STA, 3 June - President Borut Pahor will host on Wednesday and Thursday a summit of the Three Seas Initiative, to be attended by eight presidents of the member countries, the president of the European Commission and the US secretary of energy. PM Marjan Šarec will meanwhile host a business forum of the initiative, expected to feature more than 550 guests.
The 4th summit of the Three Seas Initiative, an informal forum of twelve EU members from Central and Eastern Europe, is one of the largest meetings at the presidential level in independent Slovenia.
Coming to Ljubljana are eight presidents of the member states - Rumen Radev of Bulgaria, Miloš Zeman of the Czech Republic, Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović of Croatia, Raimonds Vejonis of Latvia, Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania, Andrzej Duda of Poland and Klaus Iohannis of Romania.
Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen has excused himself because of the government crisis in Austria, as have Janos Ader of Hungary and Andrej Kiska of Slovakia. Hungary and Slovakia will be represented by deputy prime ministers, while Austria will be represented by its ambassador to Slovenia.
Coming as a guest of the initiative after visiting Slovenia less than a month ago is German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and US Acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker have also confirmed their attendance.
The summit will also feature the vice-presidents of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), Jürgen Rigterink and Vazil Hudak.
More than 130 representatives of governments and international organisations in total are expected to come to Ljubljana.
This summit is expected to be the largest meeting so far of the initiative connecting the countries on the Adriatic, Black and Baltic seas, whose beginnings go back to 2015.
The first summit of the Three Seas Initiative was held in Dubrovnik in 2016, followed by summits in Warsaw in 2017 and in Bucharest in 2018.
The initiative has enjoyed clear support from the US, with President Donald Trump attending the summit two years ago. What speaks about the influence of the US in the initiative are plans to diversify energy supply with liquefied gas from the US.
Many perceive the initiative as a counter-weight to the Chinese initiative 17+1, which promotes business and investment cooperation between China and 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and Greece.
The idea of the Three Seas Initiative is to strengthen regional dialogue and connect EU member states on the north-south axis through the promotion of investments in business, transport connections, energy infrastructure and digital communications.
Due to strong interest from the US, many initially perceived the initiative as an "American Trojan Horse" in the EU, but the initiative has since developed, according to its backers, into a regional forum of integration within the union, which is also important for strengthening the trans-Atlantic ties.
Since the initiative is becoming more important also from the economic aspect, as the member states are trying to promote strategic projects in the region, a business forum will be held in Ljubljana along with the summit.
Hosted by the Slovenian government and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), the forum is expected to feature at least 585 guests discussing energy, transport, digitalisation and innovation, and networking.
At the summit, the attending presidents are expected to adopt a statement calling on the European Commission to place emphasis on the investment projects promoted by the initiative. It is meant to call for a reduction of the region's development lag behind the western EU members, according to diplomatic sources.
The event will start with the opening of the business part, followed by a panel debate featuring all visiting presidents, the US secretary of energy and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. The debate will be moderated by President Pahor himself.
The panel debate is expected to discuss geo-political challenges of the EU between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas, the results of the recent elections to the European Parliament, and what they will bring for the future of the bloc.
The presidential meetings will continue behind closed doors in Brdo pri Kranju on Thursday, with Pahor expected to present the result of the talks at a press conference together with Duda, Iohannis and Grabar-Kitarović as the hosts of previous summits. They will be joined by Juncker.
The summit has attracted significant interest from the media, with around 170 media representatives from 50 media houses, including 30 foreign reporters, accredited for the event.