The Tallinn Three Seas Virtual Summit starts on Monday, and sees President Kersti Kaljulaid hosting her counterparts from Poland and Bulgaria, as well as United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and European Commission Executive Vice Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
This year's summit is being held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, but this has not stopped President of Poland Andrzej Duda, whose country was a driving force in getting the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) up and running, and Bulgarian President Rumen Radev. A high-level panel discussion featuring both of these presidents, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes, and European Commission Executive Vice Commissioner Vestager, as well as President Kaljulaid, runs from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. local time.
The Three Seas Region comprises 12 Central and Eastern European EU countries: Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – as well as Poland, Bulgaria and Estonia – and its accompanying Three Seas Initiative (3SI) is focussed on closing the infrastructure investment gap – put by some sources at over €1 trillion – between the region and its relatively more well-heeled western European EU counterparts.
The 3SI aims to do this in three areas: The environment, transport and the digital sphere, with Estonia playing a lead role in its time as host nation this year in moving things along in the last of these three in particular.
U.S. commitment to €1 billion to 3SI fund anticipated
Highlights of the summit, which can be viewed online from 2.15 p.m. Estonian time, are likely to be an unveiling of the Smart Connectivity vision, which sets out ways in which synergies in the three key areas noted above will lead to developments in transport within the Three Seas Region – still woefully inadequate, particularly along its north-south axis.
These would include solutions such as greater digitization cutting down on labor, time, and carbon emissions, with improved sea and even river connections within the region also on the table.
Another anticipated development is likely to be a full U.S. commitment to putting up €1 billion to the 3SI investment fund, currently standing at around €560 million with a target set of between €3 and €5 billion. The fund, privately managed by U.K-based infrastructure investors Amber, will be used for bringing to fruition many of the 3SI's biggest goals.
Some speculation has also appeared over the region ending up as a separate bloc within the EU – something which all Three Seas participating states are keen to rebut – and over the interests that both the EU and the U.S. have in the development of the region.
In addition to Mike Pompeo and Mark Menezes, Keith Krach, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, will also be attending and speaking at a panel discussion on how Washington views the 3SI, as well as Margrethe Vestager.
Germany a partner state
A closed-doors segment of the summit, ahead of the main event, will feature leaders of both Three Seas Regions and from Germany, at a round-table discussion.
Germany is not a participating state but is, along with the U.S. and the EU as a whole, a partner state, summit organizers say.
A more symbolic event will be Kersti Kaljulaid's handover of the host nation's baton to Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, at a ceremony to take place at the beginning of the summit.
The closed-doors round-table discussion starts shortly before 1 p.m. local time, involving representatives and leaders of the 12 participating nations for the first hour or so, followed by a second round-table in which representatives of the partner states – Germany, the U.S. and the EU – will take part.
The Virtual Summit itself opens at 2.15 p.m. local time and can be viewed on the Three Seas website here.
Many of the Three Seas nations' presidents will be addressing the summit via video link as well. The opening portions will be moderated by Chief Foreign Affairs Commentator at the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman.
The summit ends at around 7.15 p.m. Estonian time, following closing remarks.
The summit's full agenda, including the high level discussion and the panels on smart connectivity, is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte