas Initiative aims to change this by supporting the development of energy, transportation, and digital infrastructure within Central and Eastern Europe broadly and along a north-south axis specifically. 

Some examples of the Three Seas Initiative Projects include: 

Energy

  • An LNG terminal in Krk, Croatia (completed in late 2020), with a connecting pipeline through Hungary and Slovakia.
  • The Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania (GIPL), a pipeline that would connect Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia to the wider European gas network.
  • The Bulgaria-Romania-Hungary-Austria (BRUA) pipeline, which would supply Romanian Black Sea gas to the region.

Transportation

  • The completion of Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) north-south road and railway corridors that would connect the Baltic (Poland) with the Adriatic (Slovenia and Italy) and with Greece via the Western Balkans
  • Viking Train, a railway to connect the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, via Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine
  • FAIRway Danube, a project to improve infrastructure and navigation conditions for water traffic on the Danube River in Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, and Slovakia

Digital

  • The Three Seas Digital Highway, a series of projects to improve data transfer and enhance communications infrastructure, including 5G technology and fiber optics.
  • The SmartCity Forum, seeking to accelerate innovation and foster investment in innovation in regional cities.

To achieve its goals, The Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund was launched in 2019 with an initial commitment of €500 million (about $600 million) from development banks in Poland and Romania. As of April 2021, 9 of the 12 3SI countries have pledged contributions totaling about €1 billion ($1.2 billion). The fund’s goal is to raise €3 billion to €5 billion ($3.6 billion to $6 billion). These developments will reduce the area’s dependence on Russia, improve economic growth and increase the region’s relationship with its allies in western Europe and the US. 

For these reasons, Washington must continue to support the Three Seas Initiative. In November 2020, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan resolution “expressing support of the Three Seas Initiative in its efforts to increase energy independence and infrastructure connectivity thereby strengthening the United States and European national security” (H.Res. 672, 116th Congress). Moreover, officials from the Biden Administration and the Trump Administration have expressed diplomatic support for the 3SI. High-level US officials have joined its annual summits, including then-President Trump, in 2017 at the Warsaw Summit. Additionally, in 2020 United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged up to a billion dollars in financing for the Investment Fund. The continued support of the US is important both for its own security and economic interest as well as those of its allies in central and eastern Europe.

by PAC Intern Miłosz Krupiński

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