Three Seas Initiative focuses on development - Polish president

Development is the key idea behind the Three Seas Initiative of regional cooperation, started in 2015, Polish President Andrzej Duda said at a Three Seas summit in the Estonian capital Tallinn on Monday.

Speaking at a discussion panel held within the summit, Duda said that countries which had decided to join the initiative "are in a slightly more difficult situation than the rest of the European Union, in particular the western EU members."

"We've been looking for tools that would allow us to speed up the development of our countries, as we wanted to catch up with Western Europe, with particular regard to the standard and quality of living, the development of the economy and so forth. That's why we decided to start this cooperation, as we believed that this way we would be able to speed up this development and, as such, we would be able to play on one team and cooperate with one another," the president said.

"During my first meeting with then Croatian president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, we talked about it, we also considered possible cooperation in Europe, cooperation between our countries. In particular, we talked about energy security and potential gas supplies," Duda said.

The Polish president said that he and Grabar-Kitarovic had agreed at that time to link the Polish LNG terminal in the north-western city of Swinoujscie with the planned Croatian terminal on the island of Krk.

Apart from energy, the Three Seas Initiative also promotes the development of transport links, both roads and railway lines, and both for business and tourism, Duda said.

"This was the beginning of cooperation in this part of Europe. Then we tried to encourage our friends from this region of Europe to join us," Duda recalled.

Also on Monday, BGK, Poland's state-owned development bank, announced that it was increasing its share in the Three Seas Fund by investing an additional EUR 250 million, thus raising its commitment to EUR 750 mln. BGK is one of the Fund's founding members.

Later on Monday, the Polish president met with his Estonian counterpart Kersti Kaljulaid. Apart from Three Seas issues, the talks concerned regional security, the situation in Belarus, the EU budget and the coronavirus pandemic, PAP was told by Duda's chief aide Krzysztof Szczerski.

Later still, Duda spoke with Estonian PM Prime Minister Juri Ratas.

The last point on Duda's one-day visit to Tallinn was a ceremony which launched a Polish-Estonian Chamber of Commerce. The Polish president expressed hope that the Chamber will strengthen Polish-Estonian investment and trade.

"Poland, the biggest economy in the Nordic and Three Seas region may become a vehicle for Estonia to carry out joint economic projects," Duda said.

The Polish president also praised the Estonian track record in the digital economy, as he said that his country is about to follow Tallinn's fiscal example and introduce the so-called Estonian CIT, a solution whereby corporate tax collection is deferred until profits are paid out to company owners.

US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher said in a Twitter post on Monday that "the United States recognizes the importance of #ThreeSeas for a strong and free Europe. We strongly support the #ThreeSeasInitiative and its ability to transform the region. We can keep winning together!"

Due to the pandemic situation, the 5th meeting of representatives of the Three Seas Initiative countries (Poland, Lithuanian, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia) is being held, in part, remotely. Apart from the Polish president, only the Bulgarian head of state has travelled to Tallinn. The three presidents and officials of the remaining countries held talks online.