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Opening speech at the Arctic Science Summit Week 2017 in Prague

Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Frank Bakke-Jensen's speech at the the opening of the Arctic Science Summit Week 2017 in Prague 31 March.

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Thank you for the invitation,

Many thanks to our Czech friends in Government and Acedemia for hosting the Arctic Science Summit Week 2017.

A special mention should go the University of South Bohemia which coordinates the conference together with the IASC.

We know that you take a keen interest in the Arctic. Probably ever since the fictional Czech explorer and inventor Jára Cimrman reached the North Pole.

Your presence at Svalbard since 2007 indeed serves as a prime example.

So do your high number of quality institutions involved in Arctic science and research.

I have also learned that Czech Government is pondering on whether to draft its own Arctic policy.

Which serves to prove my next point...

I would like to focus on three areas of great importance to the future of the Arctic.

Firstly, the importance of adherence to international law.

Secondly, the importance of strengthening international co­-operation in the Arctic.

Thirdly, I will focus on the importance of a science-based approach to the management of natural resources in the Arctic.

Finally, I will present some views on how the EU best can contribute to a sustainable development in the Arctic.

As for myself I was born 70 degrees north, but I think that the Arctic concerns all of Europe.

Because while the world is changing rapidly, the Arctic is changing even faster.

In the Arctic, global warming is taking place at double speed. Sea ice is melting. Fish stocks are migrating. Energy, minerals and shipping routes are becoming more accessible.

We must readjust our policies to the new realities – and to the new economic opportunities.

Not least must we avoid the conflict and tension that could be the result of these changes.

The Arctic is a region characterized by stability and peaceful co-operation.

The overall goal of Norway's Arctic policy is to make sure it stays that way.

This is a position that we share with all other Arctic nations.

In the Arctic, countries from three continents have found ways of working together based on common interests and respect for international law.

We are developing new knowledge, and we are building smart regional institutions like the Arctic Council.

The image of the Arctic as a future geopolitical hotspot is catchy. But it is far from reality, and not what we expect for the future.

In the Arctic, there are very few unresolved issues relating to jurisdiction.

The Arctic countries agree that the Law of the Sea is the legal framework for co-operation in the Arctic.

The five coastal states to the Arctic Ocean agree that overlapping claims to the continental shelf will be settled within the framework of the Law of the Sea.

This approach clearly reduces the potential for any future conflict.

We also make efforts for closer regional co-operation.

In 2016 we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council. It is one of several regional institutions in Northern Europe established in the aftermath of the cold war.

A robust Arctic Council - firmly supported by member states and observer countries - is a major contribution to continued stability in the Arctic.

One of the reasons for the Arctic Council's success is the fact that it gathers all key stakeholders, including indigenous peoples.

The Council has proven instrumental in finding common solutions to regional challenges.

The Arctic Council's studies have highlighted the speed at which changes are taking place in the region.

They have also provided input to international negotiations on climate change, and international agreements on mercury and persistent organic pollutants.

Two binding agreements have already been negotiated in the Arctic Council (one on search and rescue, and the other on oil spill preparedness and response).

A third agreement on enhancing international Arctic scientific co-operation, will be signed in May this year at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting, Fairbanks.

In the years to come, there will be increased demand for Arctic resources.

A growing global population will need more food, more energy, more minerals.

We must continuously identify greener, smarter, and more innovative ways to use ocean resources.

Economic development and environmental protection must go hand in hand.

The Arctic can help address many of these challenges. The blue economy holds great promise for new investments, growth and employment.

For Norway, the use of ocean resources is the very foundation of our economy.

About two-thirds of our export revenues come from sea-based economic activities and marine resources.

For decades, we have pursued an integrated, ecosystem-based management of our oceans.

This science-based approach safeguards biodiversity and ensures sustainable use of resources. It ensures that we can continue to harvest the ocean for not only the coming years, but for the coming centuries.

We have shown that it is possible to combine ocean-based industries – such as fisheries, aquaculture, shipping and energy – and a healthy marine environment.

Norway has since 1979 had petroleum activities in the Arctic. These activities are subject to the highest safety and environmental standards.

Sound resource management in this region is having positive social and economic effects, and contributes to energy and food security in Europe.

The European Commission and the High Representative published a joint communication on an integrated EU policy for the Arctic in April last year.

We welcome the EU's growing interest in the Arctic.

And we appreciate the EU's focus on advancing international co-operation based on international law.

Looking forward, I would like to highlight four areas where I see a potential for the EU to contribute to sustainable development in the Arctic.

Firstly by effectively dealing with climate change.

The EU has been in the forefront of global climate negotiations. We have the Paris agreement, but the job is not done.

We must now put into force effective measures to reduce global climate gas emissions.

Secondly we must join forces to reduce the pollution of the world's oceans that is causing so much damage to Arctic ecosystems.

I therefore welcome the EU's Communication on International Ocean Governance.

We will work together to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 14 on conservation and sustainable use of the oceans.

Thirdly we need more research on the Arctic – on everything from climate change to new trade routes opening up.

The EU is an important contributor to Arctic research through Horizon 2020. Norwegian scientists take active part in many of the programmes.

Fourthly: we need to further increase regional development in the High North.

We appreciate the EU's initiative to establish an Arctic Stakeholder Forum to enhance collaboration and coordination between different EU funding programmes.

Norway is a partner to the Interreg programmes that support economic development of the Northernmost parts of Europe, and will contribute to this process.

The EU's investments in telecommunications and space technology are also of great importance to regional development in the Arctic.

Concluding, I want to again underline the importance of science and research to increase our understanding of the complexity of the Arctic.

As we move forward in the Arctic, we must be guided by knowledge, responsibility, international co-operation and respect for universal values and principles.

I would like to wish you all success in your deliberations the next days.

Thank you.

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