Three Seas Initiative
Slovenia's Perspective on The Three-Seas-Initiative

Three Seas Initiative Slovenia
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In contrast to the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Slovenian state appears less concerned about Poland’s political intentions behind the creation of the Three-Seas-Initiative. In fact, Slovenia is a considerably engaged and committed member of the initiative, as it believes in the initiative’s potential to boost economic growth. To achieve this, Slovenia emphasizes the importance of tangible results, concrete projects and digital transformation. In the long run, it hopes for an improved infrastructure and economic development to minimize the existing East-West divide in Europe. Fostering the cohesion in Europe is one of Slovenia’s foreign policy goals. However, the country itself is still engaged in a border dispute with Croatia and had even blocked Croatia’s accession to the EU for several years (Górka, 2018).

Digital Transformation and Sustainable Development

Not long ago, in 2019, Slovenia was hosting the Three-Seas-Initiative summit. For the second time, the business forum was also held there, parallel to the summit. The forum “provides a platform for direct contact between business counterparts, relevant government officials and other economic stakeholders, in order to find new business or investment perspectives”. Such a forum is in line with Slovenia’s pragmatic and result oriented approach to the Three-Seas-Initiative. Slovenia is convinced of the initiative’s relevance for its own economy and a greater European cohesion.

From a Slovenian perspective, the initiative should primarily serve to stimulate economic growth in Central and Eastern European countries and strengthen transatlantic ties. Security considerations – especially regarding Russia – are far less frequently mentioned than economic aspirations. According to Slovenia, in order to boost economic development in the region, digitalization and sustainable economic growth is the way. In this context, Slovenia also held the very first Three-Seas-Initiative conference on digital transformation in November 2021, once again proving its commitment to the initiative. That conference provided a platform for the exchange of concrete ideas and proposals to boost digitalization and subsequently foster economic growth and competitiveness in the region. President Pahor himself emphasized the importance of digital transformation for the entire European continent and the great potential of the initiative in this regard. The president also called upon the members of the initiative to particularly focus on sustainable economic development. According to him, sustainable, digital and green projects will be crucial for the initiative’s success and the future of European economies. While being such an eager supporter of the Three-Seas-Initiative, Slovenia still clearly supports the priority of the EU.

External Actors – The US, EU, Germany and Russia

Especially since its accession to the NATO and the EU in 2004, Slovenia claims that fruitful relations with the EU and cooperation with its member states are crucial. Consequently, Slovenia is very careful to make sure that the Three-Seas-Initiative does not contradict the values of the EU, duplicate it in any way or worse, be in conflict with the EU. The initiative must strictly operate within the EU framework. Only this way can the Three-Seas-Initiative advance the European Union by contributing to its cohesion, stability and prosperity.

Additionally, Slovenia aspires to strengthen its partnership with the United States with the help of the initiative, which attracts growing attention from the US to the region. However, while Slovenia wishes to consolidate its transatlantic ties, the country has also become closer friends with Russia and Hungarian president Viktor Orbán in recent years. This implies that Slovenia’s alliance with the United States, which the US itself considers to be relatively tight, is primarily focused on trade and economy, rather than security policy. As for Germany, Slovenia regards it as another valuable partner for the Three-Seas-Initiative and welcomes the creation of Germany’s observer status.

Interview with Andrej Berginc

States such as Slovakia and the Czech Republic had been relatively reluctant at the beginning, but gradually changed their attitude towards the Three-Seas-Initiative. How has Slovenia’s perspective on the initiative evolved over time?

At the beginning, the initiative operated mainly at the level of presidents, while governments have not been involved much. President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor has always supported the Three Seas Initiative and has been attending the Summits of the initiative since the beginning. President Pahor has showed his support and commitment to the initiative by hosting a summit in 2019, which notably enhanced Slovenia's participation in the initiative.

The interest of the Slovenian Government in the initiative has been growing simultaneously with the development of the initiative and the gradual expansion of the role of the governments. In 2020, the government decided to invest 23 million euros in the Three Seas Initiative's Investment Fund. Slovenian contribution is the second largest and it shows the government's commitment to the Initiative.

The Three-Seas-Initiative aims to foster regional infrastructure, boost economic development, push for European cohesion and strengthen transatlantic ties. In what way does Slovenia profit from the initiative? What aspect of the initiative is the most beneficial for Slovenia?

Central Europe lags behind Western Europe in the matter of the infrastructural connectivity, which hinders the region's further economic development. The overall objective of the initiative is to connect countries on the North-South axis and support regional dialogue. One of the concrete ways of connecting the region is the modernization of regional energy, transport and digital infrastructure. This, in turn, would contribute to an accelerated development of the regional economy. Since Slovenia's economy is tightly connected to the region, our country can only benefit from the region's economic development.

For Slovenia, an important aspect of the initiative is the development of transport infrastructure, especially railways. Slovenia is an important part of the region's transportation network. Being located at the northern tip of the Adriatic Sea, it provides a vital link between maritime and ground transportation for the region. Therefore, Slovenia, along with the rest of the region, would significantly benefit from the modernisation of the transport infrastructure. Nonetheless, Slovenia has always been interested in overall development of the region, including energy and digital infrastructure.

One of the actual goals of the Three-Seas-Initiative is to create independence from Russian gas. In your opinion, how will the initiative affect the relationship between Slovenia and Russia in the long run?

Energy independence is not a primary goal of Slovenia's participation in the Three Seas Initiative. Slovenia has a diverse energy supply, including natural gas, and is not overly dependent on any single supplier. Nevertheless, it welcomes attempts to further diversify natural gas supply in the region, as it would decrease the risk of supply disruptions.

Slovenia does not see a link between its participation in the Three Seas Initiative and its relations with the Russian Federation. It sees the main objective of the Three Seas Initiative in the economic development of the region, which is perfectly compatible with good relations with the EU neighbourhood.

References

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.

Andrej Berginc

Andrej Berginc is responsible for the Three Seas Initiative at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia. Previously, he was responsible for Slovenia's relations within Central Europe and served at the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Washington, DC.

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