Interconnectivity - the goal of the infrastructure projects carried out by I3M

George Marinescu
English Section / 8 septembrie

Interconnectivity - the goal of the infrastructure projects carried out by I3M

The Rail2Sea project means the rehabilitation and modernization of 3,600 kilometers of railway in our country To ensure mobility in the military field, projects are financed in Romania that will lead to 1,700 kilometers of highway and expressway

Versiunea în limba română

The development and financing of energy, digital and transport interconnectivity projects, as well as ensuring cyber security, the creation of the Innovation Fund and the attraction of other investors in the projects carried out in the region, were the main topics discussed by the participants at the fifth edition of the Forum of Business of the 3 Seas Initiative (I3M), event that took place, yesterday, in Bucharest, after the I3M Summit that took place on Wednesday, September 6.

In the opening of the I3M Business Forum, President Klaus Iohannis told the participants that the platform aims to reduce the gaps between the East and West of the European Union and greater cohesion, prosperity and resilience in Central and Eastern Europe.

"One of the lessons of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine is that economic interdependence can be dangerously instrumentalized against us. That is why the development of strategic interconnections is essential for economic security and strengthening the resilience of the Three Seas Initiative space. In the current circumstances, strengthening civil as well as military connectivity between the north and south of the region is a major regional political objective. Increased mobility and better connectivity strengthen the Allied deterrence and defense posture on the Eastern Flank. In the context of the war against Ukraine, thanks to the strategic position of the Constanţa Port and the ports on the Danube, Romania turned into the largest European grain hub. Constanţa is also a benchmark for an emblematic infrastructure project of the Initiative - the railway called Rail2Sea, which will connect Constanţa with Gdansk. Via Carpathia is another strategic regional infrastructure project that must continue to be supported - a new motorway link between northern and southern Europe, linking the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda on the Baltic Sea with the Greek port of Thessaloniki, thus integrating the transport systems transport of the Initiative states. And the civil nuclear energy sector could represent a direction of strategic interest for the Initiative. Through projects such as the construction of reactors 3 and 4 of the Cernavodă Power Plant and the development of the first small modular reactor plant in Europe and the second in the world, Romania can become an important provider of energy security regionally and for the entire European Union," he said President Klaus Iohannis.

The head of state stated that this year, at the I3M Summit and the Business Forum, special attention was paid to cyber security.

"I am convinced that, in the current geopolitical context, increasing the degree of cyber security and resilience, as well as the development and interconnection of infrastructure and digital networks and services, have become emergencies that can no longer be postponed and that must be addressed in an integrated manner at the level of the entire region", said Klaus Iohannis, who showed that, in addition to the funds established by I3M, it is necessary to attract investors, so that the projects thought of are implemented quickly and efficiently.

For his part, Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said that the Three Seas Initiative "has become a shield for the defense of the future of our citizens, for the defense of our economies and, above all, for the defense of our security".

"We must act quickly and decisively to invest in our collective infrastructure. This will strengthen our region and contribute to reducing the gaps and in the context of the multiple challenges we are going through. We need to interconnect the region in the area of infrastructure, economy, common defense and digital and thus maximize the regional potential. Economic strength is essential to our security and to building greater regional resilience. In this sense, I want to highlight that the Danube and the Black Sea can be central pillars in the development of our region. I invite you to continue the implementation of ongoing projects, we consider road and railway infrastructure projects - Via Carpathia and Rail2Sea - as a priority, and to identify new large-scale projects aimed at developing the region. (...) The joint regional project for the future is to ensure that, in this area of Europe, we are able to take care of ourselves, to develop together in the European Union, to strengthen our role in NATO, to overcome our differences and to ensure the peace and stability of the region", stated Marcel Ciolacu.

The Head of Government also showed that the states participating in I3M represent a market of over 120 million people, that the region has a investitional's potential in news in infrastructure, energy and digitization of over 1,000 billion euros and that investments are needed in the priority areas of the Initiative: regional connectivity in ensuring the rapid transport of goods and services; renewable energy, in accordance with environmental protection standards; the use of smart technologies; increasing cyber security.

I3M - 13% of the Gross Domestic Product of the European Union

Andrzej Duda, the president of Poland, stated that at the moment the economies of the 13 member states of the I3M represent 13% of the total GDP of the EU and that the entire region has registered an average annual economic growth of 2.2% in recent years , which represents the equivalent of 800 billion euros.

At the moment, we have 91 priorities in the field of energy, transport and digitalisation, whose total investment value exceeds 160 billion euros. Entrepreneurs can be part of this process as contractors, subcontractors, suppliers of goods, service providers or maintenance providers and we encourage public-private partnership. (...) I3M has proven its instrumental role in ensuring favorable conditions for business to thrive. Despite the war in Ukraine, we continue to offer investors fair rates of return on their assets, skilled labor and stability resulting from our membership of the EU and NATO, Andrzej Duda said.

The President of Poland stated that there is a huge potential in the region for the development of green hydrogen production, that the implementation of SMR nuclear technology will significantly change the energy security level of the I3M region, which can also become a global center for digital infrastructure.

Andrej Plenkovic, the Prime Minister of Croatia, mentioned that 1/3 of his country's trade is with the I3M states and that it is therefore necessary to improve the interconnectivity to increase the common benefits.

For his part, Edgars Rinkevics, President of Latvia, noted that security and resilience remain priorities for I3M.

"We notice that the economic development, including in the defense area, enters optimal parameters. We must ensure that the security dimension is at the same level in all member states. Therefore, investment projects must also be approached from the perspective of meeting the needs of the military dimension in the region. The needs are broad, and financial instruments will play a strong role in the coming period," said the President of Latvia.

Gitanas Nauseda, the president of Lithuania, the country that will host the I3M Summit and the Initiative's Business Forum next April, noted that there is a need to defend critical infrastructure against external threats, and that is why there is a need for collaboration on the cyber security of the entire region .

"Strengthening NATO's Eastern Flank represents the consolidation of a transport system for military mobility and more. In this sense, we have the auxiliary projects Via Baltica, Via Carpathia and Rail2Sea, transport routes that will ensure that everything needed in the eastern area will get there in the shortest time", said Gitanas Nauseda.

"I3M seems to be an instrument that prioritizes the energy transition and that is why the projects for improving connectivity and the rest of the investments must have an innovation component, because they will be the result of the energy transition. (...) In this way, I announce a program of the US Executive through which we will support eligible Euro-Asian countries for the implementation of SMR technology, in the field of nuclear energy. I know there are many doubts regarding this technology. In the USA, Bill Gates is building an SMR in the state of Wyoming, and the SMR built by the NuScale company in Idaho is similar to those that will be built in Romania. Clean energy, green energy is the solution. I worked in the US Navy and had 120 vessels using SMR technology. We lost no ships and had no sailors irradiated. (...) We have the capacity to scale, to upgrade the energy, ecological transition, but greater efforts are needed in the next two years", said John Kerry, Special Representative for Climate of the US President, former Secretary of State in the Administration Obama.

Interconnectivity, a priority for the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Digitization

Present at the Business Forum of the Three Seas Initiative, Sorin Grindeanu, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, and Bogdan Ivan, the Minister of Research, Innovation and Digitization, presented the projects carried out by our country in road transport infrastructure to the investors who participated in the event and rail transport, as well as in communications infrastructure and cyber security.

"We have infrastructure interconnectivity projects that are ongoing. Among them are four new road bridges that will connect Romania with the Republic of Moldova and will join the four already existing bridges. We want to do them as soon as possible. I3M in the area of transport has two components, one railway - Rail2Sea which must connect the ports of Gdansk and Constanţa and another road - Via Carpathica, which should connect the north of Europe, from the Baltic Sea, to the south to Thessaloniki. These two major projects are proposed by Romania, but most of them can be financed from European funds. On our territory, we have in operation the three railway sectors that we know very well (ed. - Cluj-Bihor Diocese, Braşov-Sighisoara and Arad-Timişoara-Caransebeş-Craiova-Calafat), and on the road area we have the Oradea component -Arad-Timişoara-Calafat, which will be extended in Bulgaria towards Thessaloniki. On the Rail2Sea project, we obtained 80% of the necessary financing from European funds, and at this moment only 30% of the works are completed. The three railway corridors add up to over 3600 kilometers of railway. The Romanian road area of Via Carpathia totals 1,700 kilometers of highways and expressways. At this moment, for the respective section Oradea-Calafat we have secured 100% funding from the Transport Operational Program. We also have another component, which belongs to the EU military mobility program, known as Connecting Europe Facilities, which is accessed by us for the construction of infrastructure projects. For example, on the road area we have 120 kilometers that need to be completed between Oradea and Arad, for which the feasibility studies have been completed and the three sections will soon be put up for auction. On the Lugoj-Calafat section, which is 250 kilometers long, we assigned most of the projects for carrying out feasibility studies. The total value of these projects is 2.5 billion euros", said Sorin Grindeanu, Minister of Transport.

The communications infrastructure and cyber security will be implemented at a higher speed than the road and railway infrastructure, because the first represents the zero priority for what Romania means, the reconstruction of Ukraine and the protection of the objectives we have from a digital point of view, said Bogdan Ivan, the Minister of Research, Innovation and Digitization. He specified that in the digital segment Romania will participate in the digital interconnectivity of the I3M member states with two projects that exceed 200 million euros, through which a high-performance AI computer and a state-of-the-art supercomputer will be purchased, which represents the newest technology from the year 2023.

"This thing would place Romania as a regional technology and innovation hub that can be both a provider for the states in the region, and a hub that collects the most important technologies and ideas and takes them to the next level", the minister said Digitization.

The two projects will be financed from the Innovation Fund of I3M.

He also mentioned the projects for the digitization of public administration, among which is the creation of the government cloud, with our country having allocated over one billion euros from European funds.

"I hope that with the completion of this project, Romania will be a model for other countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world. The government cloud will make a transition not only for public services, but also for the market, for individuals, for companies and will constitute a bridge regarding closing the existing gap between our country and developed states. Today we signed a memorandum with the Republic of Moldova for the realization of digital interconnectivity, with the support of the IBM company, between the two states. The 13 member states of I3M each have their own unique agenda, opportunities and targets, but despite these I am sure that we have a strong common agenda aimed at changing the future. The fastest way to change the future is to invest in technology, innovation and digitization," said Minister Bogdan Ivan.

Green hydrogen production projects - attractive for investors

In terms of energy innovation, the green hydrogen production sector seems to be an attractive one for investors in our country. The call for green hydrogen projects launched by the Ministry of Energy will be very competitive, with 19 applications received so far, with the contracts to be signed sometime in early October, Minister Sebastian Burduja said at the Three Seas Initiative Business Forum.

"We are evaluating green hydrogen production. We received 19 candidacies, 19 applications (...) and we can't wait until the end of this month - as we asked - the experts of the European Investment Bank to complete the evaluation in the most objective and transparent way possible and to publish the list final of those with whom we will conclude contracts.(...) We relaunched the appeal because the European Commission explicitly requested us to do so. We have cancelled seven contracts, where the Romanian state was at risk of being sued, and we terminated them amicably, and I thank the companies that accepted the termination, without having any guarantee that they would win at the next appeal. As proof, we have 19 applicants and it will be a very competitive call. Of course, we expect the EIB to close the evaluation this month, it's an ambitious deadline, and to sign the contracts at the beginning of October at the latest", stated Sebastian Burduja.

The Minister of Energy mentioned that, if necessary, the budget allocated to this investment will be supplemented from other remaining amounts from the PNRR.

"This means the closure of this milestone and we will see if we need to supplement the budget allocated to this investment from other amounts remaining in the PNRR, in order to reach the target we assumed for hydrogen production. This is a technical discussion that we have together with the European Commission", said Sebastian Burduja.

Also during the Business Forum, Cosmin Ghiţă, the general director of Nuclearelectrica, announced the signing by the company of a Letter of Intent with the Investment Fund of the Three Seas Initiative to explore the possibility of a collaboration in the renewable energy production sector in Romania, in order to achieve common strategic objectives.

"Nuclearelectrica, by operating the high-performance units 1 and 2 of the Cernavodă nuclear power plant, represents a strategic pillar for Romania's energy security. Through the partnership with the Investment Fund of the Three Seas Initiative for the production of renewable energy in Romania, we want to further expand our contribution to energy security, energy independence and consumer protection in Romania", said Cosmin Ghiţă, general director of Nuclearelectrica .

The fifth edition of the Business Forum of the Three Seas Initiative brought together more than 1,000 representatives of the business environment, political and governmental decision-makers, as well as experts in transport infrastructure, digital infrastructure, cyber-security, energy and in obtaining financing from the funds European. Next year's edition will take place in April, in Lithuania.

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