The European society is currently going through a breaking point of questions of what Europe we want to live and of what Europe we want our descendants to live in. In the Light of the current Conference on the future of the EU that is organized by the European Commission and is aimed at every citizen to participate and not just exclusively to politicians, governments and other institutions, the significance of the debate on what Europe we want to have in the future becomes even more evident.
The conference should be considered as a unique opportunity to get the voices of people heard and, ergo, the voices of non-governmental organizations which are formations of the civic society. We should believe in a Europe of equal opportunities for everyone, in a Europe where everyone can be what they want to be and especially in a sustainable Europe.
Therefore, I was very delighted when our organization received an invitation to the NGO Partnership for Three Seas Initiative to create an association of non-governmental organizations that operate in countries of the Three Seas Initiative. Our organization was very keen about the idea as we have been trying for quite a long time to establish international partnerships, which was unfortunately hindered by the outbreak of the pandemy of the virus SARS-CoV-2. After this pandemy the world is slowly recovering and the best way for recovering is cooperation. Thus, international partnerships like the Three seas initiative have now even more opportunities to prove their importance and for further development.
The ideas of the Three seas initiative have been developing over the course of time at the summits, the most recent one being the one held on 9. July this year in Sofia, Bulgaria. Which ideas should be taken from these summits?
At the summit in Sofia, our presidents signed the Declaration to support the Paris Agreement which is an international treaty on climate change. Why is that important for non-governmental organizations? Their work as representatives of civic societies should become sustainable itself and oriented towards spreading the awareness of sustainable development, including all three aspects, i.e. environmental, social and economical. They are all important and cannot be separated from one another. If the declaration to support the Paris Agreement covers the environmental dimension of sustainability, then can the Initiative itself cover other two dimensions. For instance, lack of or poor transport connections, which is one of the common characteristics of Three Seas countries, results in unequal opportunities compared to the western part of the EU. Thus, initiatives that aim at establishing better infrastructure also, consequently, aim at social sustainability on the one hand and economical sustainability on the other.
The duty of politicians in the Three Seas Initiative is mainly located in the field of political collaborations, which encourage economic cooperations. These kinds of collaborations are important especially in terms of building infrastructure like the Via Carpathica that aims to go all the way from the city of Claipeda in Lithuania to Thesaloniki in Greece. However, the aim of the Threes Seas Initiative is also to connect the civic society and that is exactly where the potential of non-governmental organizations delves. It is important that the validation and appreciation for this joint initiative does not just come from the presidents of our countries, but also from our people. And that is definitely one of the numerous roles of non-governmental organizations – to promote the importance of establishing international cooperations. As we are all democratic countries, our representatives get elected by people and thus it is essential for a long-term approval to convince the people, who have the right to vote and are the core of our countries and societies.
Non-governmental organizations also have the power to share different types of awareness among our local societies, whether in terms of tolerance, green politics, cultural diversity and so on – all characteristics of a future Europe, I believe, we want to live in. Adding a multinational dimension to these topics raises their significance.
Why is it salient for non-governmental organizations to connect? I will try to answer this question from the perspective of our organization. Our organization is a student organization operating in a rural region. First of all, no single person is as smart as more people together, so we hope that in that way we will be able to introduce new good practices and thereby improve our work. We also believe we have been organising many events and projects that could be introduced in other parts of Europe. Furthermore, if Europe strives towards an open, connecting, tolerant and sustainable perspective, we have to introduce that in our local communities and regional settings, where, for instance, our organization operates.
To return to the Three Seas Initiative and its potential threats. Firstly, it is important that the Three Seas Initiative does not become a project of one country or in our case a project of our one non-governmental organization, but rather a project with equal contributions of all members. Secondly, I believe that at future summits there should be more national representatives from different spheres and spheres, including governments, economical spheres, and also, most importantly for us, social spheres. Thirdly, for an equal development of the whole area between the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Black Sea, it is important that future perspectives should also include countries that are not Members of the European Union. We could start that by inviting representatives of civic societies in the form of NGO’s from other countries, as social cooperation is sometimes easier than political or economical.
Taking everything into consideration, if the project of the Three Seas Initiative and our partnership within the initiative is going to be successful, depends on many parameters. However, if we work together towards a common aim, overcoming potential obstacles becomes easier.