A deal between a dozen countries in Central and Eastern Europe looks to move ahead this year – despite being ignored by the European Commission and unknown by others. Indeed, few outside the region had even heard of the initiative until US President Donald Trump addressed the group’s second meeting this last July in Warsaw.

Called the Three Seas Initiative (TSI), it links countries of the Mediterranean, Black, and Baltic Seas together. The 12-country alliance – Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia – believe that poor infrastructure has held back their economic growth.

While between them they hold 22% of the EU’s population, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, they make up only 10% of its gross domestic product.

The TSI aims to foster closer regional cooperation in building a network of highways, railways and gas terminals — a new connectivity architecture supporters say will better integrate the region with the rest of Europe. This can only help each of the nations improve their poultry/red meat export potential. Already Poland has become the leading poultry producer in Europe.

Critics question the need for such an initiative, especially one challenging the EU which is financing the lion’s share of the infrastructure projects. Others see Poland as trying to assert itself more on the world scene by becoming a regional power.

While economics is the main driving force of this deal, security is also part of it. Each of these countries suffered greatly during World War II, having the misfortune to be between the USSR and Nazi Germany. As part of the post-war Soviet Bloc (except for Austria), infrastructure was never improved, especially that going north to south. While these central states do not have to worry about the armies of Russia and Germany, they do have a real concern about being placed economically between the two giants.