Report from the discussion in Rome

Karolina Iskierka, Programme Manager for Italy, Institute for Eastern Studies, Poland welcomed the audience and underlined the goal of the publication, Adriatic – Baltic – Black Sea: Visions of Cooperation, issued by Institute for Eastern Studies, which is to outline the specifics of the Three Seas Initiative, to situate it in the appropriate historical as well as geopolitical context, and to identify the most important aspects affecting its future development. She said that the publication had already been  presented in Bucharest, Riga and Tallinn, so in the countries that are part of the TSI initiatives but Institute for Eastern Studies has decided to also present it in Rome as we believe that the initiative cannot exist without support and comprehension of all members of the European Union.

The panel discussion that was moderated by Matteo Tacconi  was opened with the statement by Andreana Baeva Motusic, President, European Business Association Zagreb, Croatia  the co-author of the publication Adriatic – Baltic – Black Sea: Visions of Cooperation. She outlined the context in which the cooperation was created but also most current challenges it faces, such as Brexit, the fourth industrial revolution, the appearance of new technologies, changes on the labour market. She underlined that it was important that its countries decided to work not only with governing parties but also with smaller ones that would make the development of the initiative possible, after changes of governments. Those happen quite often in CEE.

The second speaker, Przemyslaw Zurawski Vel Grajewski, Adviser to the Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland the co-author of the publication started with reminding the audience about the strong cultural links between Poland and Italy. The historical initiative of Intermarium was aimed to deliver security in the era of Russian and Germany expanse but today’s initiative of Three Seas is completely different as we have other security structures such as NATO. He stressed that Trimarium is not about military security and it’s not so much about political cooperation. This initiative is focused on three dimensions, energy, infrastructure and digitisation respectively. One of the main projects of the initiative is Via Carpathia as well as the so-called Amber Highways and waterways. This is the first time that Poland proposes an idea of cooperation and is also ready to participate in the expenses related to it.

Andrea Carteny, Director, CEMAS (Interdepartmental Center of Research and Cooperation with Mediterranean, Eurasia, Sub-Saharan Africa), University of Rome La Sapienza said that TSI can be important for the whole Mediterranean region. With a strong vision, we can have a real debate. He recalled the history of the Intermarium Initiative and stressed the importance of cooperation to tackle some common challenges in the fields of cooperation, such as energy, infrastructure and digitisation.

Paolo Quercia, Director, Center for Near Abroad Strategic Studies opened his statement by saying that we can compare this initiative with macroregions. It is a good comparison as Italy was the promotor of the idea of macroregions. However, there are some differences. The first one is that this is a continental project that goes to the European borders with Turkey and Russia. It’s a North-South initiative while most of the initiatives are East-West initiatives. This is a new vision and it has a high level of strategic mission. This initiative can also strengthen the cooperation in the Mediterranean. What Poland and Italy should work on is to expand the vision of Mediterranean. Black Sea is a part of Mediterranean.  One of important issues to deal with is the problem of migration. The role of Italy is to find links with the initiative in this matter.

Emilio D’Alessio, Former Secretary General of the Forum of Adriatic and Ionian Cities presented the local perspective as a former representative of the Forum of Adriatic Cities. The network was created in 1999 while the war was already ongoing in former Yugoslavia and it was launched when CEE countries were not yet members of the EU. Networks of cities often act before the cooperation of states establishes.  It is important that such initiatives also bring profits to cities and communities.