Minister of Neighbouring Area Cooperation Jan-Erik Enestam: Neighbouring Area Cooperation between Finland and Russia in the Forest Sector

North-West Russia Forest Seminar House of the Estates Helsinki, Finland 17 October 2000

Mr First Deputy Minister,
Mr Chairman,
Dear guests,

The purpose of our common seminar today is to view the overall results achieved and look in to the future of the cooperation between Finland and Russia in the forest sector.

The forest sector has always played an integral and important part in Finland´s bilateral neighbouring area cooperation with Russia.

Cooperation in the forest sector covers not only economic activities but extends to almost all walks of human life; anything from various needs related to sustainable forestry and the protection of the environment. We in Finland have learned to highly respect the experience, long traditions and knowledge the Russians colleagues do indeed have in this sector. For those reasons, it is important that cooperation is implemented taking note of the know-how present in Russia and together with Russian professionals. In this cooperation, Russian researchers and specialists are given the chance to access relevant Finnish expertise in forest research .

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, as the authority in charge of neighbouring area cooperation, has had two studies made in order to further develop forest cooperation. In close cooperation with relevant domestic and foreign partners, the Finnish and Russian parties have conducted a two-phased Joint Review of the Development Programme for Sustainable Forest Economy and Protection of Biodiversity in North-West Russia. In these studies, the parties take a look at the needs of the forest sector. The studies were made in close cooperation with a consulting company, which was responsible for cooperation with the Russian partners at working level. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, as the coordinator of international cooperation, has wanted to create added value to the bilateral cooperation through cooperation with international organisations and other international cooperation which can be made use of in the enhancement of bilateral forest cooperation.

Mr. Chairman,

While we consider it important to bilaterally advance our mutual interests, we need to see our cooperation as a part of the wider European and international cooperation. In this context, I want to note that the Finnish initiative for the Northern Dimension of the EU, developed by the Union, has become a concrete Action Plan, adopted by the European Council in July 2000. In the Action Plan for the Northern Dimension, the forest sector is considered to constitute one sector of economic cooperation.

The Finnish government has set the guidelines for neighbouring area cooperation in the form of specific strategies since 1992. A new Strategy was approved in May 2000, specifying the needs of partner countries as well as the strategies of Finland and the European Union combining the EU’s new Strategy for Russia, the amendment of the Tacis statute and the Action Plan for the Northern Dimension.

A bilateral plan of action for cooperation with Russia and North-West Russia in particular is been under preparation and will be adopted in the spring 2001 at deputy ministerial level.

In Finland, neighbouring area cooperation is valued as an integral and important part in the future development of our overall cooperation. As evidence of this, neighbouring area cooperation is governed by a high-level Cabinet Committee on Neighbouring Areas, led by the Prime Minister. We appreciate the fact that Russian counterparts have respected this joint effort as high level as well.

The Finnish -Russian Intergovernmental Development Commitee, chaired by vice ministers, is responsible for the overall development of this cooperation. The Committee consists of representatives from various ministries and from seven Finnish provinces. The Committee acts as a supervisor of four regional working groups, functioning in Finland and the Murmansk region, Finland and the Republic of Karelia, Finland and St. Petersburg, and Finland and the Leningrad area.

In Finland, good and transparent action on the part of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, responsible for the coordination, and other ministries is considered to be of the utmost importance. At working level, it is highly important that the ministries and respective partners conduct close and open dialogue among themselves, supported by an updated and transparent flow of information. The contribution by the business community to this cooperation is regarded as essential by the authorities. Support for the activities is sought from international agreements and organisations. An integrated and open cooperation with the Russian party is also an essential aspect of this cooperation which is meant to support the development of the Russian economy and forestry as one of its main sectors.

Mr. Chairman,

Bilateral activities are supported by cooperation with international financing institutions and organisations. In the annual conference of the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, held in Prague, there was a clear understanding of the role of non-governmental organisations in international cooperation. This can be seen in various programmes and statements made by these institutions in which also the so called soft aspects of development should be integrated as an essential element of the programmes both on bilateral and multilateral levels. The Finnish government wholeheartedly supports these features in the international field of cooperation.

I would like to emphasise that by enhancing cooperation in the forest sector bilaterally and through the European Union´s Action Plan for the Northern Dimension, Finland is prepared to actively participate, together with the other parties, in making the forest sector a more significant field of cooperation in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to wish a successful seminar day and believe that it will contribute successfully to the forest cooperation between Finland and Russia and our other partners.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman