A scientific seminar entitled Presidential summits and the role of the host states: lessons from the Three Seas Initiative was held in Warsaw on 22 March 2023. The seminar was organised within the framework of the project The Three Seas Initiative Research Center at the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The seminar took place in a hybrid format – at the Palace at 3 Dworkowa Street, Warsaw and online on the ISP PAN zoom channel.
Participants in the seminar were the Ambassador of Romania, Theodor Cosmin Onisii; Agnieszka Orzelska-Stączek, PhD, Prof. ISP PAN; Magdalena Bainczyk, PhD (KAAFM, Western Institute); Hristo Berov, PhD (Sofia University); Vít Dostál, PhD (Executive Director of the Association for International Affairs, AMO); prof. Octavian Dragomir Jora (University of Economics, Bucharest); Dr Paul Latawski (Royal Military Academy Sandhurst); Prof Karina Marczuk (UW); Beata Piskorska, PhD, Prof KUL; Prof. Michal Vašečka (Programme Director, Bratislava Policy Institute); Przemysław Żurawski vel Grajewski, PhD, Prof UŁ.
The seminar was moderated by Agnieszka Cianciara, PhD, Prof. ISP PAN
The content of the speech is presented in the original in English:
Dear Profesor Orzelska-Stączek,
Distinguished members of the audience,
I am delighted and grateful to be part of this timely and important discussion on Presidential summits and the role of the host states and summit diplomacy. Romania, as you know, is one of the founding members of the Three Seas Initiative and a constant promoter of developing regional strategic infrastructure on Europe’s North-South axis. We see this axis as the backbone of our current and future plans to boost both the security and the economic development of the region. And this axis must be executed with a robust transatlantic participation, while also acting in full synergy with the European Union.
The war against Ukraine and all the unfortunate effects of the illegal Russian aggression against Ukraine have emphasized, once again, the importance of the security-infrastructure nexus. The focus on transport, energy and digital infrastructure in the Three Seas region is critical for strengthening our resilience and jointly promoting the consolidation of the rulesbased international order. These objectives are more important than ever and the current geopolitical developments prove how right the Three Seas Initiative’s leaders were in setting up an ambitious set of priorities in all three key pillars – transport, energy and digital.
Ladies and gentlemen, Romania is the first of the Three Seas Initiative’s member states to host a Summit for the second time since the inception of the Initiative, back in 2016. It is a clear proof of the importance Romania attaches to the Initiative and also a strong political signal of the continuous support that Bucharest is providing in strategic and practical terms.
We are taking over the complex process of organizing the next Summit – which will take place on the 6th of September – at a critical time: on one hand, there is an even more stringent need to reconfirm the role of the Three Seas Initiative as a mature political platform, which can catalyse investments in infrastructure on the North-South axis. On the other hand, there is an urge to reconfigure relations with a geopolitically-recalibrated neighbourhood.
Presidential Summits of the Initiative are instrumental in providing political guidance for the evolution of the Initiative. The Joint Declarations adopted by the leaders during the successive Presidential Summits continue to be the basis driving forward the Initiative while steering the Initiative’s actions on a daily basis. In order to highlight the relevance of the host state and summit diplomacy within the context of the Three Seas Initiative, I shall refer to notable outcomes of the 2018 Summit.
As the Initiative was still young at that moment, there was still some scepticism regarding its geopolitical aims and some concerns were voiced about an alleged anti-European character of the Initiative. In order to dispel such unfounded concerns and reaffirm the pro-European character of the Three Seas Initiative, Romania invited, in premiere, the European Commission and Germany at the Summit. As such, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, and U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry joined the countries of the Three Seas Initiative and emphasised their commitment and joint support for the core objectives of the Initiative: (1) boosting economic development, (2) strengthening the cohesion of the European Union and (3) enriching the transatlantic ties.
Therefore, the participants at the Summit and the Joint Declaration adopted on that occasion are tangible manifestations of the political orientation provided, in large part, by the country hosting the Summit. The host nation also has the prerogative of choosing the events to be organized alongside the Summit – an aspect which significantly boosts their visibility. Back in 2018, Romania organized the first Business Forum of the 3SI – the success of which played a key role in ensuring the continuation of this practice. As such, on the 7th of September, we will have the sixth Business Forum, in Bucharest.
A key driver in this regard was the approach that Romania adopted, which was pragmatic and results-oriented. For my country, an overarching objective is to ensure that the Initiative delivers tangible and concrete results, with value added: that it enables economic development through interconnectivity and result-oriented cooperation. This was reflected in the additional outputs of the 2018 Bucharest Summit:
- the adoption of the priority list of interconnection projects;
- the launch of the Three Seas Initiative webpage, which continued to develop every year and now has a well-established visual identity;
- the establishment of the Network of the Chambers of Commerce.
Another highly relevant element of the pragmatic approach adopted by Romania was the signature, in the margins of the Three Seas Initiative Business Forum, of the Letter of Intent for the establishment of the Three Seas Investment Fund by 6 participating states (Czechia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia). Now the Fund is fully operational and we plan to increase its capitalization further. Our experience showed that the practical results obtained in 2018 evolved and are part of the Initiative’s tool-kit today. They also highlight the major role played by the host state.
At the Summit in 2023, Romania will focus on adapting and reframing key objectives agreed at the first Bucharest Summit: consolidating the infrastructure projects on the North-South 9 axis, increasing the cohesion/convergence at the EU level and strengthening the transatlantic partnership, updating the progress report on strategic projects (we hope to add new projects as well), boosting the capitalization of the Three Seas Investment Fund, re-energizing the Three Seas Initiative Chambers of Commerce Network and organizing a new Business Forum.
We will continue to promote the two flagship projects Rail2Sea and Via Carpatia, that are now of paramount importance for both civil and military mobility and for our collective resilience, in addition to their economic relevance. Building on the outcome of the 2022 Summit, we will continue to focus on exploring and identifying ways of engaging Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia – both politically and pragmatically – in projects under the aegis of the Three Seas Initiative. Concrete examples of potential projects could be building bridges, interconnecting electricity grids, connecting the Romanian and Georgian shores of the Black Sea by submerged optical fiber and electricity cables, as well as freight ferryboat connections.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We attach paramount importance to acting efficiently and staying results-oriented, allowing and facilitating synergies between the projects within the Three Seas Initiative and the EU’s long-term connectivity agenda, as well as the financial instruments supporting the EU’s enlargement policy.
Given the sense of urgency on the digital pillar, Romania will focus on promoting the further development of digital infrastructure and will pay special attention to the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure.Romania will concentrate on boosting the Three Seas Initiative Fund, on stimulating private investments, as well as on reiterating the need for all its participants to contribute to the Fund and to grasp its opportunities.
Our main goal is also to attract support from international financial institutions, as well as to identify concrete ways for the participation of interested like-minded partners, such as the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and South Korea, to the Fund.
Romania as a host state for the Three Seas Initiative Summit and Business Forum in 2023 is eager to work with participating states, the Initiative’s partners and other states interested in the Initiative in order to render these events highly successful. In our view, the Three Seas Initiative should be a brand for our region, a model of cooperation and connectivity that one day can turn into being an exporter of knowledge and of best practices worldwide.