Petar T. Ivanov: Three Seas Initiative gives growth opportunities for one of the most dynamic EU regions

There is no room for small dreams,” once said by Shimon Peres is fully applicable to the Three Seas Initiative and its economic impact on the 12 countries in this region, said Petar T. Ivanov, CEO, AmCham Bulgaria at the Mini-Conference “Equity for Infrastructure”, organized today by the Bulgarian Development Bank.

The Three Seas Region includes countries from the Baltic Sea, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, and Hungary. It has 30% of the EU population (111 mln people), has turnover of EUR 225.6 bn, and the average GDP growth over the past 5 years is 3.3%. This in an excellent base for attracting new investments and has huge potential for new growth.

“To explain what Three Seas is, I often use the comparison with the Marshall Plan which was launched in 1948 by the U.S. Government. With its USD 17 billion then, some significant part of Western Europe was rebuilt after the World War II. However, Eastern Europe didn’t benefit of it due to its belonging to the countries lock east of the Iron Curtain. So, if we want to reach the economic levels of Western Europe and to develop our economies and make our societies flourish, we need to attract investments if we play as one region and solid projects,” said also Petar T. Ivanov.

The economic perspective of the 3Si Region requires intensive capital investments in infrastructure: digital, transportation, energy. Moreover, we should not think that those three dimensions of the 3Si should be considered as separate ones. Digitalization and innovation can make us do a frog leaps and upgrade or build from scratch energy and transportation projects that should improve connectivity and energy independence of our countries. “There are at least EUR 600 billion to cover all identified needs of the region so far,” added Petar Ivanov. “For example, we have three super computers in Eastern Europe built with EU funds. However, they do not have tangible connectivity among them so far. In my opinion this could be solid potential project that funded by the 3SIF,” said AmCham CEO.

The projects that can get funding will pass rigorous assessment process by the Amber Infrastructure Fund, a consultancy body that evaluates if a project meets the Three Seas Investment Fund criteria. At first hand, startups can not qualify for funding since the 3SIF is looking for mature companies and projects with solid management and relisting business plans.

We should consider 3SIF as complimentary to the EU Relief Funds. However, I would suggest that any government should introduce and implement such projects, that could pass the assessment of the Amber Fund. The 3SIF criteria could serve as pro bono benchmark to create national growth. Thus, we could have not only absorption of EU funds, but we could recreate our economy with profitable and business-like projects,” proposed Petar Ivanov.

Thanks to the AmChams in Europe network, AmCham Bulgaria was able to engage with other 11 chambers of the Three Seas Initiative. “We expect my colleagues from those chambers to come to Sofia in July 8-9th and to bring their business delegations too. AmChams of the Three Seas Initiative represent innovative companies and they will come to Sofia. We plan with other AmChams to upgrade the 2019 Slovenia Declaration and will try to define our role in 3Si better,” described those plans Petar Ivanov.

At the end of the session moderated skillfully by Iliya Lingorski, Chief Economist of the Bulgarian Development Bank, made a dad-joke with one of the messages of Petar Ivanov’s presentation. On the slide titled “Digitalization” the word was carried over, and it looked like the letter Z is rotated letter N. Thus, we have Digitalization, that looks like Digitali Nation.

Photo Credit: Bulgarian Development Bank.

Photo L-R: Joe Philipsz, Amber Infrastructure Fund, Iliya Lingorski, Chief Economist, BDB, Petar T. Ivanov, CEO, AmCham Bulgaria

Watch Petar’s remarks at the Mini-Conference “Equity for Infrastructure”, May 18th, 2021