Established in 2015 by the President of Croatia and Poland with the ‘blessing’ of the then President of the United States Donald Trump the first meeting of the group took place in 2016 in Dubrovnik.
Since then the group has met four more times; 2017 in Warsaw, 2018 in Bucharest, 2019 in Ljubljana, 2020 in Tallinn. The next summit will take place in Sofia sometime this year.
The 2017 summit of the 3 Seas Initiative (3SI) was attended by the US President, in 2018 & 2019 the summits were attended by the President of the EU Commission, the US Energy Secretary and German Foreign Affairs Minister (2018) as well as the German President (2019).
The Three Seas Initiative brings together twelve central and eastern EU states, its name refers to the fact that the member countries are situated between three seas: Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas.
With a population of over 112mln and a GDP of $2.1 trillion many of the participating countries have enjoyed and are enjoying a steady economic growth, reduction in unemployment and improvements in the standard of living.
Among the objectives of the project are, as listed on its website: economic growth, greater interest among investors, energy security, geopolitics, smart connectivity, achieving climate goals.
According to Eurostat statistics on unemployment in April 2021, all of the countries involved in the 3SI have unemployment lower than the Eurozone average, and all bar one, Latvia, have lower unemployment than the overall EU average.
Poland, Czechia and Hungary are in the top 5 with the lowest unemployment. The EU Commission's 2021 Spring Economic forecast also predicts that the involved countries will see a strong economic growth bounce back from the economic stagnation and decline due to covid-19 restrictions.
The Three Seas Investment Fund which was set up in 2019 and is open to all members its aim is to raise from €3-5bln for crucial investment projects the mechanism was set up to attract private-sector financial support.
In 2020 the US Secretary of State Pompeo pledged that the US will provide up to $1bln for the fund in order to develop Central Europe’s infrastructure. Much of the funding for many of the projects of the 3 Seas Initiative will come from the EU investment and structural funds, members have pledged to spend about €2,5bln from these funds on top priority projects.
Between 2014-20 approximately €150bln in regional development and cohesion funds was allocated to countries which today are participating in the 3SI.
Among the actual projects which the 3SI puts a lot of emphasis on are: new north to south highway connections investment for projects such as Via Carpathia will be ramped up as well as a new water corridor between Oder, Danube and Elbe.
Via Carpathia is a transnational motorway network which will connect Thessaloniki in Greece with the Lithuanian city of Klaipėda going through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland and has the potential to increase the GDP of the region by 1,5%
Another project is to connect the LNG terminals in Poland and Lithuania as well as a possible future terminal in Croatia, this would result in lessening Central/Eastern Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.
All but one (Austria) of the involved countries have not so long ago regained their sovereignty from the USSR, their democratic and free market history is quite young. With initiatives such as the Three Seas these countries have a better chance of improving their economic positions.
The infrastructural hole that was left by the communists and needs to be filled will cost these countries approximately €500bln, money spent on it however, is money well spent as over 112mln people will benefit from it and new economic opportunities will arise from it.