In recent years, there has been growing momentum toward building stronger alliances and cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. As some have argued, particularly in the context of the , power in Europe is shifting to the East.
The proposal put forward by in Bucharest in March 2023 to develop a triangle of cooperation between Poland, Romania and Ukraine holds great potential for advancing regional security, economic prosperity and strategic influence. The strategic significance of the proposed triangle is undeniable.
and , as , have a shared understanding of the challenges posed by Russia’s aggressive conduct in the region and are united by a strategic partnership and great economic potential.
Their collaboration within the Bucharest Nine (B9) group — which is made up of members Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia — has proven fruitful in addressing these security concerns, coordinating with the United States and amplifying their voices in Washington.
A potentially formidable alliance of four
By extending this partnership to include and potentially (a key priority for Bucharest), the resulting rectangle could create a formidable alliance capable of addressing regional security threats and reaping the economic benefits of a common market with a population of 100 million.
Enhanced cooperation between Poland, Romania, Ukraine and Moldova would bring numerous advantages. Firstly, it would foster closer economic integration and trade, creating a new economic community in Central and Eastern Europe.
The foundation has already been laid
It is worth noting that Romania has already set up a trilateral format with Moldova and Ukraine, thus laying a foundation of cooperation that could serve a greater purpose. Yet a rectangular collaboration could attract more investments, promote economic growth and unlock the untapped potential of the region.
Additionally, joint infrastructure projects — such as transport networks and energy pipelines — would enhance connectivity and facilitate the movement of goods and people. This increased connectivity could strengthen economic ties, stimulate innovation and boost competitiveness in the global market.
This year, Romania will host Summit (3SI) and the 3SI Business Forum, which will give these countries the opportunity to show that they really do mean business — in the truest sense of the word.
Promoting democratic values
From a political standpoint, this rectangle could provide a platform for promoting democratic values and good governance. EU member Poland (hopefully, after fixing its tense relationship with Brussels) and Romania have valuable experience to share with Ukraine and Moldova on their .
The exchange of knowledge, best practice and technical assistance could help accelerate political and institutional reforms in these countries, ultimately bringing them closer to the . This would not only benefit the aspiring nations, but also contribute to stability in the wider region and invalidate the narrative that liberal democracy is losing ground in Central and Eastern Europe.
However, there are potential factors and elements that could hinder a fruitful engagement within this rectangle.
Obstacles on the road ahead
One major challenge is the ongoing war in Ukraine. The unresolved conflict poses a significant obstacle to cooperation, as it creates a hostile environment and raises security concerns. Any successful initiative would require a concerted effort to find a peaceful resolution and ensure stability in the region.
Poland and Romania should use their voices to advocate for more and faster Western military support for Ukraine, so that can liberate the occupied territories this year.
Diverging interests and priorities
Another obstacle lies in the divergent interests and priorities of the participating countries. While Poland and Romania share similar security concerns, Ukraine and Moldova face unique geopolitical challenges.
Irrespective of the outcome of the war, Ukraine will continue to deal with a revisionist Russia that will do whatever it can to undermine a Euro-Atlantic path for Kyiv and destabilize the rules-based international order.
Russian attempts to destabilize Moldova
Moldova is a key target for Russian destabilization attempts, given that Moscow is using hybrid techniques to seek to overthrow Moldova’s pro-European government. Fortunately, for now, the keeps these attempts at bay.
Overcoming these challenges and aligning strategic objectives could be complex and require not only a redesign of the European security architecture, but also massive economic resources and investments.
Concrete projects are key
To ensure the sustainability and success of this initiative, it is crucial to match its strategic value with concrete projects. Merely expressing intentions and aspirations will not be sufficient.
The rectangle should focus on swiftly agreeing on a list of key projects and implementing tangible initiatives that deliver practical benefits to all parties involved. These could include joint ventures in energy, infrastructure, technology, agriculture and other sectors. By demonstrating tangible outcomes, it could attract further support and gain strategic momentum.
Toward a flourishing Central and Eastern Europe
In terms of business potential, the rectangle offers vast opportunities. The participating countries have diverse economies, skilled workforces and strategic locations that could attract investment and foster entrepreneurship. By facilitating trade, removing barriers and harmonizing regulations, it could create a favorable business environment that encourages innovation, job creation and economic growth.
What Russia fears most — namely a prosperous Ukraine and an Eastern Europe where people live significantly better than in Moscow — could thus become reality.
By implementing tangible initiatives that deliver practical economic, political and security benefits, this triangle could foster regional integration, enhance stability and unlock the immense business potential of Central and Eastern Europe.
With a commitment to collaboration, a focus on shared interests and a determination to overcome challenges, this strategic East has the potential to reshape and eventually pacify the region.
Edited by: Aingeal Flanagan
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