President Kersti Kaljulaid confirmed that the Three Seas Initiative (3SI), a forum of twelve states connecting the Baltic, Adriatic and the Black Seas, does not compete with the European Union but is rather attempting to bring the region's countries to the levels of Western European states.
Kaljulaid told ETV's foreign news show "Välisilm" on Monday that the 3SI will not create divides between Western and Eastern Europe.
The president said: "When the Three Seas Initiative began, there was indeed a question of what the initiative even is. Is it something that is created as a so-called alternative to the European Union. The answer is no. The EU is all the way on board with the Three Seas Initiative. The [European] Commission's presidents have gone to many events. Margrethe Vestager will represent the Commission in a video meeting in Tallinn."
Kaljulaid added: "It is an initiative that will bring together the most dynamic area of the European Union to market the region of more than 100 million people as a rapidly developing part of Europe. It must grow fast, we need to catch up to Western Europe. At the same time, we have also not used all the available potential for communication in the region's economy. Figuratively speaking, all the good routes go from East to West, but we have not connected going from North to South.
"But once again, as there have been discussions of it competing with the European Union, do not kid yourselves. The European Union has not spent less than €40 billion in the region annually. It is just an attempt - and I am sure it will be a successful one - to reach developmental goals through public and private sector cooperation."
The president noted that while all 3SI states are also member states of the European Union, the initiative's projects can also reach outside of the union, for example to Ukraine or the Balkan states.
Kaljulaid said: "But cross-border cooperation - let's admit - is an argument to market the region even more."
The president said the funding will be collected in a special fund managed by Amber Capital Management and that all 3SI states have agreed to the developmental goals. Investments into connectivity - whether it be digital, transport or energy - will be the main focus.
She added that politicians have no way to lead or control which specific projects the fund should invest in.
Kaljulaid noted that similar funds could be created in other regions. "If the fund were to work, one can imagine we can develop a similar fund in Ukraine or in the Western Balkans to tie the region with neutral private sector money that is looking for productivity and is not managed or controlled politically."
A virtual summit of the Three Seas Initiative states is set to take place in Estonia on Monday, October 19. Estonia has joined the investment fund as a "core investor" and will invest up to €20 million.
The Three Seas Initiative brings together 12 European Union countries – Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. The European Union, the United States and Germany are important partners.
Poland, Romania, Latvia, Hungary and Bulgaria have also joined the fund or agreed to in future.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste