Speech by Minister Soini at the Arctic Council's Foreign Ministerial Meeting

Speech by Minister Timo Soini at the Arctic Council's Foreign Ministerial Meeting in Rovaniemi on 7 May

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Presentation of the accomplishments of the Arctic Council during the Finnish Chairmanship

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me now look back on what has been achieved during the Finnish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. 

Two years ago I asked, whether there would be smooth sailing ahead of us, or whether we would be facing a stormy Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. We have been able to sail together, perhaps we sometimes had windy conditions – but that is what keeps the ship moving. 

Throughout our Chairmanship, we have enjoyed the very cooperative spirit between the Arctic States and with the Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council. On matters related to the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, discussions with the Saami Council have been particularly important for Finland as the Chair. I would also like to note the valuable input of the Observers to the practical work of the Arctic Council.

As was shown in the video you just saw, we set four priorities for our Chairmanship: environmental protection, meteorological cooperation, connectivity and education. During the last two years, the Arctic Council has achieved tangible results in all these areas. 

The Arctic Council Working Groups have continued to produce important information on the state of the Arctic environment. They have provided us with up-to-date data on the rapid change of the Arctic climate and its effects on nature and people. The Arctic Council Working Groups and Expert Groups have produced recommendations on how to monitor the Arctic ecosystems, and how to reduce pollution and minimize the negative impacts of human activities on the Arctic environment.

During our Chairmanship, we have put emphasis on reducing the emissions of black carbon. During the last two years, the Arctic States, the Permanent Participants as well as many of the Observers have gained a better understanding of the issue of black carbon and the ways to tackle the problem. I highly appreciate this work. 

To accelerate the reductions of black carbon emissions, Finland has recently allocated resources to different regional and global black carbon reduction initiatives. In our opinion, the Arctic Council Project Support Instrument, PSI, is an important tool to work on practical projects. I am pleased to announce that Finland has decided to allocate one million euros to the PSI to support the cooperation of the Arctic Council Working Groups on the issue of black carbon and other types of pollution.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We brought meteorological cooperation as a new topic to the Arctic Council. Looking at the results achieved, I find that this was the right thing to do. The meteorological institutes of the Arctic States and the World Meteorological Organization have been ready to offer their expertise to the Arctic Council. I am pleased to see that the Working Groups as well as the incoming Icelandic Chairmanship have welcomed the opportunity to utilize this cutting-edge expertise in their work.

Improved meteorological observations help in enhancing climate science as well as in producing services that improve the safety of the people in the Arctic. This is particularly important in today’s situation, as more extreme weather events are expected to take place in the changing Arctic. We are likely to see more storms and flooding, as well as a growing risk of wildfires, which are now increasingly addressed in the work of the Arctic Council.

Enhanced weather and ice services are important for the safety of shipping in the Arctic. Human and environmental safety in shipping is one of the core areas of the Arctic cooperation. The agreements for Search and Rescue and Oil Pollution Prevention in the Arctic are in force, and practical exercises supporting these agreements have successfully been carried out during Finland’s Chairmanship. The Arctic Coast Guard Forum is playing an increasingly important role to ensure good cooperation for the benefit of safe shipping. The Arctic Council has also contributed to the harmonized implementation of the International Maritime Organization’s Polar Code.

Finland’s priorities of connectivity and education are key elements of the well-being of the people of the Arctic. During the Finnish Chairmanship, the Arctic Council has continued to seek solutions to improve connectivity in the Arctic. It is obvious that emerging technologies, such as new satellite technology, need to be applied. The Council has produced an excellent report with recommendations for future work to attract investments for improved connectivity in the Arctic. The Artic Economic Council is an important partner in enhancing connectivity and promoting sustainable economic development in the Arctic. The newly signed Memorandum of Understanding between the Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council will further strengthen this mutually beneficial cooperation.

All Arctic inhabitants deserve equal opportunities for education. During the Finnish Chairmanship, the Arctic Council and the University of Arctic have together put an emphasis on the crucial role of teachers and modern teaching methods to reach this goal. This is an important step to ensure that all children in the Arctic will have equal access to good quality education that takes into account the cultural and linguistic diversity of our region.

Colleagues,

The Arctic Council has achieved much more than this during the last two years. All the achievements are listed in the over 100-page Senior Arctic Officials Report to Ministers that will be presented for approval in this meeting. 

In conclusion, I would like to say a few words about the efforts to streamline the work of the Arctic Council.  We have already agreed to address the marine issues in the Arctic Council in a more holistic way. Until now, our work has not resulted in a general strategic plan. However, we have agreed on the need to continue strategic work and to review the different components of the Council. This way we can further improve the efficiency of the Arctic Council to fulfill its mandate. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank you all for the support you have given for Finland’s Chairmanship in the Arctic Council. The practical support from the Arctic Council Secretariat and its Director has been essential. The Senior Arctic Officials and the Permanent Participant Heads of Delegations deserve our appreciation for their hard work during our Chairmanship – and I must mention that some of them have worked for the best of the Arctic Council much longer than that. Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to Ambassador Aleksi Härkönen for being the skillful Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials during Finland’s Chairmanship, as well as to the whole Arctic team of Finland. I’m proud of you.

Thank you.