Opening speech at «Bluegreen economy»

Arctic Frontiers, Tromsø, 23 January 2017

Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Frank Bakke-Jensen's opening speech at the session "Bluegreen economy" at the Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø.

  • (Stephen, thank you.) Good morning to everyone. Welcome to Tromsø and to my home region! I look forward to our discussion here today about this important issue.
  • Ladies and gentlemen; I would like to use my opening remarks to focus on two issues: One: Successful international cooperation in the Arctic. And two: The international framework for ocean governance.
  • First: 80 % of our ocean areas are situated North of the Arctic Circle. The Arctic is therefore obviously important for Norway. We are a nation of seafarers and fishermen. Norwegians have lived off the ocean and in close contact with the ocean throughout our history. 2/3 of all our revenues originate from economic activity and resources from our ocean and our coast.
  • The Arctic is Norway's most important foreign policy priority. Natural resources, new trade routes, climate change and increased human activity have provided new challenges, opportunities and increased international interest for the region. For good ocean governance we need a robust and predictable legal and institutional framework. It is important to underline that this is in fact the case in the Arctic today.
  • Second: The coastal states bordering the Arctic Ocean agree that the Law of the Sea provides the legal framework for all activities in the Arctic Ocean. In our view, existing international law gives a predictable framework for addressing present and foreseeable challenges in the Arctic. The Law of the Sea (the Unclos) provides an integrated and predictable international legal framework for the sea areas in the Arctic, with a firm basis in the UN.
  • In May 2008 the five coastal states to the Central Arctic Ocean met in Ilulissat, Greenland. They signed a ministerial declaration stating that they will comply with the existing framework provided by the Law of the Sea, and that all overlapping claims will be resolved in an orderly way.
  • Let me also underline that there are indeed few unresolved issues of jurisdiction in the Arctic. In 2010 Norway and the Russian Federation signed a treaty on Maritime Delimitation and Cooperation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. This is an example of the practical application of the principles contained in the existing legal framework.
  • There have been no attempts by any party to resolve issues by force or threat of force. The oil and gas resources in the Arctic are mainly thought to be found in areas that are under national jurisdiction. All parties agree on the principle of responsible science-based management of fish stocks. Regional cooperation is essential in this regard. The Joint Norwegian–Russian Fisheries Commission and the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission are particularly important.
  • Third: We have a legal framework that all Arctic stakeholders follow. In addition there are well functioning institutions for the Arctic countries to discuss the opportunities – and the challenges - in the region. The Arctic Council is the most important arena for discussing Arctic issues of common interest, in particular how we address climate change impacts in the Arctic.
  • Nordic cooperation has also been strengthened and broadened during the past years. We are now looking forward to working with Finland as the new chair of the Arctic Council in May after the USA.
  • Our goal is to maintain the Arctic as an area of peace, stability, and international co-operation. Arctic states shoulder their responsibility. Respect for international law, responsible national management of resources and international cooperation are keys to a peaceful and sustainable development in this region.
  • To conclude; We have made the Arctic into an arena for cooperation between Europe, North America and Asia. We want to strengthen this positive development in the future.