Croatia: BABS Forum Takes Charge Of Central-Eastern Europe Destiny

BABS Forum Dubrovnik 2016 From left: Presidents of Hungary Janos Ader, Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite, Poland Andrzej Duda, Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev and Slovenia Borut Pahor Photo: HINA

BABS Forum Dubrovnik 2016
From left First Row: Presidents of Hungary Janos Ader,
Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite,
Poland Andrzej Duda, Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic,
Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev and Slovenia Borut Pahor
Photo: HINA


The area of the Adriatic, Baltic and Black Sea is Europe’s lifeblood and around 50 billion Euros investment will be needed for its future development”, said the Croatian president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic at the opening of the Baltic-Adriatic-Black Sea (BABS) Forum 2016 with her Polish colleague Andrzej Duda in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on Thursday, 25th of August.

Twelve EU member countries– Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia surrounded by the three seas have had great opportunities to strengthen cooperation that would benefit not only these twelve EU country members but the whole European Union”, emphasised Grabar Kitarovic.

The presidents attending the round table debate called “The Three Seas Initiative” in Dubrovnik adopted a declaration constituting a political framework for support to concrete projects designed to help Central and Eastern Europe develop to the level of other EU countries.

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-KItarovic at BABS 2016 opening Dubrovnik 25 - 26 August 2016 Photo: Dubrovnik Times

Croatia’s President
Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at BABS 2016 opening
Dubrovnik 25 – 26 August 2016
Photo: Dubrovnik Times

In order to achieve the average of the European Union we must face a number of challenges, underlined President Grabar-Kitarović. Speaking about the challenges, the President referred to the demographic situation and issue of large scale emigration of young people, the new security challenges that face this part of Europe, the challenge of Brexit and centrifugal forces and fragmentation that can be felt in the European Union. ‘We have to prove to our citizens that the EU delivers on the issues vital to them: jobs, mobility and security. I would dare to claim that this Initiative can deliver on all the mentioned issues,’ emphasized President Grabar-Kitarović.
In that sense, the President emphasised key points of the Three Seas Initiative, an informal platform to strengthen the overall political, economic, infrastructure and security cooperation in authentic Central Europe. She spoke of the goals of the Initiative – to establish a framework for decisive action in securing political support for specific cross-border strategic projects of interest to the States involved, without creating a parallel structure to the existing European and transatlantic associations and mechanisms of cooperation. Further goals of the Initiative are to facilitate intergovernmental coordination and cooperation along the corridor Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea and attract the proactive engagement of the business community for innovations and investments,” says this extract of the Office of President Grabar-Kitarovic website write-up on the Dubrovnik Forum.
‘The Three Seas Initiative is an informal one, but endorsed nevertheless by those that hold ultimate influence in the region. Its purpose is, according to Grabar-Kitarovic, not disassociation from the EU but removing differences between the EU members that have enjoyed the benefits of democracy, freedom and free market for decades and those that joined the EU later.

The Dubrovnik conference also discussed challenges faced by the EU such as Brexit and global challenges such as the migrant crisis, security and Russia’s influence.

Dubrovnik Forum Three Seas Initiative discussion Photo: Screenshot Office of President of CRoatia

Dubrovnik Forum
Three Seas Initiative discussion
Photo: Screenshot Office of President of Croatia

This Baltic-Adriatic-Black Sea (BABS) 2016 forum brought together an impressive gathering of power and decision-makers – six presidents and high-ranking government officials from 12 EU countries located between the three seas (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) and also during the proceedings joined by non-EU countries Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. A panel discussion at the “Strengthening European energy security” looked at the benefits of energy cooperation in BABS and the role of LNG terminals linking north and south Europe.

Connecting the LNG terminal in Poland with one planned on the island of Krk in Croatia is among the energy projects that BABS region countries want to implement in order to boost competitiveness and development, Croatia’s president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, said addressing forum at the opening ceremony August 25.


President Duda pointed out the importance of energy connections. “The dominance of a single supplier for the region is harmful and dangerous”, he said adding that development of the gas corridor between the north and the south, as well as the LNG terminal on the island of Krk are important.

The next meeting of BABS will take place in Wroclaw in June 2017.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite at Dubrovnik Forum Photo:

Lithuanian President
Dalia Grybauskaite
at Dubrovnik Forum

Chinese and American speakers were also present at this Dubrovnik Forum. Chinese Ministerial Assistant for Foreign Affairs Liu Haixing in charge of Central and Eastern Europe region recalled that China was very interested in the development of the area. China believes it will serve her project of New Silk Road.

American General James L. Jones, president of Jones Group International and former adviser for the National Security of President Obama said that the development of the Three Seas Initiative must be an element not only for European development but also for security. General Jones stressed the use by Russia of her position as an energy supplier to increase her economic influence and to strengthen her geopolitical goals.

During the days of BABS Forum in Dubrovnik four countries Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro signed a memorandum of understanding with the executives of Azerbaijani oil and gas company SOCAR, which relates to the development of the Ionian Adriatic Pipeline (IAP)/ Trans-Adriatic-Pipeline (TAP) designed to bring gas from Shah Deniz 2 field in the Caspian Sea to EU through the so-called Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) after 2020.
Croatia’s economy minister Tomislav Panenic said that the future pipeline would provide gas supplies for south-eastern Europe. “We have defined our joint initiative for the development of the Ionian-Adriatic gas pipeline as a route that will make sure that these markets are provided with gas. We hope that this route will be a connection between the north and the south and that this may pave the way for a full liberalisation of the gas market in Europe,” he said, Croatian news agency Hina reported.

Dugopolje-Split Gas Pipeline works Photo: EVN/Seenews

Dugopolje-Split Croatia Gas Pipeline works
Photo: EVN/Seenews

In 2007, Croatia, Montenegro and Albania signed a declaration on the IAP, which is planned to carry natural gas from Albania’s Fier via Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Split in Croatia. IAP would be connected with the 870-kilometre Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which should transport gas from Shah Deniz II, Azerbaijan, via Greece and Albania and the Adriatic Sea, to Italy. The IAP gas pipeline, with a length of 516 kilometers, is planned to have a capacity of five billion cubic meters annually.
Serbia, although in the region in question where or around which these gas supplies into Europe are to pass, was not represented at this BABS Forum in Dubrovnik. Most media would like us to think that Serbia’s absence from this important forum was associated with the recently soured relations and political tensions between Serbia and Croatia due to recent vicious political attacks by Serbian leadership against Croatia. But I reckon, given that Serbia is and always will be very close to Russia – it did not hurt Serbia’s political arithmetic not to attend Dubrovnik Forum where matters on the agenda such as gas supplies posed direct threats to sizeable Russian gas supplies to Europe, in the foreseeable future. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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