July 6, 2017
Polish President Andrzej Duda’s Three Seas Initiative project is a logical outcome of the European Union’s eastward expansion since the turn of the millennium.
To observers in the former Soviet satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe, the expansion of the EU looks very much like a “drang nach Osten” affair minus the tanks, that is. Even the French regarded this group of countries as lands to be conquered economically. Pascal Lorot, for example, one of the co-founders of geoeconomics, even wrote a book on the subject suggestively titled “La conquête de l’Est”.
Truth be told, ex-Soviet satellite states which have adhered to the European Union since 2004 have quickly become second-class countries within it. This is, by-and-large, a development I fully expected. As the Nobel-prize winning Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal pointed out in the seventies, from the association of a group of rich countries with a group of developing or poor countries, the latter would end up as the losers.
At the time the membership of the EU was restricted to Western Europe and Germany, things had worked out rather smoothly. Most if not all of its members were economically developed, former imperial powers, institutionally compatible with each other.
The EU’s new entrants since 2004, on the other hand, have a shared history of anti-imperialist struggles in their quest for nationhood that sometimes go back centuries. Some, like Poland, had even suffered partitions at the hands of all neighbouring empires: Austria-Hungary, Prussia and Russia. The countries in this group see their economic development stifled by Brussels’ over-regulation, their national sovereignty infringed upon in ways they cannot accept, and their future within the Union as a bleak one. These are but a few reasons why a closer integration between countries like Czechia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and ex-Yugoslav states makes much more sense now than it did in the inter-war period.
Still, in my view, Poland would be an unlikely nucleus for promoting closer economic, military and even political links between them. To be successful, the group has to shy away from including states like the Baltic republics, Ukraine or Moldova. The latter states have millions of Russians or Russian-speaking citizens within their borders and, short of resorting to Stalinist-era eviction solutions, these countries’ eventual adherence would prove poisonous to the entire group. Needless to say, Russia would strongly oppose the formation of such a group if the Polish-inspired drive to include the largely neutral countries on its border would somehow prevail.
And last but not least, Greece should also potentially be included as a member of the TSI, which would thus become FSI (Five Seas Initiative). Greece’s adherence would give the group increased international clout, an enviable geostrategic configuration and better access to the Mediterranean. As matters now stand, there is no love lost between the Greeks and the German-led EU officialdom.
In fact, the driver of such an integration project should be Romania, for strategic and historical reasons. The inter-war Romanian foreign minister N. Titulescu had succeeded in 1934 in merging the Little Entente (made up by Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia) with the countries from the Balkan Pact, which included Greece and Bulgaria. He was also careful not to antagonize the USSR, with which he signed a non-aggression pact.
Tragically, however, at this point in time Romania is unable to play such an essential role. Practically all the politicians we inherited from Ceausescu’s dictatorship – and Iliescu’s “original democracy” experiment – lack decency, credibility, vision, solid qualifications and political skill. Most of them are an illustration of the sociological nightmare of the worst who get on top, which makes it very difficult for the country to solve its internal woes, let alone participate in such a demanding undertaking.
The support of the United States, although not necessarily a military one, is a prerequisite for the successful completion of any of the above projects. It is no accident that President Trump gets a better reception in Poland than, say, Germany or Britain. The United States have themselves appeared on the world map after a successful war of independence, fought against imperial Britain.
If successful, the efforts of Central and Eastern Europeans to closer integrate their economies and markets and to build the needed physical infrastructure would also benefit the European continent as a whole.Florian Pantazi