Speech by minister Soini in the Munich Security Conference - Arctic Security Roundtable
Dinner Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini in the Munich Security Conference - Arctic Security Roundtable in Helsinki 7 May 2019.
Munich Security Conference Arctic Security Roundtable
Helsinki 7 May 2019
Dinner Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini
Ambassador Ischinger, Senator Murkowski, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to attend this Arctic Security Roundtable, organized by the Munich Security Conference together with the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
I can very well understand that the Munich Security Conference has decided to take a closer look at Arctic security, and has already organized a number of seminars in the Arctic countries. You are most welcome to do it now in Finland, and I can assure you that you come at a very special moment.
Today Finland concluded its two-year Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, and I handed the Chairman´s gavel to my good Icelandic colleague Gudlaugur Thórdarson.
It is not my intention to report on the proceedings of the Arctic council Ministerial meeting, except to say that I am very pleased that all Arctic States participated in the meeting with a high-level delegation led by their foreign Minister. This is a clear sign of the strategic importance of the Arctic region.
I am also pleased that we were able to sign a joint ministerial statement in spite of the generally difficult international situation and some different views regarding Arctic developments.
In addition I gave my own statement. This gives a good basis to Iceland to carry out the concrete work for the arctic.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finland´s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council was launched two years ago in the middle of growing uncertainties in international relations. The illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 by Russia and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine had led to the imposition of sanctions, which had become a new normal. The presidential elections of 2016 had resulted in the US informing that it will leave the recently signed Paris Climate Agreement, which complicated the situation even further.
The bilateral relationship between the US and Russia seemed at first to become friendlier than before, but it soon took a different turn, and this state of affairs was not changed in the bilateral Summit Meeting held in Helsinki last July.
Finland decided to go ahead with a Chairmanship program, which underlined climate change and sustainable development. We chose four priority areas, environmental protection, connectivity, meteorological cooperation, and education.
Looking back we can say that it was a program aimed at exploring common solutions, as the slogan said. Everybody supported them and we made quite a bit of progress in all areas. None of the priorities hit a political iceberg, not even climate-related activities.
It is now obvious that Arctic meteorological cooperation was raised by Finland at the right time, and it really became the crown jewel of our Chairmanship. Meteorological research, observations and services will be increasingly needed in the Arctic region when shipping and other activities increase.
It is important that the WMO and the national meteorological institutes are so ready to contribute to cooperation in the Arctic.
Another priority, namely connectivity, is proceeding at the speed of light. It is the prerequisite of all economically viable activity in Arctic, and now there are many options to improve, including new space technology.
Today the Arctic Council invited the International Maritime Organization as a new observer. Maritime expertise is also in great demand in the Arctic, and safe and environmentally sound shipping is in everybody´s interest. Here, again, timing is important. Maritime activities are a priority for the Icelandic Chairmanship.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to broaden the view from Arctic Council activities to developments potentially shaping the Arctic landscape in the coming years.
There is no doubt that climate change will cause fundamental changes to the region. Decreasing snow and ice cover, melting of permafrost and the loss of biodiversity on land and in the oceans will have a deep impact on human activities and our Tellus as a whole.
Traditional livelihoods such as hunting and fishing will be endangered, and that will above all affect the way of life indigenous peoples. Livelihoods will undergo a fundamental change also because of globalization. Investments in energy, connectivity and also tourism will increase. The question is how much the local inhabitants will benefit from new livelihoods. This is the key issue when we think of guiding the development of the Arctic region to a sustainable path.
It is not sure that the Arctic States are paying enough attention to these developments. It seems that they are not showing enough leadership, and I mean leadership in doing things together in the Arctic region and for the benefit of its inhabitants.
We are all aware of the concept of Arctic exceptionalism, meaning that the region is more or less immune to the turbulences of international politics in other regions. It is true that the Arctic States have common challenges and they are cooperating to meet these challenges. But it would be unwise to believe that our countries can continue acting like hotel guests, who hang a sign outside of their room saying: Please do not disturb.
The Arctic used to be one of the regions, where the arms build-up concentrated during the Cold War. It is questionable whether the region has ever lost this role, and a new build-up would put constructive cooperation in danger.
In recent years, the big power confrontation has unfortunately been showing signs of coming back. But we should be aware that the main dividing line in the future may not run between East and West, when non-Arctic States are beginning to knock on the door.
China is projecting its influence worldwide, and the Arctic region is no exception. It is true that China recognizes the Arctic Council as the main body for cooperation, but it adds that the rights of all states must be respected under international law and especially under the UN Law of the Sea Treaty.
Thinking of the relatively small investments of the Arctic States, based on expected quick returns, China´s long term Belt and Road Strategy may be very tempting.
It would be good for the region to raise Arctic issues in international forums to achieve the maximum degree of transparency. Non-Arctic States would have an important role in this effort.
Finland will have the Presidency of the European Union later this year. It is our intention to use the opportunity to strengthen the EU´s Arctic policy and increase its contribution to Arctic cooperation.