Dubrovnik, Croatia – A two-day forum was attended by Croatia with heads of state and officials from twelve countries of Central and Eastern Europe, all members of the European Union, to discuss common challenges to strengthen economically and politically the area between the three seas – the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Black Sea. This was the Three Seas Initiative.
“The area between the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Black Sea is the lifeblood of Europe,” said the host of the forum, Croatian President Grabar-Kitarović. Thursday, August 25, a round table gathered in Dubrovnik, on the cost of the Adriatic Sea, the presidents of Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovenia, as well as ministers and deputy ministers of Austria, Czechia, Estonia, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia.
The region (BABS: Baltic – Adriatic – Black Sea) accounts for 28% of EU territory, 22% of its population but only for 10% of its GDP. Discussions about the economy have focused on the need to improve the infrastructure of the whole region and in particular energetic cooperation, mainly to promote the plurality of energy sources and reduce energy dependence. According to the Croatian President, 50 billion euros are needed to overcome the current shortcomings. However, she also drew attention to the major challenges of the region, namely the demographic decline and emigration.
Polish President Duda for his part stressed that cooperation should be extended to other areas to be sufficiently strong: culture and science as well as student exchanges must come to reinforce this cooperation. But the heart of this cooperation is the creation of a true north-south European axis, stressed the Polish president. In conclusion for his speech, Andrzej Duda announced that the next summit would be held in Poland in Wroclaw in June 2017.
Chinese and American speakers were also present. Chinese Ministerial Assistant for Foreign Affairs Liu Haixing in charge of Central and Eastern Europe region recalled that China was very interested in the development of the area. China believes it will serve her project of New Silk Road.
American General James L. Jones, president of Jones Group International and former adviser for the National Security of President Obama said that the development of the Three Seas Initiative must be an element not only for European development but also for security. General Jones stressed the use by Russia of her position as an energy supplier to increase her economic influence and to strengthen her geopolitical goals.
After the meeting on Thursday, discussions continued on Friday about various topics such as migration crisis, the threat of terrorism and the instability on the Eastern border of the European Union. Challenges for which participants said they wanted a common response at a European level, and intend to put their weight to push the European Union towards the solutions they support.
The forum’s participants finally adopted a declaration called “the Three Seas Initiative”, establishing an informal platform to strengthen political ties and facilitate cross-border cooperation in the region and implementation of macro-regional projects.