The Adriatic, Baltic and Black Sea region is Europe's "jugular vein" and its development will require 50 billion euro worth of investments, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Thursday while opening the Dubrovnik Forum with her Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda, who underlined the importance of energy projects and said that the next forum would be held in Wroclaw in 2017.
Twelve EU member countries located between the three seas - Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - have huge opportunities to strengthen their cooperation to their benefit and to the benefit of the entire EU, Grabar-Kitarovic said.
However, the region has been lagging behind the EU average due to historical reasons, she said, adding that the Baltic-Adriatic-Black Sea (BABS) region accounted for 28% of the EU territory and 22% of the EU population but only 10% of the EU's GDP. The region's average nominal GDP per capita is around 14,750 euros, which is only 51% of the average nominal GDP per capita in the EU, she said.
"For this jugular vein of Europe, 50 billion euros will be needed in the future," she said.
The investments will be possible to achieve through concrete economic, infrastructure and security projects, she said, calling for putting an end to negative demographic trends and warning about the problem of emigration of young and highly educated people from the region.
Polish President Andrzej Duda stressed the importance of joint energy projects. The domination of one supplier is harmful and dangerous for the region, he said.
He mentioned in that context a gas corridor between north and south Europe and a project for an LNG terminal on the northern Croatian island of Krk.
Nonetheless, energy infrastructure is not the solution to all processes, he said, calling for closer cultural and scientific cooperation too and for student exchange.
He thanked the Croatian president for her initiative regarding the region of the three seas, which, he said, matched Poland's position on the development of that region.
He said that the next BABS forum would be held in Wroclaw in June 2017.
The Dubrovnik Forum, formerly called the Croatia Summit and the Croatia Forum, is taking place on Thursday and Friday under the title "Strengthening Europe - Connecting North and South." It was first held in 2006, at the time when Croatia began talks on accession to the EU.
The current conference was also to be addressed by Presidents Janos Ader of Hungary, Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania, Borut Pahor of Slovenia and Rosen Plevneliev of Bulgaria.