Foreign Minister Haavisto’s greeting

Dear friends of the Barents!

Finland has the pleasure and duty to lead for the coming two years’ the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, following the successful Norwegian presidency.

I would like to thank Norway for its remarkable work that it did in the last two years despite the COVID crisis. Norway was able to change their presidency into a virtual format and keep it alive and progressing in a time when traveling and meeting people, one of the core essences for the Barents cooperation, was not an option.

It is both easy and challenging for Finland to continue on the path where Norway has led us. We will continue to focus on the three basic elements of the cooperation that all members share: environment, youth and transport.

The Tromssa ministerial meeting decisions give us a solid foundation to continue the work in fighting climate change and protecting the Barents biodiversity. We also have an obligation to continue dialogue with the younger generation of our Barents family to secure they future in the region, and we need to develop our connectivity in the way that it is environmentally sustainable and removing the barriers of remoteness.

Finland’s presidency is based strongly on local ownership, and a shared responsibility between ministries. The decisions from Tromssa to merge the working groups so that regional actors chair the working groups with our ministries is important, as our  actions need be in compliance with the wishes and needs of the local communities and the indigenous population.

In the beginning of next year, we will also have at our disposal a new mechanism - the Barents Financial Mechanism - that gives us new opportunities to implement small-scale projects by local communities and local actors. We have high hopes that this fund will boost the cooperation even further and bringing local voices even more strongly into our cooperation.

I would like to already now thank our co-chair the Nenets autonomous region for the intention to look for as much synergy between the two presidencies as possible. We are looking forward to this, and our ambition is to look for greater synergies between the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and other regional players, as well. We are particularly looking forward to possible cooperation with the Russian Arctic Council presidency and with the Northern Dimension partnerships.

Finland is also welcoming Barents observers to join our work for the benefit of all. There are plenty of opportunities available for our partners to find a constructive role in the projects that will be initiated during the Finnish presidency.

Work has now started. We are ready for the challenge and looking forward to the next two years and whatever they might bring. As they say, the events make the presidency. We have many events to offer to all of you. Stay tuned.

Pekka Haavisto

Minister for Foreign Affairs