Ukraine is trying to move closer to its Central and Eastern European partners, and the Three Seas Initiative is seen as a vital element of achieving that goal, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressing the Three Seas summit in Riga by video on Monday.
He told the participants that Ukraine “should not remain outside the borders of this initiative. Let’s find a format in which we can join. Only with Ukraine on board can all our countries realize their potential to the fullest.”
He argued that all areas of cooperation identified in the Three Seas Initiative were interconnected with security, which given the war in the east of the country, is Ukraine’s top priority at the moment.
“First and foremost, logistics. Look at Ukraine’s situation. It is the countries of the Three Seas that are our connection to the free world. Arms supplies, fuel, corridors for the export of our goods, migration; it all takes place on the territory of countries in the Three Seas region. When the enemy comes, all of this is vital: roads, rail, energy, faster border-crossings,” said Zelensky.
Zelensky singled out energy as a priority for cooperation. He pointed to Ukraine having some of the largest storage capacities for gas. He said that with the help of interconnectors and LNG terminals, Ukraine could meet much of the needs of the region.
The Ukrainian president also emphasized that his country wanted to join the Via Carpatia road project and become linked to Europe’s railway network. He saw post-war reconstruction as the “biggest economic project for our generation,” which he said proved that Ukraine was needed in the Three Seas Initiative.
While speaking at the Riga summit, Polish President Andrzej Duda said all the countries of the Three Seas Initiative were united in supporting Ukraine’s EU candidate status and that the European Council was likely to approve this at a summit at the end of this week.
Duda said that although Three Seas membership is reserved for EU member states, they have decided to create a new form of partnership within the initiative. In addition to strategic partners, there will now be strategic participants. Ukraine has been made such a strategic participant, and other countries in the region that are not yet EU members but aspire to achieve this goal could also be admitted in future.
Poland’s head of state also confirmed that Three Seas members backed Slovenia’s request that Bosnia and Hercegovina be granted the status of an EU candidate country. Duda also said that given the current international situation, the decision in 2015 to begin cooperation in the Three Seas area has been vindicated due to its ability to create economic, transport, and security links in the central and eastern parts of Europe, even if NATO is what ultimately ensures military security in the region.
The Riga summit of the Three Seas Initiative, which encompasses 12 EU states that lie between the Baltic, Adriatic, and the Black seas, discussed the war in Ukraine and combating the food crisis, which the war is exacerbating.