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THE ROLE OF NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN THE FOREIGN POLICY OF THE VISEGRAD GROUP COUNTRIES AND THE THREE SEAS COUNTRIES

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Abstract

The countries of the Visegrad Group (V4) and the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) operate, like other countries, under the pressure of the innovation imperative, i.e. sustained growth and improved productivity. They strive to implement more and more technologically innovative solutions in their economies. In Central and Eastern Europe and the wider Three Seas region, this trend will intensify even more due to the depletion of traditional sources of growth (mainly low production and labour costs). Moreover, the rivalry between the USA and China, aggressive actions of Russia and the new model of sustainable development based on renewable energy sources (the Fit for 55 package) promoted in the European Union mean that the pressure on this region of Europe is high and will be even greater in the near future. In such a complex environment, the Three Seas countries must balance skilfully so as not to be reduced to the role of an object in international politics. One of the ways to increase the subjectivity of the entire region is to improve cooperation by building a dense network of interconnections so that, as a whole, the Three Seas Initiative could create a coherent economic space, and not a set of poorly connected units.
THE ROLE OF MODERN
TECHNOLOGIES IN THE FOREIGN
POLICY OF THE VISEGRAD
GROUP COUNTRIES AND
THETHREESEASCOUNTRIES
dr BŁAŻEJ SAJDUK
2
The countries of the Visegrad Group (V4) and the Three Seas Initiative (3SI)
operate, like other countries, under the pressure of the innovation impera-
tive, i.e. sustained growth and improved productivity. They strive to imple-
ment more and more technologically innovative solutions in their econo-
mies1. InCentral and Eastern Europe and the wider Three Seas region, this
trend will intensify even more due to the depletion of traditional sources
of growth (mainly low production and labour costs). Moreover, the rivalry
between the USA and China, aggressive actions of Russia and the new
model of sustainable development based on renewable energy sources
(the Fit for 55 package) promoted in theEuropean Union mean that the
pressure on this region of Europe is high and will be even greater in the
near future. In such acomplex environment, the Three Seas countries must
balance skilfully so as not to be reduced to the role of an object in internatio-
nal politics. One of the ways to increase the subjectivity of the entire region
is to improve cooperation by building a dense network of interconnections
so that, as a whole, the Three Seas Initiative could create a coherent eco-
nomic space, and not a set of poorly connected units. However, the study
of The Rise of Digital Challengers (and reports on individual countries in
the Central and Eastern Europe region) clearly indicate that digitization will
1 OECD: The Innovative Imperative. Contributing to Productivity, Growth and Well-Being, OECD
Publishing: Paris 2005, p. 19, https://read.oecd.org/10.1787/9789264239814-en?format=pdf
(access:1/10/2021).
THE ROLE OF MODERN TECHNOLOGIES
IN THE FOREIGN POLICY OF
THEVISEGRAD GROUP COUNTRIES
ANDTHETHREESEASCOUNTRIES
dr Błażej Sajduk
3
be an opportunity for the countries of this region to
maintain economic growth and improve competitive-
ness2. The existence of modern intra-regional con-
nections will be an important element limiting the risk
of the emergence of a "two-speed Europe". Serious
investments in transport infrastructure, including the
digital sphere, are crucial because, as the authors of
the report published by the Polish Economic Institu-
te note: "without this, Western European countries
will benefit most from the dynamic development of
Three Seas countries"3.
In order to catch up with the countries of Western
Europe in terms of the network infrastructure deve-
lopment, countries of Central and Eastern Europe
should undertake serious investments, and their im-
2 The Rise of Digital Challengers, 2018, https://digitalchallengers.mckinsey.com/ (access: 1/10/2021).
3 Building closer connections, Warsaw August 2020, Polski Instytut Ekonomiczny, p. 24, https://pie.net.pl/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/PIE-Three-
Seas.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
4 Infrastructure in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe: Benchmarking, Macroeconomic Impact, and Policy Issues, IMF, 28 September
2020, p. 3, https://www.imf.org/-/media/Files/Publications/DP/2020/English/ICESEEBMIPIEA.ashx (access: 01/10/2021).
5 Dynamic Visegrad for Europe and Beyond — Program of the Slovak Presidency in the Visegrad Group (July 2014 – June 2015), https://www.
visegradgroup.eu/documents/presidency-programs/20142015-slovak (access: 01/10/2021).
plementation will not be an easy task. Itmust not be
forgotten that cross-border structural projects have
their own specificity of implementation, as noted by
the International Monetary Fund, pointing to their
particular complexity, and thus – exceptional dicul-
ty in carryingout4. Itwillbe no less in the digital sphe-
re or in the case of projects that are to additionally
maintain appropriately high sustainability standards.
Strengthening the Three Seas region's potential
requires setting out a framework for joint underta-
kings. From this perspective, V4 and 3SI are natural
forums where initiatives may appear that realistical-
ly support the process of digital inclusion in this part
of the continent and where Three Seas countries
can set common directions for the digital agenda.
V4
The issues of modern technologies and, more
broadly, digital dimension of the economy, gradually
began to appear in the presidency programs of the
V4 countries. Recent years have been characterized
by the growing importance that politicians attach to
issues related to the digital sphere. Currently, in al-
most every joint declaration and communiqué issu-
ed in recent years, the heads of governments of the
Visegrad Group states unanimously declare their
good will and willingness to cooperate in the field
of new technologies and underline their fundamen-
tal importance for the next industrial revolution. Mo-
reover, the declarations made by countries as part
of theV4 definitely fit in with the main directions set
by theEuropean Commission and the European Co-
uncil. When analysing the activities formulated in of-
ficial documents published by the institutions of the
V4 countries, itshould be kept in mind that they are
not binding on the signing parties, andmost often no
fixed budget is planned for their implementation –
allocating funds for participation in them is voluntary
and depends on the will of theparties-participants.
Until 2014, issues related to the digitization of
theeconomy were only sporadically mentioned in
the V4 documents, mainly in the contexts of univer-
sity education, research, justice and culture. Slova-
kia was the first country to devote more attention to
this topic in its presidency program for 2014–2015,
clearly identifying the digital economy as a key
element in building the competitive advantage of
the V45 countries. This trend was maintained in the
programming documents of thenext presidencies
– the digital agenda entered them permanently,
and the importance attached to it only grew. In ad-
dition, it is worth pointing out that in the program
of the Slovak presidency, issues of cyber security
and information security have been distinguished
and assigned a separate role. In this respect, the
cooperation forum that V4 countries maintain is the
European Cyber Security Platform established in
2013 by Austria and the Czech Republic. Itbrings
together representatives of countries and members
of the national Computer Security Incident Respon-
se Team.
4
In addition, in November 2014, Slovakia initiated
theV4 Innovation Task Force6, a platform supporting
start-ups from Visegrad Group countries, bringing to-
gether representatives of state authorities co-creating
public policies and influencing thefunctioning of start-
-ups. This initiative is maintained and being developed
in the following years by successive presidencies.
In October 2015 in Prague, the ministers responsible
for economic aairs signed a memorandum of un-
derstanding for regional cooperation in thearea of
innovation and start-ups7. Its key statement was the
willingness to continue supporting theV4 Innovation
Task Force initiative. In addition, the decision was
made to continue the We4Startups project, initiated
by Hungary and Slovakia, to build less ocial chan-
nels for the exchange of information and experien-
ces. The aim of this initiative was also to facilitate
establishing contacts between entrepreneurs from
other V4 countries with their counterparts from the
Silicon Valley. Judging by thecurrent online presen-
ce of this project, it should unfortunately be recogni-
zed that it did not receive much attention8.
The intentions of the V4 states are well illustrated by
the statement of the V4 heads of governments from
December 2016, which drew attention to the role of
the Digital Single Market, calling on the European
Commission to continue work on its implementation
in a way that would guarantee all entities equal ac-
cess and equal treatment9. The statement also stres-
sed the role of data exchange between dierent IT
systems within the EU and the need to ensure their
interoperability.
6 The initiative consists of: Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic, Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic, Ministry of Foreign Aairs and Trade
of Hungary, National Research, Development and Innovation Bureau,in Hungary, Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, Investment
and Development Business Agency CzechInvest, Ministry of Economy of Poland, Polish Agency for Entrepreneurship Development – PARP and
theNational Research and Development Center - NCBR.
7 Memorandum of Understanding for Regional Cooperation in the Areas of Innovation and Startups, 12 October 2015, https://www.visegradgroup.eu/
calendar/2015/memorandum-of (access: 1/10/2021).
8 One of the planned activities was the launch of the We4Startups profile, the aim of which would be to create a platform for contact between startups
from the V4 countries. At the time of writing (October 2021), the last post posted on the profile was dated January 18, 2019, the group of followers
was543. Moreover the link redirecting to the ocial website redirected users to the site in Indonesian.
We4Startups, https://www.facebook.com/visegradstartups (access: 1/10/2021).
9 Joint Statement of the Heads of Governments of the V4Countries, 15 December 2016, (access 1/10/2021).
10 2017–2018 Hungarian Presidency, p. 25, https://www.visegradgroup.eu/documents/2017-2018-hungarian/20172018-hungarian (access: 1/10/2021).
11 See V4 Smart Platform 2 project, https://v4sp.com/ (access: 1/10/2021).
12 V4 Smart Platform – White Paper, August 2018, http://smartcluster.sk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/V4SP_project_White_Paper_EN.pdf
(access:1/10/2021)
13 2017–2018 Hungarian Presidency, p. 24, https://www.visegradgroup.eu/documents/2017-2018-hungarian/20172018-hungarian
(access: 1/10/2021).
14 Joint Declaration of Intent of Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group on Mutual Co-operation in Innovation and Digital Aairs, 28 march 2017,
https://www.visegradgroup.eu/calendar/selected-events-in-2017-170203/joint-declaration-of (access: 1/10/2021)
15 Podpisano Deklarację Warszawską, „Puls Biznesu” 28 March 2017, https://www.pb.pl/podpisano-deklaracje-warszawska-857897
(access: 1/10/2021).
16 The proposal to increase the budget was made in declaration issued in Cracow by the prime ministers of V4 countries in February 2021. Declaration
of the Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Republic of Poland and the Slovak Republic on the Occasion of the 30th Anniversary of
the Visegrad Group, 17 February 2020, https://www.visegradgroup.eu/calendar/2021/declaration-of-the-prime (access: 1/10/2021).
It is also worth recalling V4 Smart Platform10 project
initiated during the Hungarian presidency in 2017-
2018 and then developed during the next presidency
into V4SP 2.011, which aims to improve theinterope-
rability of services in the field of transport, mobility, to-
urism and mobile payments12. It should be emphasized
that in the programming documents of subsequent
presidencies, issues related to the digital economy
are situated in thecontext of building a competitive
advantage. In its presidency plan for 2017-2018, Hun-
gary proposed the removal of barriers in the exchan-
ge of digital data, e.g. regarding geolocation13.
March 2017 was of particular importance for digital
solutions in the policy of the V4 countries, because
during the Central and Eastern Europe Innovators Su-
mmit in Warsaw, the prime ministers of the member
states signed a declaration on mutual cooperation in
the fields of innovation and digitization14. Polish de-
puty minister of development at the time stated that
the document "opens the way to innovation, for the
Central European region to compete boldly with the
most innovative economies in the world"15. Itisworth
emphasizing that in her speech Polish deputy mini-
ster indicated that the goal of regional cooperation
is also to compete with companies from France and
Germany. For this purpose, aseparate financial line
has been established under the Visegrad Fund.
Atthis point, it should be noted that the resources
at the Fund's disposal are EUR 8 million per year
(EUR 10 million from 202216). Unfortunately, these
funds are just a drop in theocean of needs.
5
In February 2021 in Cracow, the prime ministers
of four countries issued a declaration confirming
thefindings of 2017 and the will to deepen themutu-
al cooperation in the field of digital projects, creating
conditions for a sustainable digital transformation in
Central and Eastern Europe, and exchange of expe-
riences between research units from this field17. Mo-
reover, inline with the conclusions of the European
Council from October 1, 2020, the importance of al-
locating at least 20% of the funds from theRecove-
ry and Resilience Facility for digital transformation
purposes was emphasized. Thedeclaration indica-
tes the key role of 5G technology in thefunctioning
of the new digital economy. Inthedeclaration, Po-
land indicated its willingness to establish an institu-
tion supporting the coordination of digital projects
implemented by V4 countries. The eect of these
declarations was the first meeting of the Virtual
Oce for V4 Digital Projects18 in May 2021, which
17 Visegrad Group Joint Declaration on Mutual Cooperation in Digital Projects, Cracow, February 17, 2021, https://www.visegradgroup.eu/
download.php?docID=458 (access: 1/10/2021).
18 Digital V4, https://digitalv4.eu/pl/ (access: 1/10/2021).
19 Virtual Oce for V4 Digital Projects – first meeting, 26 May 2021, https://www.gov.pl/web/V4presidency/virtual-oce-for-v4-digital-projects--first-
meeting (access: 1/10/2021).
20 Program of the Presidency, p. 18, https://www.visegradgroup.eu/download.php?docID=470 (access: 1/10/2021).
21 Building Closer Connections. The Three Seas region as an economic area, Polski Instytut Ekonomiczny, Warsaw, August 2020, p. 8, https://pie.
net.pl/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/PIE-Three-Seas.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
22 Completing Europe: From the North-South Corridor to Energy, Transportation, and Telecommunications Union, b. m. w. 2014, https://www.ceep.
be/www/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Completing-Europe_Report.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
23 Wspólna deklaracja w sprawie Inicjatywy Trójmorza, 25 August 2016, https://www.prezydent.pl/aktualnosci/wizyty-zagraniczne/art,105,wspolna-
deklaracja-w-sprawie-inicjatywy-trojmorza.html (access: 1/10/2021).
inaugurated theoperation of this institution (it inc-
ludes coordinators appointed directly by the prime
ministers of each country)19.
The growing importance of digital issues can be
seen in the scope of the proposals contained in the
plans for 2021-2022 presidency presented by Hun-
gary. Thedocument announces thestart of discus-
sions on new initiatives in the field of digitization
and innovation, including: theVisegrad Advanced
Research Project Agency, V4 Innovation Research
Centre, V4Credit Rating Agency, Common V4 Ba-
sic Research Network and aCommon V4 Applied
Research Network20. Taking into account thehighly
consultative nature of Visegrad Group cooperation,
we will probably have to wait for the eects of the-
se proposals, butthere is no doubt that digital issu-
es have not only entered the V4 agenda for good,
buthave also become its important element.
Three Seas
Initiative
The ocial start of Three Seas Initiative was its first
summit, which was held in Dubrovnik in August 2016.
However as noted by the Polish Economic Institute21,
it is possible to trace its conception back to 2014,
when the ideas and foundations of this concept were
presented by two think tanks, the American Atlantic
Council and thePolish Central Europe Energy Part-
ners, inareport with the meaningful title: Finishing
Europe: from the North-South Corridor to energy,
transport and the telecommunications union22.
Thethree areas indicated in the text of the cited pu-
blication later became crucial for the 3SI countries,
which support and finance projects in the fields of
energy, infrastructure and digitization. The growing
importance of the digital agenda within the 3SI is
best seen in the findings of successive summits. De-
spite a shorter history than the V4, the issues related
to new technologies did not immediately become
key issues for 3SI countries.
The aforementioned declaration from the summit in
Dubrovnik in 2016, which launched the entire initia-
tive, emphasized the implementation of projects of
"strategic importance for countries involved in the
fields of energy, transport, digital communication
and economy in Central and Eastern Europe"23. Ho-
wever, there was no extra focus on the digital issue.
This trend was maintained during the next summit.
The second summit, which took place in Warsaw in
6
2017, was held under the slogan: connectivity, com-
merciality, complementarity. Inthe joint declarations
announced at the meeting, representatives of the
3SI states emphasized the importance of the invest-
ments in communication and energy infrastructure,
environmental protection as well as research, deve-
lopment and digital communication24. Some details
of activities of the Initiative, including those related
to digital issues, were developed during the Three
Seas summit in Bucharest in 2018. During the sum-
mit, member countries developed a list of 48 stra-
tegic projects25, which are to increase the quality
of their cooperation, clearly indicating three project
categories to be developed under 3SI – transport,
energy and digital. At the same time, projects impro-
ving communication on the north-south line were
emphasized26. A total of 10 digital projects (8 mul-
tilateral and 2 national/bilateral) were submitted,
unfortunately, as Bartosz Wiśniewski noted, "these
projects are not accompanied by precise implemen-
tation calendars or even estimated costs"27. In dec-
laration announced at the summit in Bucharest, the
intention was also expressed to establish the Three
Seas Initiative Investment Fund.
During the 2019 summit in Ljubljana, previous ar-
rangements were maintained28 and the process of
assessing the state of progress of previously repor-
ted priority projects was initiated29. Unfortunately,
the financing structure of some of them was descri-
bed as "uncertain or even unclear"30. In this context,
it is worth recalling Izabela Albrycht's remark that
24 The Second Summit Of The 3 Seas Initiative Joint Declaration, Warsaw 6 July 2017, http://three-seas.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/WARSAW.pdf
(access: 1/10/2021).
25 The Three Seas Initiative - Priority Interconnection Projects, 2018, http://three-seas.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/LIST-OF-PRIORITY-
INTERCONNECTION-PROJECTS-2018.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
26 Joint Declaration of the Third Summit of the Three Seas Initiative, Bucharest 17–18 September 2018, p. 2, http://three-seas.eu/wp-content/
uploads/2018/09/BUCHAREST-SUMMIT-JOINT-DECLARATION.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
27 B. Wiśniewski, Wymiar cyfrowy Inicjatywy Trójmorza, „Biuletyn PISM” 158 (1731), 26 November 2018, p. 1, https://pism.pl/upload/images/artykuly/
legacy/files/25104.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
28 Joint Declaration of the Fourth Summit of the Three Seas Initiative, Lubljana, 5-6 June 2019
https://media.voog.com/0000/0046/4166/files/LJUBLJANAJoint%20Declaration%202019.pdf (accessed: 01/10/2021).
29 Priority Interconnection Projects 2019 Status Report, Ljubljana 5-6 June 2019,
https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/1805a6e8/files/uploaded/Status%20Report%202019-online.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
30 Priority Interconnection Projects, 2019 Status Report. The Summary, Lubljana, 5 – 6 June 2019, p. 3,
https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/1805a6e8/files/uploaded/Priority%20Interconnection%20Projects%20-%202019%20Status%20Report.pdf
(access: 1/10/2021).
31 I. Albrycht, Cyfrowa przyszłość Trójmorza jest naszą teraźniejszością, b.m.w, 2021, https://trimarium.pl/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Izabela-Al-
brycht-Cyfrowa-przyszlosc-Trojmorza2.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
32 Joint Statement, Tallin 19 October 2020, https://media.voog.com/0000/0046/4166/files/FINAL%20Three%20Seas%20Joint%20Statement.pdf
(access: 1/10/2021).
33 Smart Conectivity. Vision Paper, Estonia 2020, https://media.voog.com/0000/0046/4166/files/Smart_Connectivity.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
34 Joint Declaration of the Sixth Summit of the Three Seas Initiative, Sofia 8–9 July 2021,
https://3seas.eu/event/joint-declaration-of-the-sixth-summit-of-the-three-seas-initiative (access: 1/10/2021).
two years after theestablishment of 3SI, not one of
the priority projects included a digital component31.
Fortunately, the situation slowly began to change.
The statement published in 2020 during theVirtual
Summit in Tallinn32 retained the declaration regar-
ding the transformation of 3SI into an organization
that will be a tool for solving practical problems in
the region. At the same time, all parties confirmed
the importance the Three Seas Initiative Investment
Fund. The summit was held under the smart con-
nectivity slogan pointing to the importance of digital
elements, which was expanded in the programming
documents33. In this concept the creation and disse-
mination of common digital standards enabling the
interoperability of systems was the most important
issue. Itwas recognized that one cannot limit oneself
to thedigitization of processes, themere fact of col-
lecting data is also insucient, a competitive advan-
tage is only built from the moment when various data
can be combined and analysed, anddecisions can
be made on this basis. Inother words, wise use of
data should apply to each of the priority projects
implemented under the 3SI, soas to create oppor-
tunities for new business models. The document
also emphasizes themeaning of environmental pro-
tection, including prosumer solutions in theenergy
sector. In the declaration, after subsequent summit
of theInitiative in Sofia in 2021, all previous arrange-
ments were maintained34. Lithuania will host the next
3SI forum in2022.
7
Three Seas Initiative
digital projects
35 Status Report of 2021, b.m. and d.w., https://projects.3seas.eu/report (access: 1/10/2021).
36 In 2020 it was as follows: transport – 51%, energy – 32% and digital – 17%. It should be noted that some belong to two categories
simultaneously, and the change in relation to 2021 is due to the fact that many energy-related projects have been submitted.
37 The National Framework Programme for the Development of Broadband Backhaul Infrastructure in Areas Lacking Sucient Commercial Interest
for Investments, ONP.
38 Projects Development of Cross-Border Network of Data Centres.
39 5G Cross border transport corridors for connected and automated mobility (CAM) in Baltics (Via-Baltica/Rail-Baltica).
40 Development of Cross-Border Optical Fibre Network.
41 Development of High-Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure, establishment and operation of HPC ecosystem in the CEE-n region.
42 The 3 Seas Digital Highway.
43 BGK: potrzeba 600 mld EUR na infrastrukturę w regionie Trójmorza, 15 May 2021,
https://www.pap.pl/mediaroom/874837%2Cbgk-potrzeba-600-mld-eur-na-infrastrukture-w-regionie-trojmorza.html (access: 1/10/2021).
44 Of which expenses for the construction of infrastructure of regional importance may amount to approx. EUR 122 billion. Perspektywy dla
inwestycji infrastrukturalnych w Trójmorzu, b.m.w. 2019, p. 31, https://spotdata.pl/research/download/73 (access: 1/10/2021).
The role that digital projects play in 3SI plans is well
reflected in the priority projects submitted along
with development of the Initiative. When the list of
the projects was announced at the 2018 Bucharest
Summit, it consisted of 48 entries in three catego-
ries (transport, energy and digital). After the sum-
mit in Tallinn in 2020, the list expanded to 77 items,
and in 2021 to 90 (with their total value increasing
from EUR 85.5 billion in 2020 to EUR 180.9 billion in
2021)35. In 2021, the structure of these projects was
as follows: 49% – transport, 37% – energy and 14%
– digital36. Among 16 digital projects in 2021, 3were
reported as inactive. Some of them co-existed with
transport projects (3 projects) and energy projects
(in two cases). The implementation costs of a signi-
ficant part of them have not yet been estimated.
Thebudgets of those for which it was possible to in-
dicate a specific value oscillated between EUR 2.5
and 101.4 million. It must be noted that the program
with the highest estimated budget37 was submitted
and fully financed by one country (Croatia). Out of
the projects implemented for a larger number of
entities, it is worth mentioning: the development of
across-border network of data centres38 proposed
by Lithuania, cross-border transport using 5G corri-
dors for connected and automated mobility in the
Baltic countries39, development of a cross-border
optical fibre network40; the project of infrastructu-
re development, creation and operation of an eco-
system of supercomputers/computing clusters in
the Central and Eastern Europe region41 submitted
by Hungary and the Polish digital Three Seas hi-
ghway project42. The projects quoted above prove
that countries in this region correctly defined their
deficits in the state of the digital infrastructure de-
velopment and opportunities related to the econo-
mic development. Nevertheless, the resources that
will be needed to implement these projects are si-
gnificant.
Established in May 2019 at the initiative of Poland
(Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego) and Romania
(EximBank), the Three Seas Initiative Investment
Fund is the main instrument for implementing prio-
rity projects. It operates as a private investment
fund - projects are assessed in terms of profita-
bility, but it is the financially committed countries
that indicate the key areas of investment, with the
investment having to impact at least two countries.
The Fund is supposed to combine public financing
from international financial institutions and private
funds interested in profit. Until mid 2021, 9 out of
12 member states have invested in the Fund. Ulti-
mately, it is to collect between EUR 3 and 5 billion
and support infrastructure investments worth up to
EUR 100 billion. The Fund is able to recapitalize pro-
jects with an amount ranging from EUR 50 million
to EUR 250 million. However, we should be aware
that the investment needs of the Three Seas region
by 2030 are estimated at almost EUR 540 billion
(EUR 290billion - road infrastructure, EUR 88 billion
- energy)43, and according to SpotData calculations,
the demand for investments in ICT infrastructure
in the Three Seas region will amount to approx.
EUR160 billion44. By May 2021 the value of the Fund
reached EUR 1.22 billion (including EUR750million
8
contributed by Poland)45. By mid 2021 three pro-
jects were completed46. Their importance may be
evidenced by the fact that in October 2020, the
U.S. International Development Finance Corpora-
45 Cyfrowe inwestycje podstawą rozwoju Inicjatywy Trójmorza, 10 May 2021,
https://www.gov.pl/web/dyplomacja/cyfrowe-inwestycje-podstawa-rozwoju-inicjatywy-trojmorza (access: 1/10/2021).
46 B. Daszyńska-Muzyczka mentions an investment in locomotive leasing, which concerns Poland and the countries of its immediate vicinity, a data
centre in Tallinn and solar farms in the southern Three Seas. Daszyńska-Muzyczka: Fundusz Trójmorza zgromadził już około miliarda euro, PAP,
19 July 2021, https://www.pap.pl/aktualnosci/news%2C907215%2Cdaszynska-muzyczka-fundusz-trojmorza-zgromadzil-juz-okolo-miliarda-euro
(access:1/10/2021).
47 DFC Approves Over $2.1 Billion in New Investments for Global Development, 10 December 2020, https://www.dfc.gov/media/press-releases/dfc-
approves-over-21-billion-new-investments-global-development (access: 1/10/2021)
48 IMD World Digital Competitivness Ranking 2021, 2021, p. 30–31, https://www.imd.org/link/5963ef400b8d4cfe8d8f79c1f4f72bf4.aspx
(access:1/10/2021).
49 Rumunia wykluczy Huawei i Chiny z 5G, rząd w Bukareszcie przyjął ustawę, 16 April 2021, https://www.telepolis.pl/wiadomosci/prawo-finanse-
statystyki/rumunia-wykluczy-huawei-i-chiny-z-5g-rzad-przyjal-ustawe (access: 1/10/2021).
50 Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries, http://www.china-ceec.org/eng/ (access: 1/10/2021).
51 M. Przychodniak, Szczyt 17+1: kryzys we współpracy Chin z Europą Środkową, „Komentarz PISM” 13/2021, 10 lutego 2021, https://pism.pl/
publikacje/Szczyt_171_kryzys_we_wspolpracy_Chin_z_Europa_Srodkowa (access: 1/10/2021).
tion has approved an investment of $ 300 million
in the Three Seas Fund47. Over time, the American
involvement is to be worth USD 1 billion.
Challenges of digital
cooperation
The scale of challenges faced by countries of the
Three Seas region is well illustrated by the syn-
thetic data from the World Digital Competitiveness
2021 report, which analyses the competitiveness of
64 economies in the process of adapting to new
technologies as driving forces of economic trans-
formation. V4 countries occupied the following po-
sitions: Czech Republic (position 33), Poland (41),
Hungary (45) and Slovakia (47). One of the indica-
tors taken into account was also future readiness,
which de facto measures the potential of taking
advantage of the 4.0 industrial revolution. In this
category V4 countries occupied the following po-
sitions: Czech Republic (position 37), Poland (39),
Slovakia (46) and Hungary (61)48. It is clear that the
distance to be made up is large, and the coopera-
tion of the Three Seas and V4 states in the field of
new technologies will be one of the most important
elements in their mutual relations.
A strategic challenge, resulting indirectly from under-
development, is high direct mutual competition and
limited potential, which is not sucient for one coun-
try to become a leader in the field of new technolo-
gies on its own. Countries from this region that wish
to strengthen their own subjectivity, will be forced,
sooner than later, to make strategic choices, that will
aect not only their mutual relations, but also their
relations with major actors in the international arena.
Atthe global level, the dilemmas concern the attitu-
de of the 3SI and V4 countries to Chinese, American
and European technological solutions.
Dierent decisions of particular states, e.g. on the
strong exclusion of devices provided by Chinese
entities (Romania49) from their telecommunications
networks or a more open attitude to the Chinese
technological presence (Hungary, Slovakia), will
have political consequences and may negatively
impact regional cooperation in the field of new tech-
nologies, e.g. cybersecurity. Nevertheless, it should
be noted that the dynamics of China's cooperation
with Central and Eastern Europe countries (17 + 1
format50) is slowing down. This slowdown results
from the lack of interesting proposals from the Chi-
nese side and the growing distance between Chi-
na and some countries from this region which build
their security with the help from the USA (Poland,
Romania, Lithuania)51. At this point, it is also worth
noting that V4 countries are looking for coopera-
9
tion with technologically leading countries such as
Israel52, Japan53 or South Korea54, which, at least in
some aspects of the development of new technolo-
gies, can be an important source of alternatives to
the Chinese and American oer.
At the regional level, it must not be forgotten that not
all 3SI member countries have the same unequivo-
cally positive approach to this initiative. The distan-
ced position of Czech Republic and Slovakia, which
seem to prefer multilateral cooperation within the
V455, is noteworthy. The central question in this con-
text is whether V4 and 3SI countries are able to:
compete without sti competition (the example of
the Turów mine56 shows that there are areas in which
it is dicult). There are many cooperation areas, and
adopting a strategy that complements each other's
specialization, in the fields of specific technological
niches and human resources may be an opportuni-
ty. It would mean a complementary potential buil-
ding, in order to develop digital cooperation based
on the strengths of individual countries - using e.g.
Estonian solutions in the e-governance area, Slove-
nian blockchain implementations, Lithuanian fintech
experience combined with artificial intelligence pro-
jects developed in Romania57. Moreover there are
areas in the digital sector, where there are no signi-
ficant dierences, e.g. the need to develop a global
minimum digital tax model58. Thefinance Ministers
of V4 countries agree on thismatter.
52 See Ł. Ogrodnik, M. Wojnarowicz, Szczyt V4 + Izrael w Budapeszcie, 42/2017, https://pism.pl/publikacje/Szczyt_V4__Izrael_w_Budapeszcie
(access: 1/10/2021)
53 See V. Jóźwiak, Perspektywy współpracy V4 i Japonii, „Biuletyn PISM” no 121, 23 June 2021, https://pism.pl/publikacje/Perspektywy_
wspolpracy_V4_i_Japonii (access: 1/10/2021).
54 W. Przybylski, Dlaczego Korea Płd. inwestuje w V4? Chodzi o USA i Chiny, „Res Publica Nowa” 8 February 2021, https://publica.pl/teksty/
dlaczego-korea-pld-inwestuje-w-v4-chodzi-o-usa-i-chiny-68319.html (access: 1/10/2021).
55 See P. Bajda, Stanowisko Czech i Słowacji wobec Inicjatywy Trójmorza – od inaugurującego szczytu w Dubrowniku po spotkanie w Lublanie,
„Sprawy Międzynarodowe” 2020 t. 73, no 2, pp. 91–108, http://czasopisma.isppan.waw.pl/index.php/sm/article/view/992/794 (access: 1/10/2021).
56 Polsko-czeski spór o Turów, 17 December 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/poland/news/201217_poland_czechia_pl (access: 1/10/2021).
57 Digitalization in Central and Eastern Europe: Building regional cooperation, Atlantic Council, 2020,
p. 14, 16–18, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Digitalization-in-Central-and-Eastern-Europe.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
58 Joint Declaration Of V4 Finance Ministers On The Cooperation In The Financial Area, 4 September, p. 1, 2020, https://www.visegradgroup.eu/
download.php?docID=456 (access: 1/10/2021); Joint Declaration of V4 Finance Ministers on the Taxation of Digital Economy, 5 October 2018,
https://www.visegradgroup.eu/calendar/2018/joint-declaration-of-v4 (access: 1/10/2021).
59 The Three Seas Initiative, Congressional Reseach Service, 26 April 2021, pp. 1–3, https://sgp.fas.org/crs/row/IF11547.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
60 T. Żornaczuk, Niemcy wobec Inicjatywy Trójmorza, „Biuletyn PISM” 120 (1868) 22 August 2019, https://pism.pl/upload/images/artykuly/794e21aa-
cf9a-4849-b8c0-b352701382b5//1570910929759.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
61 A. Balcer, Polska i Trójmorze po Trumpie: szansa na nowe otwarcie?, February 2021, p. 6, https://www.batory.org.pl/wp-content/
uploads/2021/02/Polska-i-Trojmorze_Komentarz.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
62 K. Popławski, J. Jakóbowski, Trójmorze jako odpowiedź Europy Środkowej na globalne i unijne wyzwania, „Sprawy Międzynarodowe” 2020,
t.73, no. 2, p. 33, http://czasopisma.isppan.waw.pl/index.php/sm/article/view/984/790 (access: 1/10/2021).
63 https://cloudeurope.pl/cloud-community-europe-polska-dolacza-do-programu-gaia-x-cloud-community-europe-polska-joins-gaia-x-programme/
(access: 1/10/2021).
64 Chmura Krajowa, https://chmurakrajowa.pl/RegionGoogleCloud/ (access: 1/10/2021).
65 K. Popławski, J. Jakóbowski, op. cit., pp. 31–34.
The Three Seas project is in line with many US inte-
rests59, which is why it is judged with great distrust
by politicians of the so-called "Old Union", as evi-
denced by the gradual involvement in the 3SI su-
mmits of representatives of Germany60 and the
EU61, who want to control its activities. In addition,
the upcoming digital transformation should serve
the interests of Three Seas member states, which
may run counter to the interests of developed tech-
nology companies from the West of the continent.
Anexample illustrating these tensions can be the
Gaia-X initiative launched in 2019, which aims to lay
the foundations for the European data cloud. Ho-
wever, concerns are raised by the fact that the main
entities that make it up are 11 companies from Ger-
many and 11 companies from France62. Although the
Polish entity joined this initiative in June 202163, the
government in Warsaw decided to build its own na-
tional cloud infrastructure (National Cloud64) based
on close cooperation with American entities.
Moreover, projects loosening and modifying the
competition rules on the EU market may contribute
to the strengthening of the role of large Western
companies, which in the context of global compe-
tition with China and the US may be perceived as
a favourable phenomenon, but from the point of
view of Three Seas countries may mean the con-
solidation of development disproportions65. In this
context it is worth recalling the Manifesto on the
10
development of the Digital Single Market66, pu-
blished in September 2021 by CEE Digital Coalition
- a coalition formed in 2020 the, associating 14 or-
ganizations from the digital industry from 11 Three
Seas states. This document highlights the fact that
the new regulations may adversely aect the com-
petitiveness of technology companies from Central
Europe and the entire EU. The dierent specificity
of business models within the digital industry and
threats related to the promotion of legal solutions in
the EU (incl. Digital Service Act, Digital Market Act),
which would cover the entire industry, not taking
into account its diversity.
In this part of the continent investments in the ICT
sector were implemented to a much lesser extent
by private entities, therefore the natural catalyst for
change here are the actions and incentives from the
public sector. Cooperation in the field of digital pro-
jects faces many obstacles or is linked with many
challenges that arise from structural constraints in
specific countries - the structure of their economies
and low research expenditure, both on state and
private levels. One cannot ignore the fact that the
Three Seas region lacks influential native IT compa-
nies (with a range and resources significant in Eu-
rope). Moreover, in 2019 the V4 countries allocated
66 Towards the digital – CEE’s vision, 29 September 2021, https://cyfrowapolska.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/CEE-Manifesto2.pdf (access:
1/10/2021).
67 Grupa Wyszehradzka – 30 lat transformacji, integracji i rozwoju, Polski Instytut Ekonomiczny, Warsaw, February 2020, s. 6, https://pie.net.pl/wp-
content/uploads/2021/02/PIE-Raport-Grupa-Wyszehradzka.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
68 S. Szabo, Transition to Industry 4.0 in the Visegrad Countries, “Economic Brief” 052, Luxembourg 2020, p. 10, https://ec.europa.eu/info/
publications/economic-and-financial-aairs-publications_en (access: 1/10/2021).
69 G. Dall, D. Bartha, D. Bartha, B. Feledy et al., Our Future: Visegrad 2025, Visegrad/Insight 2021, p. 10, https://visegradinsight.eu/app/
uploads/2021/10/Our-Future-final.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
70 S. Szabo, op. cit., p. 5.
71 See Tambiama Madiega, Digital sovereignty for Europe, European Parliamentary Research Service, July 2020, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/
RegData/etudes/BRIE/2020/651992/EPRS_BRI(2020)651992_EN.pdf (access: 1/10/2021).
1.44% of GDP to research and development, with
the EU average of 2.2% of GDP67. In addition, the
lack of capital interested in investing in new tech-
nologies is a serious limitation - out of EUR 7.7 bil-
lion from venture capital funds collected in the EU
in 2018, only EUR 124 million were allocated to V4
countries (of which 70 million to Hungary and only
4 million to Slovakia)68. For these reasons, initiatives
undertaken by Visegrad Fund and the Three Seas
Fund may be an important element supporting the
cooperation in the field of innovative digital pro-
jects, but the funds allocated to their support would
have to be significantly increased.
However, in the near future, it is not only the infra-
structure that will be a challenge, but also the hu-
man factor. In this context the starting point for V4
countries in the field of digitization is well reflected
in the words of the authors of the report Our Futu-
re: Visegrad 2025: "the hardware layer of digitiza-
tion is more advanced than the software and skills
aspects"69. Only 3-4% of graduates are IT and tech-
nical graduates70, which, combined with the strong
phenomenon of "brain drain" will be a serious bar-
rier to the dynamic development of digital projects
in the Three Seas region.
Two final questions
The coming years will be crucial for the cooperation
that will develop between the Three Seas states in
the field of new technologies. One must remember
two questions that can serve as a kind of "cogniti-
ve filter" that helps to focus attention on processes
significant from the perspective of the future of
Three Seas states and their role in the European
Union. First of all, an answer should be sought to
the question of how and in what areas the countries
forming V4 and 3SI will build technological inde-
pendence - will the national, regional or European
perspective be the starting point? Secondly, what
will be the role of this region and the states that
make it up in the EU's struggle for digital sovereign-
ty71 - how companies from this region will compete
with entities from the western part of the continent
and what will be the share of entities from outside
the Old Continent?
11
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dr Błażej Sajduk
political scientist and historian of political thought, assistant professor at the Department of
National Security of the Jagiellonian University. His research interests focus on the ethical and
social dimensions of the use of the modern technologies (especially 5G and Artificial Intelligence)
and political analysis. Author of monographs and expert opinions, scientific and popular science
articles in the field of contemporary political science and international relations as well as
academic didactics and Polish political thought.
Ministry
of Foreign Aairs
Republic of Poland
Publication prepared as part of the project Regional position of Poland in times of global tensions and rivalry co-financed
by the Ministry of Foreign Aairs of the Republic of Poland under the "Public Diplomacy 2021" grants
Jagiellonian University Polish Research Centre Fundacja Lepsza Polska
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
The Three Seas Initiative brings together countries that share a number of similarities in their economic structure, demography and place in the global and European division of labour. The intensifying rivalry between China and the United States and the transformation within the European Union (EU) create a need for greater regional coordination. A suitable use of the opportunities in the emerging new geopolitical context may contribute to eliminating the main development barriers in the region, as well as escaping from the peripheral position within the global economy. This can be achieved by strengthening economic connections within the region and between regional and non-European markets. This will require funds for significant investment in infrastructure. The Three Seas Initiative has the potential to be a platform not only to coordinate the region’s activities, but also to use the advantages of its geographic location to maintain its position as a driving force for EU development.
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