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TSI summit from a Bulgarian perspective

The Three Seas Initiative and Portugal

Reflections on the practical benefits of the Three Seas Initiative

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The Three Seas Initiative summit and related side events took place in Sofia on July 8-9, 2021. The caravan of the 12 countries of the Initiative came to Bulgaria. The event was welcome for the host institution – the Bulgarian Presidency – as the Bulgarian President Rumen Radev was able to excel on its background. The same is valid for the interim government (between two parliaments) that organized the event and polished its image.

For most of the Bulgarian commentators, the summit and the initiative as a whole looked more like a reputational exercise, although some important private deals were signed and announced in the Bulgarian capital. The experts still view the Three Seas as a ceremonial initiative without a real (financial and administrative) leverage. They also point its geopolitical relevance as it concerns a region that is the field of interest to world and regional powers.

So, for some days the center of Sofia was closed to ensure the work of the distinguished guests with the argument that the Three Seas Initiatives is very important for the Bulgarian society. People were puzzled, because for most of them this meant (and still mean) nothing. The Bulgarian public opinion does not know much about the initiative. The politically active people (especially those from the nationalist parties) usually connect the expression “Three Sees” not with current politics, but with the cherished historical dream of generations of Bulgarian statesmen Bulgaria to border three seas. Do not worry, Bulgaria’s political aspirations never reached as far as the North Sea. Over the centuries, they have only ‘modestly’ reached the Adriatic and… Aegean Sea… This is a completely different maritime triangle, but the irony is that many Bulgarian citizens were confused that this was an initiative related to exactly this, so to speak, more Southern triangle.

It is not clear whether and to what extent the historical aspirations of the Bulgarian people have anything to do with thе modern Three Seas Initiative. But we will see in the coming years and decades. Whether something real in the economy and society will come out of all this, or whether it will be some secondary undertaking, legitimizing the so-called two-speed Europe. Or something in between.

In any case, Bulgarians will always be in favor of something bigger, something that sounds nice and attractive, and is overreaching to the territory of their own country…

Title photo: Presidential panel at the Three Seas Initiative Summit in Sofia 2021, www.president.bg

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