Vai al contenuto principale

Advancing regional resilience through interconnectivity: Key takeaways from Three Seas Summit 2024 

April 16, 2024

Can Central and Eastern Europe become a powerhouse of innovation and resilience in the face of changing geopolitical currents? The Three Seas Summit in Vilnius charters the path forward with cautious optimism, but regional collaboration and financing the energy transition are key. 

This year, the Three Seas Summit, an interregional platform for collaboration focused on developing transport, energy, and digital infrastructure connections along the EU’s north-south axis, met for the ninth time in the stunning city of Vilnius. Amid a challenging geopolitical climate, the forum reflected on its progress since its inception in 2015. The President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nauseda, highlighted the following five key areas:   

1. The role of the EU: The need for further bloc cooperation and alignment, and closer connection with EU institutions. 

2. The role of the U.S.: Emphasizing the critical role of the U.S. as a strategic partner in the region. 

3. The role of connectivity: In the context of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and accompanying geopolitical shifts, the Three Seas initiative plays an important role as a regional interconnector. 

4. Transforming the energy sector: Highlighting the importance of private capital investment in the energy transition. 

 5. Support for Ukraine: Supporting Ukraine’s reconstruction and its integration into the European family should remain a key priority. 

Partnerships both within and beyond the region have been named as critical levers: European Investment Bank’s President, Nadia Calviño, was notably optimistic in this regard. In addition to stressing the importance of a united front and the three “Cs” – competition, cohesion and connectivity – as part of the Three Seas mantra, she also teased a forthcoming €180bn fund, to be unveiled in May 2024, managed by the EIB in support of the Three Seas region. 

Strengthening the economic competitiveness of the Three Seas Region 

On the sidelines of the Forum, CATF co-hosted a high-level dinner in partnership with The Atlantic Council and Amber Infrastructure Group, to discuss the economic competitiveness of the Three Seas region and how it can be strengthened through investing in critical infrastructure and clean energy deployment.  

Insights from the dinner served as sounding board for the next day’s business forum. Participants highlighted the importance of the Three Seas initiative in fortifying the region. Attendees noted how now is a critical time for action, highlighted the need for regional coordination – especially after Russia’s aggression in Ukraine – and stressed the importance of removing barriers to financing critical infrastructure as key priorities.  

The Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund – a public-private partnership aiming to implement regional projects – needs to play a critical role by: 

  1. Identifying the unique value each member adds;  
  2. Creating more intentional coordination among member countries, associated members and strategic partners; and  
  3. Developing a business case and stable regulatory environment to attract more investment. 

To this end, bolstering an innovation ecosystem that includes an enabling policy environment, highly-skilled- workforce, access to financing, including private capital, and a diversified solutions portfolio (optionality-driven climate policy) is crucial. As an example, Croatia’s vast geothermal resources, Lithuania’s (and other Three Seas countries’) increased interest in carbon capture and storage, regional hydrogen ecosystem development and nuclear energy revival with enabling infrastructure, indicate how important it is to take a holistic view of this challenge. 

What does the Three Seas future hold? 

A key question roaming the Three Seas Forum has been how it can reinvent itself to stay relevant and deliver more on the promise of north-south interconnectivity. With 143 priority projects spanning across digital, energy and transportation initiatives, digital has a marginal share of the portfolio, with only 10% of total projects, followed by energy (39%) and transportation (51%) projects.  

At this pivotal moment, member countries must take a strategic look at how the region can leverage its potential by having a united stance and deeper cooperation. President Nauseda pointed out that the CEE is the fastest-growing region in Europe, bolstered by a vast, highly skilled workforce. However, any single country in the region will likely face formidable challenges to tackle energy security, digital competition and transportation modernisation on its own – hence more intentionality in working together is key. In fostering this collaboration, the Three Seas initiative has an important role to play. As Ambassador Geoffrey Payatt, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Energy Resources, Department of State, USA, put it: “If Three Seas didn’t exist, we would have to create this after the Ukraine War.” 

Expectations on the Three Seas Summit should be realistic: the Initiative has not achieved a major breakthrough yet, but with a deepened sense of energy security, competitiveness and connectivity, there is momentum to make this collaboration deliver on its promises for the region. The CEE has great potential to build resilience through clean technology innovation, which should be fully utilised with more targeted regional coordination and aligned policies to enable higher investor confidence. 

So, where do we go from here? 

With much to be seen and unpacked in the coming months, regional fora like Three Seas should be further supported: while wider Central and Eastern Europe faces its fair share of challenges, economic convergence of the region with Western counterparts in the recent years should not go unnoticed. Overly pessimistic conversations on the region’s energy transition are neither helpful, nor true: we need to acknowledge success and remain cautiously optimistic about its future. Understanding how the region can play a meaningful role in Europe’s quest to climate neutrality by deeper cross-regional collaboration, increased innovation (including clean tech innovation), and revitalised international partnerships can be keys to success. 

Messaggi correlati

Rimanete informati

Sign up today to receive the latest content, news, and developments from CATF experts.

"*" indica i campi obbligatori