One of the three pillars of the Three Seas Initiative is the development of digital connectivity in Central and Eastern Europe. On April 7, 2022, “Boosting Cybersecurity Cooperation in the Three Seas Initiative” brought together government and business professionals from the Three Seas region to discuss the risks and opportunities of the current digital transformation, its challenges, and the impact it may have on the future of cybersecurity.
The speakers that represented the political panel of the meeting were Mr. Paweł Jabłoński – Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government Plenipotentiary for the 3SI (PL), Mr. Gediminas Varvuolis – Ambassador Plenipotentiary for Connectivity and 3SI (LT), Mr. Edgars Bondars – Ambassador-at-large for preparation of 3SI Summit in Riga (LV), Mr. Tiit Riisalo – Ambassador-at-large for Connectivity and 3SI (EE), Mr. Alan Meltzer – Director of the Office of Central European Affairs at the Department of State (US) - virtually, Ms. Romana Vlahutina – Ambassador at Large for Connectivity at European External Action Service. The commercial and business sector assembled Mr. Sławomir Pietrzyk – President and CEO of IS Wireless company (PL), Mr. Edvinas Kerza – Head of Business Resilience Unit at Ignitis group (LT), Mr. Ingmārs Pūķis – Vice President, mobile telecommunications operator LMT (LV), Mr. Rainer Saks – Member of the Executive Board of CybExer Technologies (EE) and Advisor of Digital Policy to the President of Latvia, Ms. Ieva Ilves (LV). The discussion was moderated by PhD Mr. Mariusz Antonowicz, Vilnius University (LT) and prof. Darius Štitilis, Mykolas Romeris University (LT).
In her welcoming words, the Ambassador to the Republic of Poland in Lithuania, H.E. Urszula Doroszewska, reminded that the consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine will be felt across Europe, and therefore it is more important than ever to choose vendors of digital solutions from countries that share the same values: “Ultimately it all boils down to trust.”
It was stressed repeatedly during the debate that this is the time for effective cooperation among all the services and institutions working with cybersecurity platforms in Three Seas region, and cybersecurity is more than just a fight against disinformation - it is also essential in building resilient supply chains and protecting our markets. “Moreover, there are several social angles that include improving the digital skills of the population and involving society to understand its digital needs,” added Edgars Bondars—the ambassador-at-large for the preparation of the 3SI Summit in Riga. When discussing possible cooperation with Ukraine through the Three Seas Initiative, Ambassador Bondars revealed that the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to the upcoming summit in Riga.
The Advisor of Digital Policy to the President of Latvia, Ms. Ilves, highlighted the importance of digital skills and general population’s digital competency. “I believe this is a vital direction in which we need to drive this cooperation. The Three Seas Initiative must facilitate large-scale investment projects that encourage people to stay in our region so that we avoid losing intellectual capital to Silicon Valley and other markets.” The development of digital skills and education of people in the region was recognised as a crucial factor. The discussion concluded that the battle for IT specialists in Three Seas countries is extremely competitive and should be included among the priorities. On the other hand, the panel emphasised the achievements and unique advantages of the Three Seas region in the digital market.
One of the core reasons behind the Three Seas Initiative is connectivity and this event highlighted that the network is a key element for continued success and to achieve success, it is necessary to return to the basics, to bring several different industries and governments together and identify the target and main objective. Mr. Pūķis, Vice President of LMT invited to look to the future with open eyes and used an example of celebrating 5G. Another significant issue was identified - the broken link between companies and universities. Mr. Pūķis revealed his disappointment about the current chemistry of this significant relationship. “Scientists have learned to live on their own. However, big businesses need to be present in the ongoing scientific research in our region. Therefore, one of our main objectives is to build a wide and strong bridge between the business sector and the scientific community,” he said.
The Russian invasion in Ukraine, a neighbouring country of the Three Seas region, and the challenges it brings to the future development made the security of the supply chain one of the main topics of the meeting. Ms. Ilves, stated that the situation in Ukraine is a clear indicator to the Three Seas region that the supply chain security is of the utmost importance. “It must be ensured that it is a priority of the government as well as the regulator.” This issue was further recognised sharing examples of the latest successful cyberattacks that have been going through supply chains. Members of the panel shared the need for clear standards and requirements to produce technologies to fulfil connectivity-based security. “Cybersecurity is always a question of common sense, not only political direction,” said Mr. Pūķis. “Preparing for 5G implementation and reacting to the geopolitical situation has affected our work for the near future. We are closely collaborating with the Latvian National Armed Forces and examining the operator’s role in an ongoing war.” The participants of the meeting concluded that there are excellent examples that prove region’s possible independence from the Chinese. An example of LMT joining forces with a high-tech production company Mikrotik was used: “We were able to substitute Chinese user equipment, like 4G and 5G routers, for ones that are being produced in Latvia at a similar price point. And now, we are already exploring next steps, for example, whether we will be able to do the same for 5G modules.” Mr. Pūķis also took this opportunity to share his willingness to collaborate with partners from the Three Seas Initiative.
Video recording from the discussion can be viewed here: