Greeting by Foreign Minister Kanerva at Barents Link Forum

The Barents Link Forum will be organised in Kajaani, Finland, on 15-16 May. Counsellor of Foreign Affairs Anneli Puura-Märkälä from the Finnish Chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council will address the event on 15 May.

It is a pleasure for me to convey the greetings of the new Finnish Government to the Barents Link Forum in Kajaani also in my capacity as the present Chairman of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. I thank the Joint Authority of the Kainuu Region for organizing the Barents Link Forum and for its active role in developing cooperation in the transport and logistics sector in general and in promoting the Barents Link corridor in particular.

The programme of the new Finnish Government pays attention to the Northern regional cooperation networks, such as the Barents cooperation, but also to the need to strengthen the role of Finland in the economic and other activities in the Northern areas. The governmental programme also emphasizes the importance of an efficient transport and logistics system and transport policies that promote sustainable development and safety of transport. Also energy considerations are important.

Finland is chairing at the moment the Barents Euro-Arctic Council that convenes every two years at the level of Foreign Ministers. All Nordic countries, Russia and also the EU Commission have been members of BEAC since its establishment in 1993. The Barents co-operation provides a framework for the promotion of dialogue and concrete co-operation aimed at strengthening stability, wellbeing and sustainable development in the Barents Region. A unique characteristic of the cooperation is the parallel cooperation structure also on the regional level, the Barents Regional Council, at the moment chaired by the Republic of Karelia.The close interaction between the governmental and regional levels is one of the strengths of Barents cooperation.

The promotion of sustainable regional development has been the leading theme during the Finnish BEAC Chairmanship and also in the success sectors of Barents cooperation, namely in the fields of environment, transport and logistics, economic cooperation and social and health sectors.

The good prospects for exploitation of oil, gas, minerals and other natural resources in the Barents area at the same time entail real demands for improved logistics, infrastructure and services. This situation is a challenge for the Barents cooperation. Projects such as Barents Link are needed to include the Barents region in the wider global network of economic cooperation.

The participants of this Barents Link Forum, covering the northernmost regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, their regional administrations, transport authorities and businesses are linked by the wish to further develop this important Northern transport corridor from the Atlantic Ocean through Russia towards Asia. Barents Link, cuts across from Narvik in Norway, through Sweden to Finland and crossing over to Russia through Vartius.

Barents Link has for years been one of the major subjects of the transport and logistics working group BEATA (Barents Euro-Arctic Transport Area) in the Barents framework. BEATA working group has promoted projects to make this Northern transport corridor a viable and well-functioning multi-modal transport corridor. The most successful of the projects is "the Sustainable Transport in the Barents Region" that has enjoyed EU Interreg funding for two consecutive financing periods.

At this Barents Link Forum I would like to stress the importance of the new enhanced Northern Dimension policy that was adopted at the Northern Dimension Summit in Helsinki on 24 November 2006 during the Finnish EU Presidency. The renewal of the policy means that the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland are equal partners in the common ND policy. The new Northern Dimension policy has significantly strengthened the possibilities of the Barents cooperation framework to contribute to the new ND policy, since the Barents region is named for the first time as one of the priority areas of the ND. Northern councils, such as the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, are named in the new ND documents as participants, who "identify needs for development and cooperation in their respective areas and support project implementation in different ways".

At this Barents Link Forum it is particularly important to note that in the political declaration of the new Northern Dimension policy it is mentioned that the desirability of the ND Partnership on Transport and Logistics can be examined in the context of the ND policy structures, inviting for this purpose also experts and international financing institutions. I am pleased to note that the Nordic Investment Bank has taken the initiative to organise an expert workshop on the possible ND Transport and Logistics Partnership in June. The Finnish Government supports the work to establish the ND Partnership on Transport and Logistics.

I would also like to mention that the Russian Federation has in its list of proposals for the new Northern Dimension policy included the Barents Link railroad corridor as one of the new future projects in the ND framework. This is a new and encouraging development that gives ground for optimism in developing Barents Link in the coming years into a central transport and logistics gateway, serving also the needs of developing global transport connections through the Northern regions. The further development of various horizontal transport connections in all modes of transport in the Barents region also get further encouragement through a wider examination of transport needs in the Northern regions. If the ND Partnership on Transport and Logistics is established, it can provide a suitable framework for the implementation of projects such as Barents Link.

I wish success for the work of the Barents Link Forum here in Kajaani and for the future success of Barents Link!

Address by Mr Ilkka Kanerva, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 15 May 2007, in Russian