Big picture: Democratic Security


5 July 2021


Only Austria is considered a ‘true democracy’ based on the Economist’s Democracy Index rankings in 2020. Baltics generally do better than their Eastern European and Balkan counterparts, but democratic backsliding is widespread despite being more pronounced in some countries.

49% of all 3SI projects currently are Transport-related, dealing in such areas as roads and rail connections. This is by far the largest and most resource-demanding aspect of the Initiative.

16,540 million cubic metres — increase in the volume of imported Russian natural gas to 3SI countries between 2014 and 2019 — a nearly 50% growth in consumption. As the economies of Central Europe grow, the need for energy grows as well, leading to imports from outside the region, namely Russia.

49% energy dependency on average across the region with a steady increase since 2000 which was 44%. As economies grow, the need for foreign energy imports increases and the region needs to find supplies from outside.

51% 5G readiness on average throughout the 3SI in 2019. The highest achieving country, Austria is at 63% readiness and the lowest country, Bulgaria is only 45% ready. This is a stark contrast to Western European countries such as Germany, which score above 66%. As a benchmark of technological progress, it shows that the 3SI still lags behind its western counterparts.

95.9 billion euros have been secured for the projects of the Three Seas Initiative, this is 53% of the stated 180.9 billion euros cost of all projects currently part of the 3SI. This is a large increase since last year when the secured budget was only stated as being 10.26 billion euros.

9 Member States have contributed to the 3SI IF, the only ones left to commit are Slovakia, Czechia and Austria. 

200.606 billion euros in Cohesion Policy allocations to 3SI countries altogether. That is 54% of the entire Cohesion Policy allocated to the entirety of the EU. While showing how valuable development of the region is to the EU, it also shows the disparity between Western countries and the 3SI countries. For example, Austria only received 0.31% of the total budget while Hungary, its smaller neighbour, received 6% of the total.

43.784 billion US dollars in exports to the US from the 3SI region in 2020, by far, 3SI’s largest export market outside the EU. Exports to the US increased by 15.738 B between 2012-2020. 

17.419 billion US dollars in imports from the US to the 3SI, significantly less than imports from China ($70.941 billion) and Russia ($26.204 billion).

31.115 billion US dollar increase in the sum of Chinese imports from 2012, compared to a 3.712 billion US dollar increase of American imports and a 24.093 billion US dollar decrease of Russian imports. 

6 countries of the 3SI region belong to the eurozone. Croatia and Bulgaria plan to join by 2023, Romania by 2028; none of the three countries are members of the Schengen zone yet.

10 out of the 12 countries are part of China’s 17+1 initiative to foster development through more trade, investments and infrastructure projects. In 2021, Lithuania left the 17+1 format.

4 countries fell in ‘feelings of belonging’ to the West (compared to 4 years ago), while ‘feelings of betweenness’ grew in all 12 countries.  

32% decrease on The World Press Freedom Index for the whole region since 2013. 

4 out of the 12 countries are considered at high risk of low political independence of the media, according to CMPF.

7 points down on the Corruption Perception Index (Transparency International) for Poland since 2015. In 2020, the country scored 56 and ranked 45th — down from 29th, while Estonia was the only 3SI country moving significantly up from 23th to 17th place.

5 countries scored less than 50 Points on the Corruption perception index in 2020. 5 years back, only Bulgaria and Romania were below that level. Meaning that, since 2015, more countries tend towards the corrupt end of the spectrum than the clean side.

Figure 1: The Civil Society Organisation Participatory Environment score is shown from 2005 to 2019. The EU member states on average have declined according to this score, but when focusing on 3SI countries, some notable outliers can be seen. For example, Hungary’s continual decline since 2010 with the election of Fidesz. In Poland, we see a similar trend since 2015 which corresponds to the election of PiS.

2 out of the 12 countries, Poland and Hungary have experienced a significant decline in the rule of law score (WJP) in 2020 while, in most countries, it has stayed relatively static but not high, except for Estonia which experienced an increase in rule of law score. 

24% accounts for the average representation of women in parliaments across the region. Women account for barely 12.56% of Hungarian MPs while in Slovakia and Czechia they make up for 22.67% and 23% of the total MPs.

49.75 average media literacy rate according to the OSIS index which is a 2-point decline on average across the 3SI region since 2017, the largest drop in any part of Europe. The lowest media literacy levels in the EU are two 3SI countries, Romania (34) and Bulgaria (29). The highest in the 3SI is Estonia (72).  Poor media literacy is associated with a higher distrust in scientists and journalists; this translates to the current infodemic whereby Romania and Bulgaria have the lowest proportion of adults planning to get vaccinated (31% and 33%, respectively) and highest proportion of adults that believe COVID-19 is a hoax (30% and 17%, respectively). 

 28% and 17%  — Poland and Hungary respectively dropped in their freedom of expression scores since 2014. Most member states are split into two categories when it comes to freedom of expression, ‘open’ and ‘less restricted’, while the outlier Hungary falls into the ‘restricted’ category. 

.42 point drop in the 0-1 scale on the Civil Society Organisations Participatory Environment in Poland since 2010 from one of the highest in the region, 91% to 49%. The drastic decrease in Poland started in 2015 which corresponds to the election of the PiS government.

3 out of 12 states are below 50% CSO participation in government, with Hungary at only 26% (37 points down from 2005 the highest drop of any country since then)

45.77% improvement across the region in the cybersecurity index from 2014 to 2018. In 2020, Estonia and Lithuania made it to the top 5 of Europe’s most cybersecurity-developed nations, ahead of European G7 members like France, Germany and Italy. 

76.53 average score on the ease of doing business index near the OECD average of 78.4 and significantly higher than the global average of 63 either growing or stable since 2016. The highest performers in the region are the Baltic countries (average score of 80.83) and Bulgaria scores lowest with 72.

All trends explained in the full PDF version of the report


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