Speech/statement | Date: 21/01/2019 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide (Tromsø, 21 January)
'Rarely has the world been in stronger need of inspiration and evidence that international cooperation works. Let us show the world through examples from the Arctic - that multilateral cooperation is in our common interest', Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide said in her address.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a pleasure to attend the Arctic Frontiers conference, and to be back here in Tromsø.
It is no coincidence that the Arctic today is a region characterised by peace, stability and international cooperation.
It is a result of political choices. It is something we have worked hard to achieve. And, it is something we will work hard to maintain. Hard work and continuous engagement from all Arctic states bilaterally and regionally remains key.
The Arctic remains a top priority for Norway. A considerable part of our population – 10 % – lives here, and the region contributes significantly to the Norwegian economy. When I talk to my colleagues, whether as Defence minister or now as Foreign minister, I always show a map turned upside down to change people’s perspective.
This year’s Arctic Frontiers also marks the kick-off for a new white paper on Norway’s Arctic policy.
The white paper will be presented to the Storting in the autumn of 2020. It will outline the Government’s ambitions for a strong and innovative region. I look forward to a broad dialogue with local and regional actors on priorities and goals in this process.
The fact that we are five ministers attending the conference reflects the importance that this Government attaches to the Arctic region, and the wide scope of our High North policy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Close collaboration with our Arctic neighbours enables us to pursue common interests and solve cross-border challenges.
For more than 20 years, the Arctic Council has served as the key international arena for discussion and collaboration on Arctic issues. The Council provides a platform for addressing cross-border issues in the region.
It has been instrumental in developing new knowledge on climate change in the Arctic. And it has been setting the agenda when it comes to discussing the opportunities and challenges in the Arctic.
The Arctic Council has also facilitated the negotiation of three important, legally binding agreements between the eight Arctic states.
These agreements – on search and rescue, marine oil pollution preparedness and response, and scientific cooperation – highlight areas where cross-border cooperation is the way forward.
Under the steady guidance of Finland’s current chairmanship, the Arctic Council will present its first strategic plan at the ministerial meeting in Finland in May.
The plan will be an important milestone in the Council’s work. It will help to ensure that the Council can deal effectively with future demands and challenges.
In October, Norway will assume the chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. This forum has been a cornerstone of regional cooperation in the Arctic since 1993.
We will use our chairmanship to continue developing our relationship with our Nordic neighbours and Russia. The close involvement of local and regional actors in North Norway will be crucial to achieving these goals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Norway and Russia have a broad and longstanding cooperation in the Arctic. This cooperation continues despite our disagreements on other issues.
Our dialogue in the Arctic Council and Barents Euro-Arctic Council is constructive, and is supplemented by practical day-to-day bilateral cooperation in areas such as fisheries, environmental issues, nuclear safety, and search and rescue. A promising dialogue with Russia on marine litter in the Barents Sea and ocean issues in general is also emerging.
Our experience from these bilateral processes provides useful input to our multilateral cooperation in the Arctic.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to see that Senator Murkowski is attending this year’s conference.
Norway and the US have a close transatlantic bond. We share many positions on Arctic issues, such as the importance of sustainable resource development. This is vital for maintaining job opportunities and vibrant communities in the region.
Increasing regional cooperation between academia and business in the North of Norway and Alaska is a welcome expansion of our relationship with the US.
There is also growing interest in the Arctic from many countries outside the region. The Arctic is regularly on the agenda when I meet colleagues from around the world. We value this dialogue.
We need to increase global understanding of the impacts of climate change in the Arctic and the way global emissions are creating the dramatic changes that we are seeing here.
Many countries have leading research expertise and capacities in this area, and provide valuable input to the work of the Arctic Council.
There is also excellent research collaboration between Norway and several Asian countries on polar issues.
Some of the most dramatic effects of climate change in the Arctic are seen in the oceans. Our future depends on clean and healthy oceans – for food, for jobs, for energy, and even for the air we breathe.
Two thirds of our export revenues come from ocean and coastal based activities.
That is why the Prime Minister has taken the initiative to establish a high-level panel of 12 current world leaders for a sustainable ocean economy, and that is why Norway will host the Our Ocean conference in Oslo on 23. and 24. October.
And in August last year, the Prime Minister opened one important and strategic part of the Goverments’s focus on the oceans: The Center for Oceans and the Arctic here in Tromsø.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Recent history shows that we cannot take international cooperation for granted. Today’s challenges require more, not less, cooperation.
This is Norway’s approach in the Arctic. The Arctic Council, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and other regional forums, as well as bilateral cooperation, will remain key to securing a stable and prosperous Arctic governed by international law.
Rarely has the world been in stronger need of inspiration and evidence that international cooperation works. Let us show the world through examples from the Arctic - that multilateral cooperation is in our common interest.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to the discussions.