Monday's Three Seas Virtual Summit held in Tallinn saw a relative show of unity between the 12 EU countries that make up the Three Seas' region, the rest of the European Union, and the United States. The latter also made good on a pledge to support the initiative with up to €1 billion.
Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach announced the U.S. pledge of 30 percent of the 12 Three Seas nations' contributions to the scheme combined, up to a maximum of €1 billion.
Since the pot currently stands at a reported €900 million, the U.S. will put in a guaranteed €300 million, rising to €1 billion if the 12 Three Seas nations between them sum up €3.4 billion.
The Three Seas Region comprises 12 participating EU states, predominantly Central and Eastern European nations who had previously been behind the iron curtain. The accompanying Three Seas Initiative (3SI) aims to bring the region up to speed in its transport and energy infrastructures and requirements, facilitated by digital frameworks, protocols and technologies, aimed at closing the gap between the region and its relatively more well-heeled Western European counterparts.
However, U.S. involvement has raised speculation about competition in the region with the EU – all Three Seas countries are member states – and the area becoming, or being seen as, a distinct bloc within the union.
Also appearing at the summit, U.S. Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes said that his country was committed to helping the region, in particular to divest itself of energy dependence on too small a pool of suppliers.
U.S. Undersecretary Keith Krach also hit out at China, likening its approach to global investment to debt-trap capitalism and noting that its 5G networks had a trojan horse dimension in that they and the accompanying tech could be used for surveillance. Krach contrasted this with what he said was the democratic alternative provided by reliance on U.S. investments via the Three Seas framework.
The summit, the fifth of its kind and held virtually this year due to coronavirus restrictions, saw most of its high-level participants "attending" on-screen, though the Andrzej Duda, President of Poland and a driving force behind the genesis of the 3SI, and Ramen Rudev, his Bulgarian counterpart, were in Tallinn in person.
President Rudev formally accepted the handover on behalf of his country as 3SI host nation for 2021, from President Kersti Kaljulaid.
Estonia's signature contribution, unveiled on Monday, was a vision paper for a Smart Connectivity approach to transport, the energy sector and digitalization across the 12 nations, whose transport links, particularly on the north-south axis, have long lagged behind those of western Europe.
Editor: Andrew Whyte