Three Seas Initiative (TSI) was officially launched three years ago. In August 2016, a Declaration was signed in Dubrovnik, Croatia. According to the Declaration, member states of a new platform agreed on cooperation in the fields of economy, energy, transportation and digital communications. Presidents of Poland and Croatia initiated this idea.
Due to the fact that Poland was one of the main initiators of a new platform and there was a lack of information on this new East European forum, various opinions arose regarding TSI. According to one of the opinions, the cooperation platform for countries located between the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Black Seas was an attempt to revive “Intermarium”(Międzymorze). However, at this stage this approach is not realistic due to several reasons: TSI was created to promote cooperation in the fields of economy, energy and transportation while Intermarium encompassed the creation of the geopolitical military-defensive alliance. Moreover, two projects have substantial geographical differences; the security of TSI is totally linked to NATO; Differences between that period and current international and regional contexts should also be taken into account.
As for the place of Poland in TSI, it can be argued that it plays a major role in operation and development of a new platform. Despite the fact that all twelve TSI member states are simultaneously EU members, each of them, besides Austria, was a part of the former communist block; this was one of the triggers of creating such a cooperation platform. Poland has a grave historical background; it experienced huge human, economic and cultural losses during the Second World War as it was left alone between two empires. Polish people arewell-informed about the need of a united and strong Eastern and Western Europe. This is exactly the idea behind the creation of TSI. The implementation of the initiative is impossible without achieving economic stability that is in its turn closely linked to energy independence, reduction of transportation barriers and improvement of communications.
After the dissolution of the communist bloc, Central and Eastern European post-communistcountries had to transform from planned to capitalistic market economy that was quite a complicated process. This is why the process of European integration for these countries was more difficult. These countries have similar past and face approximately similar challenges; this is why tackling common problems jointly will be more effective and productive. Thepolish idea of formulating a common approach including elimination of transportation and communications’ barriers, deepening economic cooperation and achieving energy independence aimed at building a strong Central and Eastern Europe that would not be vulnerable to Russian threats and would better converge with western part of the EU. EU in its turn will welcome economically stable central and Eastern Europe that is especially important for the stability of the union. Reducing Russia’s economic and energy influence in the region belongs to the interests of Brussels as well. This can be confirmed by the participation of the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Junker in last two TSI summits in Bucharest and Ljubljana. However, US support is especially important for the implementation of this idea. Poland is one of the main partners of the US in Eastern Europe. When the President of Poland Andrzej Duda announced the creation of TSI, he immediately gained support from Washington that was of great importance for Poland and future development of the initiative.
Among TSI member countries, Poland has the fastest economic growth and is the biggest country in terms of GDP. But energy stability remains a challenge for Poland as for other central and eastern European states. Despite the fact that Poland is still dependent on supplies of natural gas by Russian state-owned company Gazprom, it puts much effort into reducing the share of Russian gas in its national energy supplies. LNG system is actively developing and it is expected that by 2022, supplies from Gazprom will be replaced by liquified natural gas imported from the US and Qatar; Tankers with natural gas are already arriving to the Port of Swinoujscie at the Baltic Sea coast. At the point when Poland will eliminate its dependence on Russian gas, it has a possibility to become a regional energy hub; supplying natural gas to TSI countries is planned via interconnectors that will lead to less dependence of these countries on Russian gas.
It should be noted that Poland started paying a special attention to the security of Central and Eastern Europe after the annexation of Crimean peninsula by Russian Federation. Due to threats coming from Russia, the importance and the need for constant presence of NATOmilitary forces in the region was embedded in strategic documents of Poland. Warsaw also expressed readiness to locate constant American military bases on its territory. Relations with the US and NATO intensified. Poland gradually became the main actor in NATO’s Eastern flank and main guarantor of regional security. Nowadays besides military-defensive issues, economic, energy, and informational dimensions of security gained more importance. One of the main TSI priorities is to overcome economic problems that is a significant challenge for Poland and other members of the platform. The President of Poland Andrzej Duda made a relevant remark during the economic congress in Rzeszow in October 2019 when he underscored that cooperation between Poland and TSI member countries should deepen ever more and expressed a hope for bigger US support. He also outlined the importance of such economic and infrastructural projects as: Via Carpathia, Rail Baltica, Via Baltica. According to the President, the implementation of the above-mentioned projects will increase the importance of Poland and the whole region.
The Three Seas Investment Fund also needs a special attention. The idea of creating an Investment Fund was proposed by Polish National Development Bank (Bank GospodarstwaKrajowego) in September 2018 at the Bucharest Summit. In May 2019, Polish Development Bank and Romanian Exim Bank founded a TSI Investment Fund in order to address regional economic and infrastructural needs. Currently the budget of the fund is up to 500 million euros and will increase to 5 billion euros in the nearest future. In addition, Czech Bank and other TSI countries’ banks will join and investment capital will gradually reach 100 billion euros and will cover significant part of transportation, energy and digital infrastructureprojects. This idea of Polish Development Bank will probably provide a significant financial assistance to TSI projects.
Based on the information provided above, TSI countries aim to deepen cooperation in the fields of economy, energy, transportation, infrastructure and communications. However, at this stage, there is a lack of unity among member states on foreign policy issues. It is worth noting that these countries have different foreign policy priorities; for example, there is no common foreign policy approach towards Russia. If Poland and Baltic countries perceivethreats coming from Russia as a significant problem, other countries do not. Formulating a common foreign policy approach is a complicated issue at this stage. It is also difficult to predict how the cooperation among twelve countries will develop. However, it is clear that the platform initiated by Poland is an ambitious project focused on the future development that can bring substantial benefits to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
The opinions and conclusions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tbilisi or The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.