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The Trimarium Great Game on the European Eastern border in the lens of the Italian media

Pace of development of the Three Seas Fund is the fastest in Europe

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Italy does not seem to take the Trimarium, or Three Seas Initiative (3SI), seriously. This might seem odd for various reasons. Firstly, as the project has important consequences for the EU as a whole. Secondly, as the project gives Warsaw, its main promoter, an unprecedented Adriatic dimension and if we consider how many kilometers of coastline the Peninsula faces it. However, traditionally, institutions, media and public opinion in Italy has paid very little attention to what is happening in much of Northern, Central and Eastern Europe. This state of affairs is to a certain extent understandable: Italy is immersed in the Mediterranean and is concerned above all with what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East, since it is fully aware of the consequences of the instability of those areas. The geopolitical and economical space that captures the bulk of Italian interest remains that of the old Europe and the opposite shore of the mare nostrum. Furthermore, it is widespread the not unreasonable belief that a large part of the national economic destiny is linked to the decisions that are taken by Italy’ most important community partners.

Nevertheless, the topic has surfaced in the Italian press here and there and Polish president Duda has even published an article in Sole24Ore (05-Feb-2021), one of the main national journal. But in what terms and which aspects of the Three Seas Initiative have been highlighted? If we read the articles dedicated to the topic, one thing catches the eye: the topic was addressed mainly from a geopolitical point of view in the perspective of the EU-US-Russia rivalry, in magazines or newspapers that deal with geopolitical topics, trying to look for the real strategies or the RealPolitik behind the declarations of the adhering countries. The region is read as a chessboard in which the conflicting interests of the superpowers, the true and only independent variable, move and interact with the different drives and ambitions of local governments.

In most Italian press articles, the Trimarium is understood as a plan with which the states of central Europe aim to gain prominence on the continental scene and born to break the physical-infrastructural connections that determine the dependence of the ex-Soviet bloc on Moscow influences, especially regarding energetic issues. There are many who emphasize that the initiatives of the countries of the Eastern belt of Europe correspond to a strategic design with defensive purposes. This fact leads critics to be perplexed about the plausibility of the activism of the countries involved, since, being members of the EU, they should have resorted to the envisaged “enhanced cooperation” procedures, instead of proceeding autonomously outside of the Community institutions. According to its promoters, however, the sole purpose of the Trimarium would be of an economic nature. Indeed, in an article on Limes, “The new longitudinal Europe:the Trimarium seen from Poland” (Limes no. 12/2017), an italian geopolitical magazine, according to Przemysław Żurawski vel Grajewski, coordinator of the defense and policy section of the National Development Council of Poland and consultant to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the initiative “has a purely economic nature”.

In the opinion of Alessandro Vitale (“It’s the economy, Putin. The Trimarium seen by the Baltics”, Limes no.12/2017), while responding to real needs of greater regional integration, the Trimarium is perceived as“conditioned by the geopolitical strategies of Warsaw ”. Poland’s strategy, according to Vitale, would today be re-proposed with greater vigor by all those member countries of the EU worried not only about Russia’s aggressiveness, but also about the identified danger “in the Kremlin’s effort to undermine Euro-Western cohesion to obtain concessions and strategic advantages in Eastern Europe”.

As explained to Linkiesta by Eleonora Poli – expert in Democracy, institutions and economic governance in the EU and in the Istituto Affari Internazionali – from an infrastructural and economic point of view, the Union itself could benefit from the Initiative given that economic development of the area would also have positive repercussions on the other member countries: “from an institutional point of view, the EU is moving towards differentiated integration. Although under the aegis of the European institutions, some countries have decided to cooperate with each other in specific sectors to grow economically and the ThreeSeas Initiative fits perfectly into this context”.

The Trimarium could also have some negative effects on the EU. The Trimarium agreement is perceived by critics, if not precisely as an act hostile to Europe, as a political agreement unrelated to the Union’s strategy and certainly harmful for some countries loyal to the project the political unification of the Old Continent (among them there is also Italy).The initiative involves those countries that are drifting from a democratic point of view and that could exploit the creation of an axis to the east to acquire greater legitimacy in the European context.

In the opinion of Germano Dottori (“The Trimarium damages Italy”, in Limes no. 12/2017), the Trimarium represents, for our country, “a challenge of a new kind. Although its main promoters are anxious to repeat that the new format is not a reformulation of the Intermarium project and does not convey any particular geopolitical ambitions, focusing mainly on the infrastructures of the participating countries, in reality the significant implications from a strategic and safety is not lacking. By making Poland on the Baltic, Romania on the Black Sea and Croatia on the Adriatic its pivots, the initiative of the 3SI seems in effect to aim at the reconfiguration of the entire internal architecture of European trade flows. By cutting out Germany, but not Austria, but Italy, which at this stage has chosen to be among Berlin’s most loyal allies”.

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are proving to be inveterate sovereigntists who – says Dottori– “actually look to Europe only as a framework within which to perfect the construction of their national independence”, so it is inevitable that the choice of promoting the 3SI initiative is perceived as an indication of the “willingness of its promoters to build a counter-altar”, destined, if not opposed, to reserve possible bitter surprises for the remaining members of the EU, such as that, for example, of to favour the policy of USA against Germany, at the same moment in which a greater commitment by Berlin is called to relaunch the process of political unification of Europe.

Title photo: Presidenza della Repubblica © Sergio Mattarella (Italian President of the Repubblic) and Andrzej Duda (President of Poland)

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