Report: The Three Seas Initiative and Complex Digital Challenges

Consequences for democracy and prospects for multi-stakeholder engagement

31 March 2023

The EU is in the midst of developing regulatory frameworks for new technologies and digitalisation, and the Three Seas countries have a strong interest in being active in such processes.

Three Seas states have innate interests in digitalisation as their economies and their place on the European political map depend on the success of their efforts to digitise their public administration, public services, the private sector and to respond to challenges related to cyber security and counteracting disinformation.

Crucially, to be champions in digitalisation, the Three Seas countries must seriously invest in democratic development. In addition, to ensure the independence of public institutions, they need to be more transparent and build an environment that fosters media pluralism amongst other areas.

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Executive Summary

Central and Eastern European countries are at a turning point in their digital transformation. Whilst some states in the region are already among the top European leaders in digitalisation, others have a chance to catch up quickly if they implement tech-friendly policies and establish frameworks that facilitate collaboration.

The region is particularly sensitive to political crises and their impact on the relationship between governments and citizens.

Thinking about digitalisation must be combined with building democratic institutions and protecting human rights. One of the top priorities for the development of the digital state must be greater transparency and space for the genuine involvement of citizens.

The issue of cyber security is crucially important for the countries of the Three Seas Initiative, and Russia’s attack on Ukraine has accelerated the already quite vociferous debate in the CEE region about the need to strengthen cyber security.

3SI countries should create a hub where institutions (not only public but also CSOs, media outlets and companies) might share best practices and be alerted by examples of emerging disinformation.

The Digital Services Act is intended to bring more transparency to the operation of online platforms, but the key to its success lies in the way it will be implemented in Member States.

Therefore, while implementing its provisions, governments should set up a transparent model of measuring the impact to monitor to which extent the aims of the Regulation were met.

Authorities need to ensure that the model of the body that is supposed to uphold the debate on online platforms is as independent of them as possible.

The development of innovation must be permanently linked to the quality of the education system. To have creators and innovators in CEE, the teaching needs to be about creating, not mostly about consuming digital goods.

Countries in the region are only now beginning to face the expansive model of digital markets. The impact of dominant market players is not yet fully visible. This is the right time to introduce regulations to protect markets and domestic entrepreneurs.

Countries in the region should keep an eye not only on transatlantic data transfer – but also on rules and implementation of personal data transfer to China.

3SI countries should support the training of journalists/influencers on digital privacy policy aspects.

The countries of the region need to prove that support for ethical artificial intelligence is not just high-flown buzzwords but a practical part of implementing strategies and policies. This could also be done by creating a culture of trust and transparency among AI researchers, regulators, and citizens.

3SI countries should double their efforts to offer possibilities for retraining for those whose jobs are taken away by AI. This cannot just consist of one-off training sessions. What is needed is the construction of sustainable education and labour market systems reforms that takes these changes into account.



This foresight report has been shaped by input from 169 civil society leaders from the twelve Three Seas Initiative countries, other EU member states and the US. The organisers have involved them through a dozen of interactive foresight workshops and offline consultation sessions.

Author: Krzysztof Izdebski


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