President Kersti Kaljulaid with Polish President Andrzej Duda (right) and President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev. Photo by  Three Seas / Arno Mikkor.

The 2020 Three Seas Virtual Summit in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, got underway with an opening virtual panel session featuring presidents from several of the 12 participating states, who summed up the benefits of being part of the Three Seas Initiative (3SI).

Borut Pahor, president of last year’s Three Seas host nation Slovenia, noted the development of the 3SI even since that time.

“As the host of last year’s summit of the 3SI here in Slovenia, I can openly say that the initiative has grown into a flexible platform for the boosting of development of the countries located between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas,” he said.

President of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen said that: “The 3SI is important to Austria because, at its heart, lies the question of cohesion.”

This made it crucial, in the light of the coronavirus pandemic, that reading from the same hymn sheet remains a norm across the Three Seas Region and the EU as a whole, President Van der Bellen went on.

“Supporting and optimizing ongoing EU efforts is therefore not only well-justified, but also self-evident," he said.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda noted the key importance of both the EU and the U.S. for the Three Seas Region and initiative.

“Lithuania sees the 3SI as a unique regional instrument, aimed at deepening strategic cooperation with the U.S. It serves our shared interests to boost national and regional security. It is also a practical tool to accelerate our cohesion with the rest of the EU, and to bridge our infrastructural gaps,” President Nausėda said.

Two of the Three Seas countries' presidents, Andrzej Duda of Poland and Rumen Radev of Bulgaria arrived in person, to be greeted by Estonian head of state Kersti Kaljulaid.

The 3SI aims to undo many decades of the mismanagement suffered by most of the participating states in having been behind the iron curtain, which saw economies fail and transport links crumble while the nations in the western half of the EU continued to grow and become interconnected. 

At the same time it capitalizes on a changing world, digital opportunities and economic growth the countries have seen in recent years.

This video explains a little more about the 3SI:

President of Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová said that that her country was fully behind 3SI cooperation and its integration within the EU.

"For the Three Seas, central Europe is a cross roads. This is the reason that we support every initiative that will enhance connectivity in the EU and will be governed by its principles and policies," she said.

"Slovakia, as a small, open economy, has a principal interest in deepening cooperation and coordination with every European country."

Click on the images in the gallery below for quotes from all the participating presidents.

The full video of the presidents' virtual panel is below.