The development of the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) finds itself at a crossroads. Latvia’s capital Riga hosted the seventh summit of 3SI, a region-wide project gathering the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, mostly focused on boosting connectivity. As such, the birth of 3SI was partly also a response to the Chinese development offer in the region a decade ago, which has ultimately left most of the countries disappointed.
A key result of the Riga summit was the granting of participating member status to Ukraine, as full membership is reserved only to EU member states. Indeed, it is the war in Ukraine that might give the project new urgency as the CEE countries grapple with the fallout of the conflict, not at least in the energy sector.
Yet, even though 3SI offers many opportunities for regional cooperation in key areas, it still faces many hurdles. One of them is that Poland continues to set most of the agenda within the format, leading some other states to question their commitment to the project.
On the other hand, Czechia and Slovakia have so far not been significantly invested in the development of the project. The Czech stance towards the initiative has been somewhat lukewarm and marred by the fact that the Czech flagship project under the initiative was the controversial Danube–Oder-Elbe Canal, favored by the Czech President Miloš Zeman. However, cooperation under 3SI has been highlighted by the new government and Czechia is also supposed to finally offer its contribution to the initiative’s investment fund. As for Hungary, while it has enthusiastically supported 3SI and even called for its formalization, its position has been complicated by its disputes with the EU and, more recently, its refusal to abandon Russia-friendly policies. More broadly, the limited funding available has so far restricted the ability of 3SI to deliver on high-visibility cooperation results or specific infrastructure projects.
Nevertheless, 3SI could use the current opportunity to offer a regional response to the war in Ukraine, especially in terms of assisting in post-war reconstruction of the country. It also offers the opportunity for CEE countries to make their voices heard in Brussels, especially as many CEE states have been in the forefront of supporting Ukraine and shaping the EU’s policy.