The Slovenia Times

Pahor hails potential of Three Seas initiative, warns against divisions

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Ljubljana/Tallinn - President Borut Pahor stressed at a virtual summit of the Three Seas initiative on Monday that this platform offers a unique opportunity to change this part of Europe into a modern, sustainable and innovative society. He added that the initiative must not be understood as a grouping of certain EU members countering other members.

Pahor, who hosted the summit in Slovenia last year, assessed the initiative had grown into adjustable platform for speeding up the development of countries located between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas.

"We find that a faster development of the countries in this initiative will contribute significantly to greater prosperity in the EU," said Pahor, who argued that Slovenia's location and its open economy call for better connections with neighbouring countries.

Slovenia finds all three pillars of the initiative to be important, meaning infrastructural connectivity with its favourable effect on the economic development of Central and Eastern Europe, greater convergence among EU members, which would help prevent the artificial divide between the East and the West, while additional encouragement is needed for building ties within the EU and for stronger cross-Atlantic ties.

Pahor also finds it important that the different interest areas - the energy sector, transport and digital connectivity - are placed in the framework of sustainable development.

At the summit, Pahor argued in favour of better connectivity in all three areas, while he stressed that the main challenge will be the political message.

"I would not want for the Three Seas initiative to contribute to new divisions in Europe. The initiative should not be seen as a bloc of some EU member sates against other EU member state. On the contrary, the initiative should contribute to the EU's unity and to strengthening cross-Atlantic ties," he stressed.

The summit of the initiative is taking place virtually this time. The decision to move online was made by this year's host, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, due to the coronavirus situation.

The central topics have been digitalisation and smart connectivity. All members are foregrounding projects involving energy, transport and digital infrastructure, which they place on the list of priority projects.

Pahor's office said that a joint statement has also been adopted by the presidents of the 12 countries that are part of the initiative.

Also taking part in the debates have been US State Secretary Mike Pompeo and European Commission vice-president Margrethe Vestagger. German Foreign Ministry State Secretary Michael Berger stood in for President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is in self-isolation.

Slovenia was also represented at the summit by Foreign Minister An┼że Logar, who took part in a ministerial panel devoted to "smart money", at which ministers discussed views on how the initiative could attract new investment in transport, energy and digital infrastructure.

They focussed on the Three Seas Initiative fund, the role of participating countries, and strategic cross-border infrastructural projects, and the fund's importance for their financing. Logar confirmed that the government had concluded an internal procedure for an approval of Slovenia's entry into the fund for which the SID bank will allocate EUR 23 million, the Foreign Ministry said.

He expressed hope that other countries from the initiative would also join the fund.

He pointed to the gap between EU countries, noting that countries from central and eastern Europe needed upgrades to their transport, energy and digital infrastructure. In these sectors, the area between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas needs good projects that will allow for good connectivity between north and south, the ministry said.

Because public finances are now affected by the Covid-19 epidemic, alternative ways of financing will have to be found for strategic investments in the region, and the Three Seas Initiative fund has its place in this context.

It is in Slovenia's interest to have better connections to the infrastructure inland and for the countries of the Three Seas Initiative, while Slovenia is important because of its geostrategic position, being at the intersection of two pan-European transport corridors and having the port of Koper as an important link to over-seas destinations, the ministry said.

The Three Seas initiative, an informal forum of twelve EU members from Central and Eastern Europe between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black seas, was founded in 2015.

It includes Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The goal of the initiative is to support regional dialogue and connect countries through investment into economy, road connections, energy infrastructure and digital communication in the region.

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