On October 19, the Three Seas Initiative forum and the virtual forum will take place in Estonia. The Initiative will aim to increase the cooperation between the former Eastern block countries and create a north-south corridor, one of the goals is to avoid Chinese influence on future investments.
Atlantic Council think tank analyst Ian Brzezinki always loves to bring up the following example when talking about the Three Seas Initiative: Imagine that you are watching a satellite picture of Europe. The west looks like a spiderweb of roads, power lines, oil and gas pipes. The east is relatively empty.
"There are only a couple of east-west high ways and east-west pipelines and not much [else]," he said.
This is where the Three Seas Initiative comes to play, which should increase the cooperation between the eastern countries and Austria with strategic infrastructure, energy and digital projects and create a north-south corridor.
"The economic catastrophe caused by the covid pandemic adds urgency to the Three Seas because Three Seas is an initiative that develops infrastructure. The development of infrastructure creates growth, which generates jobs which is urgently needed," Brzezinski said.
Alongside European Union member states, the U.S. has been a vocal supporter of the project. The Foreign Minister of the U.S., Mike Pompeo, announced in February the county will contribute €1 billion.
There are several reasons for that. Firstly, it is wished that the area's energy dependency on Russia is reduced, which would also give the U.S. a possibility to export more of its own liquified natural gas.
Secondly, it will balance out the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative through which, it is planned to invest in different countries' infrastructure projects, primarily railway and port constructions. Analysts have warned that is one of the ways China is trying to increase its influence in the world and Chinese loans and workforce are mainly used in these projects.
For example, Hungary and Serbia's railway is estimated to cost €2 billion and 85 percent of the money will be loaned by China for 20 years.
"The Three Seas Initiative provides a far better alternative to the Belt and Road initiative because it is talking about transparent process, clean capital, it's driven on principles of commercial viability rather than geopolitical agenda," Brzezinski said.
Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) analyst Edward Lucas told ERR: "The world is really waking up to the dangers of politicized Chinese infrastructure and we're seeing worries about the so-called "debt diplomacy" trap, we're seeing worries about Chinese influence operations, the growing threat of Chinese cyber operations, and so now is a really good time to try and push back against this."
The member states of the European Union have had a positive attitude towards the Three Seas Initiative so far. The only criticism is that it could further widen the gap between East and West in the Union.
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: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright