On June 20-21, 2022, Three Seas Initiative (3SI) leaders and stakeholders met in Riga, Latvia, for the annual Three Seas Summit and Business Forum. The two days were filled with talks and meetings, discussing the present and shaping the future of the Three Seas region.
In the Three Seas Business Forum, we heard six exciting panel discussions delivering thought-provoking and notable takeaways. For a deeper dive into the topics discussed and to provide insight to those who didn't hear the panels live, we're publishing a series of interviews with Forum experts. 
First up, Dr. Viktoriia Betina, speaker at the Transport and Logistics panel: Multimodal Mobility & Logistics as a Cornerstone of Connectivity and Sustainable Development.

Dr Betina is a highly qualified transport and mobility expert with broad management experience. We asked her several retrospective questions about the discussion and the topics the panel covered.

One of the main topics at this year's Forum was the war in Ukraine and its impact on the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) region. What else has a major influence on the transportation & logistics industry today?

We must separate freight from urban transportation and logistics because they have different needs and require different planning approaches. However, both sectors need more attention to identifying existing innovations that can be applied to the 3SI region, focusing on addressing existing gaps and bottlenecks. We know that not only 3SI but almost all European countries need better digital connectivity or unified intelligent data collection and sharing solutions.

In addition, we should give more attention to establishing communication and collaboration approaches among stakeholders that could lead to better connectivity in the 3SI region. And it's not just about how we develop such systems – we have enough ideas – but how we can implement them. Such international political meetings as the 3SI Summit and Business Forum are the right places to discuss these matters.

How does the company you represent address this challenge?

Participating in the Business Forum, I represented Ramboll Deutschland GmbH – a company with a strong engineering background and understanding of transport infrastructure and transport technical connectivity within Europe. Now, I've recently begun work at EY as a manager focusing on mobility development, and I can confidently say that the company is investing a lot in sustainability and innovation to develop urban freight logistics and mobility, including autonomous driving – burning topics on the European agenda.

Which 3SI region countries have made the greatest advancements in the transportation & logistics industry, and how?

I think all countries in the 3SI region significantly impact the transport and logistics industry. Each country has its geographical position, political views, and level of economic market development to invest in innovations, infrastructure, and connectivity.

The Baltic countries demonstrate their tremendous efforts in creating a unified region with solid transport links through Rail Baltica. During the war in Ukraine, Poland is showing great interest in reactivating transport links – with a focus on the railway – thinking about the redevelopment of potential logistics hubs at the border.

With access to multimodal international transport links and routes, Romania and Croatia demonstrate relatively strong experience in developing international corridors linked to port infrastructure at major transport hubs. Over the past year, Slovenia has paid great attention to sustainable development and green tourism, which provides an opportunity for better development of mobility services.

The idea behind 3SI is to find a way to work together to create more robust and better connectivity that is economically attractive. I think 3SI countries should always share their achievements with other countries looking for a solution in the same area.  

What was the most surprising thing you heard during your panel?

Actually, I wasn't surprised by any of the discussions. But don't get me wrong – it's because each panel had highly qualified experts, and they knew what they were talking about. However, it was not entirely clear how mobility solutions, resilience, and digitalization could be funded in the 3SI region. I think this is also one of the most critical questions that need to be raised.

From my point of view, it would also be logical if we heard more about how Ukraine could strengthen the 3SI and what is the potential or expected influence of this country on the region.

Editor's note. The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressed the participants of the Three Seas Initiative Summit by outlining six proposals regarding the 3SI, including a proposal for the transport and logistics sector:

“We must do everything we can to make the Trans-European Corridor Via Carpathia work one hundred percent, connecting northern and southern Europe. Ukraine can play the role of one of the logistics centers. And we are ready to join Via Carpathia right now. We are ready to integrate into the European railway network, in particular through the Warsaw-Kyiv railway line and access to the Rail Baltica railway corridor. We must continue to work on expanding checkpoints on the borders of our state.”

What's the one thing you'd want viewers to take from this year's Transportation & Logistics panel?

International examples show excellent achievements, mainly when professionals cooperate and when we work towards goals together. And it applies to all sectors or any kind of political decision.

This year's Business Forum provided a good mix of information, knowledge, and networking. Personally, it was an excellent experience for me to meet professionals and openly discuss existing trends and development potential in the Baltic States and hear about potential investments.

Are there any emerging trends that, in your opinion, will get more attention at next year's panel?

This year we have a real emergency to address – the war in Ukraine. I hope that next year we will be talking about the integration of Ukraine into the EU and introducing better solutions in multimodality, cargo logistics, and other integrations that we should consider.

Plus, we must look to the future and address the challenges of climate change. Therefore, I think that the topic of sustainable development in transport, autonomous driving, intelligent solutions, and energy should be among the topics for next year's discussion.

If you had more time available, what other topics would you have brought up during your panel and why?

I would've loved to have more opportunity and time to share my knowledge of the importance of developing sustainable transport solutions – for example, long-distance connections such as night trains and urban connections. I would've been glad to discuss how that works and the current EU frameworks and plans for supporting these ideas' implementation.

Also, our panel didn't have time to address potential connectivity gaps with Ukraine. There I could've added ideas of transferring some of the solutions we already have in Europe without building a new wheel – the so-called “quick wins”.

Who else do you think should have been on the panel and why?

When we talk about multimodality and sustainability, we also have to consider the crucial players who bring their services to the market – especially when it comes to local providers. We know too little about their strategy and how it can be better integrated into the city, regional, national, or sometimes international connections. We currently have a free market that is sometimes chaotic across regions.

The presence of NGO representatives involved in diversity planning, urban resilience, or those who represent the needs of Persons with Reduced Mobility could have given us a better idea of the importance of our work and its contribution to people's lives.

Were there any aspects from other panels or keynotes that you found meaningful in your area of expertise as well?

There is always a link between different sectors. One of the essential topics in my field is investment and funding opportunities. During two days of the Forum, I could hear what has already been financed, why, what will be on the agenda within the next year, and what funding sources are available now.

Politics plays a crucial role in understanding the overall development goals of a particular region or country. Diving into it helps me to understand the future strategy or necessary services where I could provide my technical assistance.

Watch the full recording of the Transport & Logistics panel discussion here (starting at 1:57:57) with the participation of Dr. Betina and other prominent speakers. And stay tuned for more interviews with this year's Three Seas Business Forum panellists!