Three Seas Initiative
The Czech Republic's Perspective on the Three-Seas-Initiative

Three Seas Initiative Czech Republic

Three Seas Initiative Czech Republic

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From the very beginning, the Czech Republic has been reserved regarding the Three-Seas-Initiative launched by Poland. The Czech Republic, which is already a member of the Visegrád Group and the trilateral Slavkov Triangle with Austria and Slovakia, principally does not see the need to establish another organization in the region in the first place. It considers itself sufficiently integrated in the EU and involved in partnerships with other Eastern European states. Germany is one of its particularly close strategic partners. Nonetheless, the Czech Republic eventually joined the Three-Seas-Initiative because it believes that it is better to be able to shape the future of the forum than to become a powerless outsider.

Poland's role in the initiative – Czech concerns

The Czech Republic's initial reluctance stems primarily from Poland's dominant presence and central role in the initiative (Dostál et al., 2021). Concerns have been expressed, especially in the Czech Republic, that Poland is pursuing its own national interests with the new project, as it did in the past with the Intermarium (Międzymorze) organization (Ehl, 2017). That organization, which never materialized, was supposed to unite Central and Eastern European states under Polish leadership (Górka, 2018). The imperialistic nature of the organization proposed by Poland deterred most countries. The Three-Seas-Initiative, whose member states would also have been part of the Intermarium, could strengthen Poland in its power struggle with the EU, which started several years ago. The Czech Republic has expressed concerns that Poland would in fact instrumentalise the Three-Seas-Initiative against the European Union, although the forum is supposed to exist complementarily to the EU, according to official statements (Dostál et al., 2021; Gniazdowski, 2017). Nonetheless, some argue that the initiative is threatening to drive Eastern and Western Europe further apart – however, the Czech Republic does not want to further weaken the already crumbling relationship between East and West. To this day, the Czech Republic has shown certain scepticism about Poland's intentions behind the relatively young project (Ehl, 2017).

Czech membership

In addition to this Czech reluctance towards the initiative, the country saw no need for another regional organization. With its membership in the Visegrád Group, the EU and the Slavkov Triangle, the Czech Republic considered itself to be sufficiently integrated in Europe. Eventually, the Czech Republic decided to join the Three-Seas-Initiative in order to be able to shape its future. However, in its opinion, the forum should only serve the exchange of information and the development of regional infrastructure; a formal political organization with institutionalized structures is to be avoided (Dostál et al., 2021).

The Czech Republic's doubts about the initiative and Poland's political intentions were not dispelled until 2018 at the Bucharest Summit of the Three-Seas-Initiative. At that summit, efforts were made to assure members and outsiders that the forum was in no way directed against the EU. The growing interest of the US in the new European project had an additional positive impact on the Czech Republic's view on the initiative. With the involvement of the US and the establishment of an investment fund within the framework of the initiative, the Three-Seas-Initiative became much more appealing to the Czech Republic (Dostál et al., 2021).

Overall, the Czech Republic's membership in the initiative exhibits some contradictions. Although the country approves and supports the establishment of an investment fund, it has not yet joined it. Furthermore, the Czech Republic announced its interest in the joined development of regional infrastructure and economic growth, but it does not propose any specific projects for the initiative (Dostál et al., 2021). As a passive participant in the Three-Seas-Initiative, the Czech Republic intends to remain a member only if the initiative does not conflict with other organizations, especially the EU (Ehl, 2017).

Relationships with the US and Germany

One of the aspects of the Three-Seas-Initiative highly appreciated by the Czech Republic is the attraction of American interest in the region. This increased attention by the US to the economic development and infrastructure of the countries in the region became particularly apparent at Michael Pompeo's speech. At the 2020 Munich Security Conference, he promised that the US would contribute up to USD 1 billion to the initiative’s fund. Since then, the Czech Republic has been hoping that the initiative will strengthen relations between the United States and Central and Eastern Europe (Dostál et al., 2021).

As a political partner, Germany is at least as important for the Czech Republic as the US, which is why it would generally approve Germany's integration in the initiative (Dostál et al., 2021; Ehl, 2017). Germany's full-fledged membership would positively influence the development of infrastructure in the region. In fact, maintaining a good relationship with its neighboring country is of great political and economic importance to the Czech Republic. Accordingly, it does not want to jeopardize these close relations under any circumstances with an initiative that is in conflict with the EU (Ehl, 2017). For this reason, the Czech Republic observes the political course of the Three-Seas-Initiative and Poland's role in the project very closely.

Interview with Vít Dostál

The United States has shown increasing interest in the Three-Seas-Initiative, which could lead to tighter relations between Eastern Europe and the US. However, the European region similarly attracts the interest of Russia and China. How does the Three-Seas-Initiative affect the relationship between the Czech Republic and these two states – China and Russia?

The thing is that the initiative itself does not aim to counter Russia or China, or to enhance the relationship with the US. Well, actually it does, but that was not the initial idea behind the initiative. The original idea was to strengthen the economic relations among the Middle and Eastern European countries – the US is a natural ally for that. It is the reason why Americans jumped in and tried to support the Three-Seas-Initiative nearly from the very beginning.

You need to remember that at the first summit of the initiative in Dubrovnik, there was no representative of the American delegation who was from a higher political level, at least not as far as I know. But even the Chinese were present and they issued a declaration in which they welcomed this kind of project, as it fits into their idea of the 17+1 project. Shortly after that, they were pushed out by the Americans from the Three-Seas-Initiative. The Americans often see the initiative as a chance to counter Chinese ideas of cooperation with the Central and Eastern European countries. In the joint statement and declaration of the American congress, you can see that there are several references to the Chinese and Russian influence in the region. But regarding China, such references are more about political influence and how the 17+1 initiative needs to be countered by some sort of American initiative.

Regarding Russia, it is more about energy infrastructure and the aim of the Three-Seas-Initiative about building a better energy infrastructure in the region. In the end, this would lead to a more independent position of Central and Eastern European countries and would improve their energy security, which greatly depends on Russia.

The Czech Republic is among the most sceptical and reluctant members of the initiative. In what way do the national political parties in the Czech Republic differ in their attitude towards the Three-Seas-Initiative?

Yes, overall the Three-Seas-Initiative presents not particularly important topic for the political parties in the Czech Republic. I also point that out in my paper that the initiative itself does not attract a lot of political attention. It is designed and implemented at the political level of ministers and thus not very politicized, but you can see some differences already from some political parties or from some politicians. The main difference regarding the initiative can be found in the center-right coalition which mentions the initiative in their manifesto.

The Center-right coalition also focuses more on Central and Eastern Europe, which is in line with the cooperation idea within the Three-Seas-Initiative. This is important mainly as the coalition won general elections in autumn and formed a new government. Overall, you do not have a lot of differences at the political level but there are important differences among the parties in relation to the US and China, and their involvement in the initiative.

Critics argue that Poland instrumentalises the initiative in its currently troubled relationship with the European Union. The Czech Republic has voiced similar misgivings. What is your opinion on that matter? Do you identify a potential rivalry between the initiative and the EU?

When the initiative was launched in 2016/17, nobody really knew or understood the real intentions of the Polish government. You got mixed messages from Poland on this project depending on who you talked to. Some conservative politicians openly shared their view that the initiative’s objective is  facing German influence.

But later on – somewhat around the Bucharest summit when the Romanians joined the leadership – they managed to get the Germans onboard; with the Czech support, they were also able to bring the European Commission onboard. It was at that time, just before the Romanian presidency, when the Commission showed interest in what actually Romanians think and therefore wanted to be present in Bucharest for the summit.

So I think that these initial doubts were dispelled around 2018 and it is now known that the initiative aims at improving the infrastructure in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. It has the means to do that, it has the Three-Seas-Initiative investment fund, which is being developed. This is the real focus of the initiative and the thing that should be focused on right now. The thing is that it is too big to bring about some meaningful results. And you also need to see that there are also other countries in the Three-Seas-Initiative, not only the Czech Republic and Hungary. In the end, I think that the members were able to find some shared position, which was definitely not the original Polish position.


Dostál, V., Strážay, T., & Végh, Z. (2021). The perspective of the Czech Republic, Hungary,

and Slovakia on the Three Seas Initiative. Retrieved from:

Ehl, M. (2017). The Three Seas Initiative through Czech eyes: Unconvinced by their

neighbour's plans. Polish Quarterly of International Affairs, 26(2), 200-205.

Gniazdowski, M. (2017). Comments on the structure of the Three Seas Initiative and the

Warsaw summit. Polish Quarterly of International Affairs, 26(2), 229-232.

Górka, M. (2018). The Three Seas Initiative as a political challenge for the countries of Central

and Eastern Europe. Politics in Central Europe, 14(3), 55-73.

About the author

Valerie Kornis completed an internship at the Central Europe and Baltic States Project Office. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in International Relations and Organisations from Leiden University in The Netherlands and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action at Sciences Po in Paris.

Vít Dostál is the Executive Director of AMO. He focuses on Czech foreign and European policy, Central European cooperation, and Polish foreign and domestic policy. Vít has worked for AMO since 2006. During that time he authored or edited many publications dealing with Czech foreign policy and Central Europe. He actively represents AMO at conferences and in the media.

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