No coastline, no problem: Czechia active member of Three Seas Initiative

Czech President Petr Pavel travels to Vilnius on Thursday for a summit of the Three Seas Initiative, which aims to boost connections between countries by the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas. But why is the landlocked Czechia involved? And what will be the focus of the gathering in Lithuania?

The Three Seas Initiative brings together 13 states in Central and Eastern Europe along a north-south axis from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic and Black Seas.

It was launched in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik in 2016 with a view to creating a regional dialogue on matters affecting member states.

Three Seas Iniciative | Source: Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED

It is described on the website of Thursday’s summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius as a “politically-inspired, commercially-driven platform for driving connectivity” between members.

Alongside the baker’s dozen of EU states involved, Ukraine and Moldova are now associate partners, while the US and Germany are strategic partners.

Czech deputy foreign minister Jan Marian will be attending the gathering with President Pavel and I asked him why Czechia was involved, given that the country has no coastline whatever.

“That’s a pity, by the way [laughs]. Well, we are located in the centre of Europe, so for us everything related to infrastructure connections between south and north is of high relevance.”

What will be some of the issues discussed on Thursday in Vilnius?

“We will be discussing further partnerships, because there are some other states interested in participating in the Three Seas. We will of course be discussing our continued support for Ukraine and Moldova.

Jan Marian | Photo: Czech Foreign Ministry

“The president, who will be the head of the delegation, will have some bilateral meetings, which are yet to be confirmed.

“And we will of course be looking into the future of the initiative, and we will be looking into the funds; the current investment fund is closed, so we will be discussing the new Three Seas Investment Fund, aimed at infrastructure and other projects.

“And also there is the Innovation Fund of the Three Seas Initiative.”

Ukraine and Moldova are joining as new members. Is their [associate] membership kind of symbolic, or will they be doing anything practically within the organisation?

“They basically joined last year. First, they both have access to the sea. Moldova has access to the sea. And they are of course important partners in terms of future projects related to postwar reconstruction.

“Also they are both willing to join the EU, which means that there is a lot of space for cooperation with them also within the Three Seas Initiative.”

Again, Czechia doesn’t have a coastline: Do you feel like kind of “second class” members at this organisation, given that you’re not so actively involved in maritime issues?

“Definitely not. As you said, Czechia has no sea, but there are other participants, such as Austria and Slovakia, who also don’t have the sea. So I wouldn’t say there is any problem with this.”