- A follow-up from a report on the Three Seas Initiative and the Opportunities for Global Britain, published by the office of Daniel Kawczynski MP.
- The event aimed to further unpack how Britain can engage with the initiative and invited leading scholars and journalists to discuss key points raised in the report.
- The special guests included Przemysław Żurawski vel Grajewski, an Advisor in the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs’ Political Cabinet, James Rogers, Co-founder and Director of Research at the Council on Geostrategy, Aleks Szczerbiak, Professor of Politics and Contemporary European Studies at the University of Sussex, and Goran Andrijanic, a Croatian journalist. The debate were chaired by George Byczynski, Editor of the British Poles. The event was co-organised with the Trimarium think-tank.
Key points from speakers:
Przemysław Żurawski vel Grajewski:
- Important to develop infrastructure to overcome the geological landscape between the 12 countries and to encourage trade.
- Construction is expected to be active in 3 areas: (1) Transportation, especially in North-South Direction as the West-East direction is well developed, however the connection to Scandinavia will be encouraged. (2) Energy, especially as a gas competitor to Nord Stream 2. (3) Digitalisation.
- “3SI is not a political club but a way to coordinate a vision between countries. It is not about security (except for energy). It is about coordinating infrastructure and investments with a skilful labour force and to grow economies”
- The region is the largest market for Germany and therefore it is perceived as an attractive initiative.
- Infrastructure can be seen as a type of power as we have seen throughout history (i.e. UK railways, German Motorways).
Prof. Aleks Szczerbiak:
- The EU is fine with the Initiative being a transport/energy agreement but may be nervous if the project has geopolitical ambitions.
- Mainly Germany is nervous about the potential for the 3SI to challenge their hegemony in Europe.
- The Trump Administration was supportive of the initiative in 2017 and encouraged the challenge to the German-Franco relationship in Europe.
- The Biden Administration is more inclined to mediate relations through EU political establishments, therefore anything which is seen to be rivalling Germany would be unattractive to them.
- Focus on Global Britain agenda and how it aligns with the 3SI.
- Britain is committed to supporting the EU and the 3SI will secure UK interests in Europe.
- The Initiative may deter Russian and Chinese interests and it provides a potential alternative to what currently exists.
- The 3SI challenges Chinese infrastructure developments from the Belt and Road initiative in Eastern Europe.
- Change in political power in Croatia from 2016 has made the 3SI more attractive.
- Croatia has invested 20 million Euros in the fund and plans to invest more.
- The government has appointed a national coordinating body for the initiative which suggests it is very much on their agenda.
- Some political tensions – New President is hesitant to diverge from the EU establishment, however the Prime Minister is a strong supporter of the Initiative and is more open to it.
- Croatian public and media are starting to discuss 3SI with positive connotations.
Summary of the main panel discussions
- Panel 1: History of 3SI
- Started in 2015, with the first summit hosted in Croatia.
- Warsaw Summit 2017 was a significant event in the Initiative’s development as the then-US President attend the Summit and provided declarative backing, which subsequently translated to economic support for the Initiative.
- Baltic States and Romania to be more involved.
- 3SI can provide the largest market for Germany and is 600% larger than Russia regarding German trade.
- Provides an opportunity for post-communist countries with similar culture and histories to unite and promote common interests.
- Panel 2: Why Should Britain Engage in the initiative? The consequences if Britain does not?
- Ambition for Britain in a post-Brexit context to provide the same level of partnership with EU members.
- It is important for Britain to challenge the monopolistic view of a currency union (i.e. EU).
- It is important that the UK should be cognisant to engage with the 3SI partners, especially when considering the number of countries bordering with Russia.
- 3SI provides an additional framework which overlaps with pre-existing security arrangements, which is attractive for the UK.
- Panel 3: 3SI as a geopolitical opportunity?
- Important initiative, especially when considering the nature of Russian/China threats.
- Russia have found that they cannot challenge Europe militarily due to NATO and therefore have had to challenge the block from a horizontal angle i.e. through infrastructure as well as Russian energy supply.
- 3SI provides an organic regional deterrence.
- China: expansion of the Belt and Road initiative into Eastern Europe is of concern.
- China has invested in the building of high-tech trains and some of the world’s largest motorways which could pose a challenge to the West.
- 3SI creates a challenge to China’s infrastructure investment dominance.
- In terms of US involvement, the Biden administration is less involved in the 3SI compared to Trump, however they still have an interest in the project as US companies are extensively involved in the energy projects.
It was concluded that the Three Seas Initiative is a young and exciting political and economic initiative. In terms of Britain’s involvement in the scheme, it can help secure UK interests in Europe and can provide an alternative to the current political framework. In relation to geopolitical opportunities, the initiative will provide an alternative soft power deterrent to Russian and Chinese political and economic developments in the area. Ultimately, the building of transport and infrastructure between the 12 countries will boost trade in the region as well as offer opportunities for the energy sector.
According to the Minister for the European Neighbourhood and the Americas, Wendy Morton, “the UK government supports the aims of the Three Seas Initiative, which align closely with our own: building back better, addressing the drivers of climate change, and addressing our shared geopolitical challenges.” She adds that “the UK continues to explore options for deeper engagement with both the initiative and its fund, including sharing expertise on areas of UK excellence on digital, infrastructure, and clean energy.”