Speech/statement | Date: 18/10/2021 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt (18 October)
The Foreign Minister's welcome address, as the leader of the Barents Council, at the political and digital meeting on education and research 18 October.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Friends of the Barents Region,
This meeting is my first as Norway’s Foreign Minister. And: my first in the capacity as new chair of the Barents Council. I can think of no better start.
Today’s topic – knowledge – is a high-priority focus area under the Norwegian chairmanship of the Council. Of course, the quest to find and share knowledge has always characterized the Barents region.
This morning, I want to highlight two individuals representing that thirst for knowledge. Mikhail Lomonosov from Arkhangelsk, one of the founding fathers of Russian science. And: the Norwegian explorer and scientist Fridtjof Nansen.
In different periods of time, they both looked to the North. And they both travelled in the region we now call Barents, to seek deeper knowledge.
In his work, Lomonosov made important contributions to education and many disciplines of science. Our friends from Arkhangelsk taking part in today’s meeting are carrying his legacy.
On a cold October day in 1895 – just like this one – Fridtjof Nansen’s polar ship “Fram” reached its northernmost point. Nansen and his captain Hjalmar Johansen did not make it to the North Pole as they had hoped. But the expedition penetrated further north than anyone had previously. And returned a year later with a treasure of new knowledge.
Both Lomonosov and Nansen were pioneers who also worked internationally. And Nansen was a peacebuilder who made a point out of speaking with people and using local and indigenous knowledge. Just like we do in the Barents cooperation. Some inspiring images to keep in the back of our minds during today’s discussions!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre likes to say that international cooperation in the Arctic is Norway’s most important peace project. Because peace cannot be taken for granted. Preserving the High North as a region of cooperation and stability is a key priority for the Norwegian government. It requires constant work.
Strengthening cross border cooperation on education and research in the Barents region is an example of precisely the type of political work that is required. The daily dialogue between education and research institutions is part of what makes the Barents cooperation a success story.
I would like to make two key points:
First: The North is rich both in natural and human resources. The new Norwegian government will focus on creating growth in northern societies. Climate change must be fought, placing the North at the heart of the green transition. Through cooperation with you, our neighbours, we can make it happen.
The Barents Member States must continue to share knowledge and experiences in order to find common solutions. We have a strong foundation to build on. Cross-border friendship and collaboration have been built in the Barents Region over more than 30 years. This has given rise to a wealth of wisdom and experience. The Barents Region has strong universities and networks of experts. They have worked together for decades - from Tromsø to Rovaniemi, Arkhangelsk, Kautokeino and Umeå.
My second point: the Barents region is not an isolated wilderness covered in snow and ice. The region is home to dynamic, vibrant societies where people live, work and raise their children. It is home to modern and robust communities with infrastructure, businesses, schools, football fields, concert halls and hospitals.
The Barents cooperation is all about making sure that our region stays strong and prosperous for coming generations. Knowledge is a crucial part of this work. We must ensure that young people are offered education and jobs that are relevant for the region.
I am very pleased that the Barents working group on education and research is now up and running. I trust that incoming chair Finland will forge ahead with this work with purpose and energy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The knowledge that Lomonosov and Nansen produced in the 18th and 20th centuries continues to influence science and research today. I am confident that the investments we make in strengthening cooperation on research and education in our region are worthwhile. And hope they will produce just as lasting impacts!
I look forward to our discussion. I am certain that our insightful speakers will offer advice that the Council members can bring to the ministerial meeting in Tromsø next week.