Monday

21st May 2018

Opinion

Duda project could trump Visegrad Group

  • The Three Seas Initiative has been championed by Polish president Andrzej Duda, and he is desperate for it to succeed. (Photo: Radosław Czarnecki)

"New Europe" was a term coined by the administration of former US president George W. Bush.

When the USA decided to invade Iraq, this term was used to differentiate between – and celebrate – the solidarity of new Nato members compared to the reluctance of the old allies.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Since then, the intricacies of European politics – from smaller initiatives to larger regional alliances and even to the inner-workings of the EU itself – have grown considerably.

Many wishing to weaken Europe’s position and potential on the global stage try to exploit this division of old vs new, and it is something all leaders on the continent should be wary of.

With that still in mind, on 6 July US president Donald Trump will arrive in Warsaw and take part in an assembly of one of these regional alliances, the Three Seas Initiative (TSI) – a meeting of the EU leaders representing Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).

The three seas is a reference to the countries situated between the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Seas.

The initiative is seen as a major diplomatic triumph of the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, who is also the leader of the TSI and desperate for a win.

However, the TSI is just one of many political groupings in the CEE region with a primary focus on influencing EU policy. Other such groupings of more or less importance are the Visegrad Group (V4), Slavkov triangle, Danube Region, Weimar Triangle and Nordic-Baltic cooperation.

While their main focus is on fostering cooperation within the EU, such formations are becoming increasingly interesting for external powers such as China (in the so-called 16+1 format) and now the US.

Trump’s visit will definitely put a spotlight on the TSI and help this format to continue.

TSI members – Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – pledged in their founding declaration a year ago to foster regional projects in the areas of energy, transportation, digital communication and economic sectors in CEE.

However, according to analysts who are advancing the concept, like Bartosz Wisniewski, the head of research office at the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), the region still has a long way to go when it comes to its economic development.

The TSI is meant to complement connectivity between the East and West of Europe, with greater connectivity along the north-south axis, thanks in no small part to the EU's financial contribution.

Not quite quid pro quo

The US has already increased on their military presence in the region, even more so than had been originally promised by the administration of former US president Barack Obama.

The LNG (liquid natural gas) terminal in Swinoujscie, Poland – a strategically important facility allowing for more energy independence in the region – has only recently celebrated the arrival of its first transportation from the US and awaits its next shipment from Qatar, and other countries.

Justifiably suspicious of their eastern neighbour, Poland will most likely take the opportunity to sup-port the recent sanctions that were proposed by the US Senate last week on contractors for the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) project, as well as other significant Russian businesses.

In comparison, both Trump and Hungarian PM Viktor Orban have sought to lift the sanctions on Russia, a sentiment that is also shared today by Austria, a member of the TSI, whose companies are contractors for the NS2.

However, according to PISM these differences are fine, as they are neither an attempt to undermine European integration, nor a block to ward off Russia.

To the Czechs and Slovaks, the TSI, especially now, might be a little more problematic.

While they agree with the goal of north-south connectivity, they are cautious – if not suspicious – of the political dimension.

V4 is the most important format to Slovakia, whereas the country treats the TSI more like a one time event.

For Slovaks, there is no political content in this grouping. And, beyond that, there is no security component and no political dimension for the country.

Czech officials have also expressed reservations towards Poland, a country that, along with Hungary, emphasises the East-West divide. The radicalisation of some V4 members also does not help.

Poles automatically reject all ideas from the Western members, a Czech diplomat recently told Gazeta Wyborcza.

A member of the Czech ministry of foreign affairs, who was quoted in the same article, went even further, claiming that the idea of a Three Seas Initiative is unacceptable because of its 20th century neo-imperial origin.

Such criticism is dismissed by PISM analysts, who underline that despite any apparent differences, Slovakia and Czech Republic will send their representation.

Despite many reservations, the obvious champion of the initiative has become the Croatian president, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. Allegedly, her personal involvement was of key importance to the US delegation.

The TSI clearly goes along with her plans for her LNG terminal in Croatia that will improve gas sup-ply diversification – independent of Russia – and increase energy cooperation in the region.

Needing a pat on the back

It might be too simplistic, but there is the chance that Trump is using the occasion as a slight against German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron.

Is this a not-too-subtle comment about how Trump sees future European cooperation?

The question needing to be answered by EU leaders will be whether they think Trump is willing to cut off his nose to spite his face.

That worries some, who do not believe that the Polish ministry of foreign affairs can handle a diplomatically sensitive visit.

Warsaw, already isolated in the EU, may want to be even more confrontational after Trump's visit. This will also not help to reconcile with Brussels, Berlin or Paris.

Furthermore, it will not help to build regional solidarity, since the northern and southern neighbours of Poland will not feel like taking part in fist-fights that would complicate relations with their Western partners.

No matter how well-intentioned these leaders are in developing ties between their nations, they will all struggling with domestic and regional issues, as well as questionable popular support.

It all makes the meeting feel more like the international conference of future political pariahs.

Wojciech Przybylski is the editor-in-chief of Visegrad Insight, and chairman of the Res Publica Foundation in Warsaw. His new book ‘Understanding Central Europe’, co-edited with Marcin Moskalewicz, will be published by Routledge in the second half of 2017.

Magazine

The rise and shine of Visegrad

The V4 countries - Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - has turned the EU's migration policy around. They now set their sights on reshaping the union.

Focus

China's 16+1 foray into Central and Eastern Europe

Half a decade after it was launched, the network of cooperation between China and 16 Central and Eastern European countries has brought uneven economical and political fruits so far.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  2. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  3. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  4. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row
  5. EU takes six countries to court over air pollution
  6. New Catalan leader sworn in without reference to Spain
  7. Merkel and Putin revive dialogue in troubled times
  8. European companies putting Iran business on hold

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  2. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  3. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  4. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  5. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  6. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline
  7. Italian populists to defy EU debt rules
  8. Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  3. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  7. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  8. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  9. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  10. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  11. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations