The geopolitical “Three Seas Initiative” a political and infrastructural project primarily for EU member states, but Ukraine should use all available opportunities to engage in this cooperation. This is the key conclusion of the analytical note of the New Europe Center, titled “Thee Three Seas Initiative”: an intermediate link of European integration for Ukraine”, and presented at a press briefing in Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “Among the participants of the “Three Seas Initiative” there is an opinion that strengthening a political component of the project will result in bigger association of the project with conflict-related discourse, therefore an acceptable option for the time being would be Ukraine’s application for an observer status within the framework of the initiative. It is worthwhile to identify priority projects for Ukraine and use any opportunity to engage in discussions – for example, the upcoming Interparliamentary Assembly, the Digital Forum, the Regional Forum”, – said Tetyana Levonyuk, an analyst at the New Europe Center.
The analyst drew attention to the fact that the ideas behind Intermarium plan and the “Three Seas Initiative”, which are often identified as the same concept in Ukraine, are very different. The former is more ancient and is politics and security oriented, the second – to a greater extent, is about infrastructure.
The “Three Seas Initiative”, also known as “Trimoria”, was initiated in 2015 by the presidents of Poland and Croatia. The main areas of cooperation are energy, transport and communications. There are already plans for about 150 potential projects. Today, the “Three Seas Initiative” brings together 12 countries of Central and Eastern Europe: the Visegrad countries, the Baltic States, Austria, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia and Bulgaria. Now, on September 17-18, a third summit for the initiative and a business forum are taking place in Bucharest, where the participants will discuss aspects of practical implementation of the project. Among the external players, the “Three Seas Initiative” is supported by the United States, China and, recently, by Germany, which currently participates in the summit as an observer.
There are still only three projects within the initiative Ukraine takes part in: energy-oriented project of the Polish-Ukrainian interconnector Germanovichi-Bilche Volitsa with the compressor station in Strahotsin, which is to be completed by 2020; cross-border highway Via Carpatia, the largest transportation project under the initiative (until 2050) that will extend from Klaipeda to Thessaloniki and Go-Highway Odessa-Gdansk. Among the potential projects – the so-called energy bridge with Poland that involves a reorientation of the Khmelnitsky NPP; an interconnector with Romania and the waterway E40.
“In order to successfully implement these projects and to engage in the news ones Ukraine needs to have a proactive position, along with the coordinated work of ministries and agencies and successful reforms” – this was suggested the recommendations to the analytical note. “Once it becomes more stable in terms of internal reforms, the country is a more reliable partner in the eyes of the CEE. Therefore, the as success of reforms rises in regard to the energy markets, transport infrastructure, and business conditions – the chances to be more involved in projects within the framework of the “Three Seas Initiative” grow exponentially”, – said Tetyana Levonyuk.
Cristian-Leon Turcan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Romania to Ukraine, while commenting on the analytical note, noted that the initiative is also a political project. “This is a political initiative, but at the basis of it is economic cooperation. Actually, this is an initiative to strengthen economic cooperation, both within the EU and on transatlantic level”, said the ambassador. He also emphasized that this initiative does not exclude the security component. “Transport, energy and communications by their nature are closely linked to security matters and challenges of our time”, – stressed Mr. Turcan.
“The business forum in Bucharest is really a great opportunity for Ukraine, as well as for Moldova and Georgia to engage in concrete projects that are in the works. Unfortunately, and I was surprised to learn about it, there are no official representatives of Ukraine in Bucharest now”, – added the ambassador.
“The main reason why Ukraine cannot yet become a full member of the “Three Seas Initiative” – a discrepancy in opinions on this issue between different stakeholders as well as the fact that non-EU members may not receive funding from the EU budget in same quantities as member-countries”, – explained Tomasz Buiko, the second secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Ukraine. “This initiative is one of the main directions of foreign policy for Poland. […] The list of participants is complete at this stage of the project, but we will be glad to see various forms of cooperation with external partners, including Ukraine “, – said Tomasz Buiko.
Soon, Ukraine will engage in cooperation on the “Three Seas Initiative” within the framework of the Interparliamentary Assembly. “We are welcoming [an invitation to the Assembly] and we hope that we also get an invitation to the constituency session”, – said Ostap Kryvdyk, Advisor to the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. He mentioned that the initiative will be addressed at the forthcoming trilateral Interparliamentary Assembly between Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania and also at the Baltic Assembly in Vilnius. “The initiative is very important, and Ukraine needs to cooperate more closely within it. However, the issue of security should be more clearly defined within the concept of the “Three Seas Initiative”. The question of free elections, lack of informational attacks and stability of energy supplies are not “anti-Russian” issues; without security there is no economy “, – added Ostap Kryvdyk.
Markiyan Lubkivsky, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine, emphasized that it is important for Ukraine to express more actively the interest in participating in initiative on the state level. “In fact, the initiative should be considered, from the Ukrainian point of view, as a practical part of Ukraine’s integration into the EU and NATO, the achievement of European standards in these areas. […] Non-participation of Ukraine in this initiative is a gross geopolitical mistake. The fact that Ukraine has been absent for all three summits of the “Three Seas Initiative”, is a great misstep of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “, – he emphasized.