Statement by Minister Soini at the Arctic climate conference

Statement by Mr. Timo Soini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland,
at the Arctic climate conference on Monday 31 August 2015, Anchorage, Alaska.

Secretary Kerry, Dear Arctic Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like extend my sincere gratitude to you, Secretary Kerry, for organizing this Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic. It is a welcome and timely initiative. It highlights the role of the Arctic states in the run-up to the climate conference in Paris.

I am very pleased to see so many of my colleagues here in Anchorage. This is my first opportunity to participate in an Arctic meeting, and I already feel that the Arctic states, the Permanent Participants and also Observer states are united by a common concern for the Arctic.

As Secretary Kerry said the threat is real, but it also provides many opportunities to work together to find sustainable solutions.

Now I would like to say a few words about Finland´s perspectives regarding cooperation and coordination in the Arctic region.

The first concrete result of the cooperation was the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy in 1991, when ministers of the eight arctic states signed a common document in Rovaniemi in Finland.

The Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy subsequently led to the establishment of the Arctic Council in 1996, and to a new era of arctic international cooperation between the eight Arctic states and the six indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

During the past two decades the Arctic Council has consistently pursued the goals set in the Ottawa Declaration. It has published a great number of high-level scientific reports on developments in the Arctic. 

The Council has provided a sound basis for political decision-making. It has also successfully concluded negotiations on two legally binding international agreements on Search and Rescue and on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response.

The achievements in circumpolar cooperation have been remarkable also during the past two years. The Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions will guide Arctic states and hopefully also observer states in this critically important area. The Framework Plan for Cooperation on Prevention of Oil Pollution from Petroleum and Maritime Activities in the Marine Areas of the Arctic will strengthen the implementation of the Agreement on Oil Pollution.

Looking back at the Arctic Council, its evolution as an international forum has been impressive. The institutional role of the Council has grown. It will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. No-one questions its role as the leading platform for Arctic issues. I am glad that the US has undertaken to strengthen the role of the Council during its Chairmanship.

Arctic cooperation could be described as a fruitful combination of interdependency, transparency and mutual trust. The Arctic continues to be one of the few stable and conflict-free areas in the world. We should make every effort to keep it that way.

Let me say a few words on emergency response, search and rescue and scientific cooperation in the Arctic.

In the field of emergency response Finland takes actively part in regional cross-border cooperation. The basis for this cooperation is the Agreement between the five Nordic countries on Rescue Cooperation as well as the Agreement between the Governments of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region within the field of Emergency Prevention.

Right now Finland is preparing for an international rescue exercise to be held in northern Finland in September. The exercise is based on a scenario where the resources of the Lapland Rescue Department are not sufficient to deal with the situation and assistance has to be requested from neighboring countries.

The scenario involves heavy rainfalls and a simultaneous mine accident. Flooding and the raising water levels cause serious damage to the road system leaving some areas isolated. The flood scenario is based on a real incident about ten years ago.

Although Finland does not have an Arctic Sea shoreline, we have a lot of experience in operating in severe snow and ice conditions in the Baltic Sea. After all, Finland is a country where most waterways are frozen every winter.

The Arctic Council Agreement on Search and Rescue offers a good opportunity to deepen the cooperation between the Arctic states. Finland looks forward to participating in the Search and Rescue exercise hosted by the United States in October here in Anchorage.

Finland welcomes the establishment of the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. It will facilitate the planning and managing of maritime rescue operations.

Finally I would like to say a few words about scientific cooperation in the Arctic.

Science knows no boundaries, and the issues of the Arctic region require sound and comprehensive research. This is something we cannot accomplish solely at the national level.

Arctic research is one of the success stories of Arctic cooperation. It has helped us understand the rapid changes facing the Arctic region. The Arctic Council is working towards a legally-binding agreement to enhance scientific cooperation even further.

Arctic research is of great importance to Finland and we are willing to deepen international cooperation in this field. I hope the agreement can be concluded in the near future.

Arktinen neuvosto
arktinen alue