Ever since the first Three Seas summit in Dubrovnik in 2016, the group consisting of 12 member states, from Estonia in the north to Croatia and Bulgaria in the south, meets for its special summit once a year. The 2018 summit in Bucharest was the first to add a business forum to the formula, consisting of hundreds of representatives of some or the largest companies active in the region. Latvia will expand it even further by hosting a back-to-back Parliamentary Forum in Riga for MPs in connection with the Summit.
Three Seas Initiative summit in Riga on the horizon
With a month left until this year’s Three Seas summit in Latvia, the Polish and Latvian Embassies to the United Kingdom organized a seminar dedicated to the Three Seas. The seminar, organized in the beating heart of the City of London, the town hall building Guildhall, focused on the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund (3SIIF) and the opportunities offered by it. Through case studies from individual projects, such as the 3SIIF’s investment into the largest locomotive leasing company in Central Eastern Europe, Cargounit, and the benefits it has had for investors.
Latvia, represented at the seminar by Ambassador Ivita Burmistre, the head of the Latvian President’s Chancery Andris Teikmanis and Latvia’s Ambassador-at-Large for the Three Seas Initiative, Edgars Bondars, stressed that the country will use this year’s summit in Riga to draw the eyes of foreign investors to the 3SIIF.
On the sidelines of the seminar, we had the opportunity to ask Mr. Bondars about the preparations for the summit in Riga and Latvia’s vision for the development of the Three Seas Initiative. One of the questions we had was regarding Ukraine and if Russia’s invasion of its western neighbor would shape the topics discussed at the summit.
Mr. Bondars answered that the situation across the border will certainly have an impact on the summit, as there is a completely new sense of urgency to complete some of the Three Seas energy projects as the EU has entered the path of moving away from Russian energy sources.
Three Seas and Ukraine
Ukraine’s role has also been underlined by President Zelensky having been invited by his Latvian counterpart to the summit. The Ambassador also stated that the role the Three Seas Initiative can play in helping Ukraine rebuild its infrastructure after the war will certainly also receive a lot of attention during the Riga Summit.
Greece was invited to the previous Three Seas Summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, and as Greece has joined two other regional formats of cooperation in recent years, the Craiova Group and the 16+1 Format with China, some started speculating that Greece might join the Three Seas Initiative next. We asked Mr. Bondars whether the Three Seas Initiative can grow in the coming years.
According to Mr. Bondars, there is nothing that would rule out such a development. However, he stated that the Three Seas Initiative is already working closely with states bordering the Initiative and much can be achieved, particularly within cooperation centered on infrastructure projects, without formal membership.
Every country that hosts a Three Seas summit is usually pushing a certain issue to be at the forefront of discussions, often driving cooperation forward within a specific field. In 2021, the Bulgarian president stressed the importance of advancing cooperation within the spheres of R&D and higher education while the Estonian hosts presented their Smart Connectivity plan in 2020, closely tied to their vision of Three Seas cooperation in digitization.
Riga Summit in 2022
Mr. Bondars stated that Latvia would pay special attention to making sure that the Riga Summit drives home the opportunities offered by 3SIIF for investors from countries near and far. Business and investments will be at the forefront at the summit and its ambitious geographic scope can be exemplified by the fact that Latvia has invited the foreign ministers of countries such as Canada and Japan to the Riga Summit.
The Latvian Three Seas Ambassador stated that there is a lot of money available on global markets at the moment and that its owners are looking for places to invest it long-term. The Three Seas region offers great growth opportunities and Latvia will dedicate a significant part of the summit to reinforcing this message while also working on methods with other Three Seas states on how to best attract investors.
Finally, the question of dual use infrastructure projects was raised. Romania has in previous years stressed that many of the projects, such as the planned railway line Rail-2-Sea, leading from the Port of Gdansk in Poland to the Port of Constanța in Romania, are dual use in the way that they have both civilian and military benefits.
Mr. Bondars stated that many of the projects can serve a dual purpose and that it is particularly visible in the energy sector. The Russian invasion of Ukraine means that LNG projects, which have always had importance for the national security of nations, are accelerating. One of Latvia’s official Three Seas Initiative Priority Projects is the construction of an LNG terminal. According to Mr. Bondars, the invasion of Ukraine drives home how important it is for the project to be completed as quickly as possible.
The Three Seas Summit and Business Forum in Riga will take place on June 20-21.