The Nordics - a driving force for innovation in the Arctic?

Arctic Frontiers, Tromsø, 23 January 2017

Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Frank Bakke-Jensen's speech at the launch of the Norwegian Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Dear Ministers, Secretary General, Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you all for joining us here today to kick off the Norwegian Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. As I myself have spent a good part of my life in the Arctic, it is a great pleasure for me to launch our presidency here at Arctic Frontiers.

The Nordic region, like the Arctic, is changing. Our climate, economy and demographics are changing. We face a tough process of economic transition towards a new, green and global economy. Sustainable and innovative business and industry must be at the heart of this transition – in the Arctic and Nordic region at large.

Our shared values provide a unique foundation for us to tackle these changes together:

  • Levels of optimism about the future are high in the Nordic region.
  • Our countries top international rankings for quality of life.
  • The Nordic region's economy is one of the most well integrated in the world.
  • We are each other's main trading and investment partners.We enjoy a high degree of mobility in the Nordic labour market.
  • Our region is also one of the most innovative regions in the world, as you will hear from our panel of experts later on.

But first, let me say a few words about the three pillars for our presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers:

  • The Nordic Region in Transition,
  • The Nordic Region in Europe

and

  • The Nordic Region in the World.

The Nordic Region in Transition is about leading the way in the global transition to a green economy. Only by working together can we improve our competitiveness, growth and welfare model: Working closer together on education, research and innovation. Intensify efforts to remove obstacles to Nordic growth.

Finding new ways of responding to demographic changes and the way we integrate newcomers. Working together to promote the digital economy. Addressing climate and environmental issues through cooperation.

Nordic cooperation must address the main challenges of our time in a strategic manner. It's therefore a pleasure for me to announce a new initiative in the climate and environment sector. This year,former Norwegian Minister for climate and energy Tine Sundtoft, will lead a strategic review of the Nordic climate and environment cooperation. The review process will lead to recommendations on how to develop the Nordic cooperation in this sector over the next five to ten years.

The Nordic Region in Europe pillar was chosen to reinforce our co-operation on European policy. A strong Nordic voice in Europe is good for the region and good for Europe. Membership of the EU and EEA means that the Nordic countries share a fundamental interest in the future of the internal market. We will focus our efforts on common interest. First and foremost, in climate and environment issues, energy policy and digital market policy. We will organize a Nordic-Baltic Ministerial conference in Oslo. Our aim is for the Nordic region to be one of the most integrated and competitive economies in Europe.

The Nordic Region in the World pillar will further develop our strategic foreign policy partnership. The Nordic countries have a long-standing history of working together on foreign affairs. Through shared values and interest, and close co-operation, we are able to exert influence. These are our priorities in 2017.

Let me end my remarks by thanking my Nordic colleagues and experts in the panel for their contribution here today. This is what Nordic cooperation is really about: supporting each other, exchanging ideas and working together to create value for all Nordic citizens; in the Arctic and beyond.

Thank you.