The Three Seas Initiative, which Polish President Andrzej Duda and former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitrovic founded in 2015, is an economic forum of 12 Eastern and Central European nations created as a means for Eastern Europe to boost economic development, expand infrastructure and promote cooperation in the energy sector. The Three Seas Initiative works by securing investment for infrastructure, energy and digitization projects to rectify the gap between East-West and North-South infrastructure in Europe. As more investments continue to support digital infrastructure, energy and transportation projects, people in poverty in Eastern Europe are likely to experience greater economic prosperity through the increasing trade opportunities and greater access to markets through economic investment.
Three Seas Initiative Projects
As of July 2021, the Three Seas Initiative has 90 interconnection projects with a total estimated investment value of €180.9 billion. Registered in 2018, the Rail-2-Sea project is a Three Seas Initiative plan to build a railway connecting the port of Gdansk and the port of Constanta across Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. This plan will further link the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea over four different branches of a railway, each with its local plans for modernization.
Another Three Seas Initiative infrastructure plan is the Rail Baltica plan. This plan aims to increase infrastructural integration between Baltic Sea nations. More specifically, in a partnership with Finland, Rail Baltica is creating infrastructure to construct “missing cross-border connections” and “integrate the Baltic States in the European rail network” while dissolving “transport infrastructure bottlenecks.”
These plans are all, in one way or another, increasing economic interconnection and mobility between Eastern European nations. These infrastructural developments will provide more opportunities for people living in Eastern Europe by providing greater access to European markets and more efficient supply chains. The cheapening of consumer goods through trade is especially beneficial to low-income Eastern European citizens who could potentially afford better and more daily necessities.
Impact of the Three Seas Initiative
Nations within the Three Seas Initiative saw greater economic growth and faced less economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other European Union (EU) nations. According to a July 2021 speech by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, “During 2015-2019 they [Three Seas Initiative nations] averaged 3.8% GDP growth a year, nearly double the rate of EU-15.” Furthermore, the economies of Three Seas nations only contracted by approximately 4% whereas Western European economies shrunk by approximately double that.
Throughout the initiative, the poverty rates of many nations, especially in Southeast Europe, have declined. For example, Romania had a poverty rate of 25.4% in 2015, the founding year of the Three Seas Initiative. Right before the pandemic in 2019, Romania’s poverty rate declined to 23.8%.
The Three Seas Initiative similarly oversaw a decrease in the risk of poverty in Hungary with 28.2% of people facing the risk of poverty in 2015 in comparison to 17.8% in 2019. Slovenia saw a decrease in poverty as well, albeit relatively minor from 13.9% in 2015 to 12% in 2018, and it only rose .4% in 2019.
The Three Seas Initiative has vast potential to deepen economic ties within Europe, foster sustainable European energy and reduce poverty. As it carries out more projects, the U.S. and the EU can continue to encourage economic investment and development of the Three Seas Initiative countries. Such economic investment and capital inflow have the potential to make Eastern Europe more prosperous while lifting people out of poverty.
– Alexander Richter
Photo: Wikimedia Commons