The Three Seas Summit and Business Forum in Riga has come to an end. It was a gathering of policy-makers and industry leaders from the energy, transportation, and digitalization industries from across the Three Seas Region and beyond. Over two days, they delivered inspiring talks, took part in exciting panel discussions, and made game-changing announcements.
For all participants, the 3SI Business Forum was also the place to make new connections and business contacts outside of the conference hall. So, in case you missed any of the panels, here are the main takeaways and the most vivid quotes from the discussions on the stage.
With a population of 111 million and a projected GDP growth rate of 3.2%, there are enormous investment opportunities in the Three Seas Region, which have yet to be fully seized. The current geopolitical and economical uncertainties have made investors cautious – but should they be?
The panel started with an announcement from the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC).
“We’d like to announce a $300M commitment to the Three Seas Investment Fund – a signal of our support for the region.” – Scott A. Nathan, CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation
Further on, panelists shared their views on how to make this region more attractive to international investors and attract sustainable investment projects.
“This is a region that has outperformed since they became EU member states and is expected to continue to overperform, and that should be enough to make it interesting for investment. We’ve made four investments as of today, and I think we’re demonstrating that there are very interesting investments for private capital.” – Joe Phillipsz, Head of Three Seas Investment Fund Investments, Amber Infrastructure Group Ltd.
“Why would you invest in this region? Part of it is that this region is a member of the EU and therefore benefits from the solidarity and investments driven by the EU. We’ve invested 50B euros in the 12 member states of the Three Seas region. And will continue to do so.” – Jean-Christophe Laloux, Director General and Head of EU Lending and Advisory Operations, European Investment Bank
“We share the basic principles with all 12 Three Seas Initiative countries in this fragmented world. The 3SI region has high development potential considering its skilled human resources and stable economic policy.” – Yusuke Iseki, President Executive Officer, Regional Head for EMEA, Japan Bank for International Cooperation
Europe is a region of 44 different countries, cultures, and languages. Truly uniting this region has therefore always been a challenge, yet in the current geopolitical situation, such unity is more important than ever. A way to do it is via cross-border infrastructure development which is the key to sustainable regional growth and economic and security resilience. Leaders of the Three Seas Region and their strategic partners discussed the Initiative's contribution to achieving these goals in the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
“During the last years, we have intensified our cooperation [with 3SI], we have a common cross-border energy infrastructure project, we are on the way, and I can imagine that the German government one day could decide toward the application of being in the initiative.” – Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of the Federal Republic of Germany
“We need to think about the next level – what is beyond gas, for instance. We are absolutely dependent on gas, but we do not produce it, with some exclusions. The problem is developing renewables without developing reliable technology for storing the energy – this can create the perfect crisis.” – Rumen Radev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria
“We know our neighbor. We're going our way, and it's the European way. We're co-responsible for the development of the European Union, and therefore are interested in a strong European Union. It should play the political role that it deserves, as one of the main 3 economic powers of the world.” – Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted energy as a top national security concern. For way too long, Europe has relied on Russian gas. This has to change, thus the diversification of energy sources in Central and Eastern Europe is one of 3SI's main goals. The participants of the Energy panel discussed the cross-sectoral approach to conventional and sustainable energy, 3SI's contribution to more sustainable and efficient sources and uses of energy, and opportunities that could materialize in the nearest future.
“We are going through an energy crisis that threatens our climate goals and energy security and independence all in one. We cannot continue to feed the Russian war machine with our fossil fuel imports. Instead, we need a plan to go forward. That plan is the REPowerEU plan. A blueprint to build a future based on a clean energy system without Russian influence.” – Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy
“Lithuania has made wise decisions with their LNG terminals, Latvia has long maintained a very big underground storage, Estonia and Finland moved extremely rapidly to build a new terminal. By the end of the year, the region will be fully supplied from alternative sources.” – Uldis Bariss, Chairman of the Board of Conexus Baltic Grid (Latvia)
“This is a bit of an energy orchestra. It’s enriched by introducing more and more instruments. We have a huge battle ahead of us to achieve our targets. It’s important that we don’t pick a particular path. We’re under such pressure to decarbonize that we have to run all parallel paths. This new energy system has to work together. The more it works together, the more it finds its place.” – Kārlis Vasarājs, Executive Vice President of Valent Low-Carbon Technologies
Transport and Logistics Panel
In order to ensure a connection that effectively spurs sustainable long-term economic development in the Three Seas region and beyond, the building of multimodal transport infrastructure is a must. The Transport and Logistics panel focused on emerging technologies and their role in bridging the gap between transport hubs and regional accessibility, and the Initiative's role in synchronizing public and private investment in this sector.
“The Baltic States have a great opportunity, through Rail Baltica, to become one of the best examples of economic corridor development offering multimodal connections both at international and regional levels.” – Dr. Viktoriia Betina, Transport and Mobility Consultant at Ramboll Deutschland GmbH (Germany / Ukraine)
As mentioned by Patrick Folley, Divisional Director, Aviation at Jacobs, there has been a 600% increase in cyberattacks since the beginning of the pandemic. That directly affects the transportation industry, which is becoming increasingly digitalized. “The more we improve the digital infrastructure, the more we become targets for cyberattacks,” Folley noted. “While we evolve, we need to think about how we will protect ourselves as well.”
European digital security has become a hot topic since the attack on Ukraine and the following sanctions against Russia. How to ensure the region's cyber security during the challenging geopolitical situation and beyond?
“We as tech companies found ourselves to be first responders. We had to be on the front lines with the government and support them, as they defend their cyberspace. Ukraine, even before the war, was the second most targeted country in terms of cyber attacks.” – Renāte Strazdiņa, Customer Transformation Lead CEE / Healthcare and Life Science Lead EMEA at Microsoft
“In the digital sector, we need regulations – we need fair rules, but not barriers. It’s absolutely crucial for this industry to avoid any overregulation.” – Michał Kanownik, President of the Board of Digital Poland Association (Poland)
“As you look around the world to countries that have been successful in digital growth, you usually see four things in common – investment in infrastructure, government mindset, a regulatory climate that encourages digital growth & bringing needed digital skills to society, which, in fact, is the most important component for success.” – Karan Bhatia, Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy at Google
Mission Approach Panel
The challenges we're facing today are complex and involve a lot of the unknown, therefore the old ways of problem-solving are often ineffective. Panelists discussed a new approach to solving modern challenges, called the mission approach – a purpose-oriented strategy that mobilizes stakeholders and enables new collaboration models for industries, governments, and communities. What makes the mission approach work? Is some kind of crisis always a prerequisite?
“We have to create the urgency and understanding of the real impacts of those [climate and safety] crises today, rather than live through Ukrainian situation and scenarios in practice. We have to anticipate them to create missions that work.” – Piret Tonurist, OECD Lead on Anticipatory Innovation Governance and Missions, Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, Public Governance (Estonia)
“For a mission-based approach, you need to have a lot of curiosity, a bit of fearlessness, a good understanding within your organization that this is new, that this is experimental. It won’t deliver the things that you’re used to.” – Joanna Franzén, Programme Manager at Vinnova, Sweden’s Innovation Agency (Sweden)
“Governments should rethink some of their mission activities in the light of the changing security situation, particularly in Europe, as that may open up windows of opportunity around clean energy. There’s a need to step up and take on more ambitious missions.” – Rainer Kattel, Professor of Innovation and Public Governance at Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, University College London
It's a wrap!
If you're interested in watching any (or all) of the panel discussions in full length, you can find the recordings here:
Thank you again for being part of the 3SI Business Forum in Riga! And best of luck to the next year's host – Romania!