Speech/statement | Date: 09/05/2022 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt (Tromsø, May 9th)
Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt at the Arctic Frontiers conference 2022.
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You, know, last time I was in Tromsø, in October last year, I had been Foreign Minister for only 10 days. Here, I met with my colleagues Lavrov from Russia and Haavisto from Finland. We spoke about cross-border cooperation between Norway and Russia. And how Norway and Finland could increase cooperation on security issues.
Today the world looks very different. Cross-border cooperation with Russia is reduced to a minimum. Finland and Sweden may join NATO very soon.
I was in Kyiv yesterday. I saw some of the consequences of the war. It is devastating. And heartbreaking.
Russia’s invasion is a blatant violation of international law. It is a direct assault on the ruled-based international order that underpins cooperation across borders. And it affects cross-border cooperation also in the Arctic.
Yesterday we celebrated Liberation Day. When peace returned to Europe after a devastating war. That peace was shattered by Russia on 24 February. It will have widespread consequences for European security. And it will have economic and humanitarian consequences far beyond Europe.
Today, Russia celebrates the defeat of the brutal Nazi regime - the defeat of the war crimes they were responsible for. And as they celebrate, the evidence for Russian war crimes in Ukraine are increasing.
My Tromsø-meeting with Lavrov was in the margins of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.
That Council was created to promote peace and stability in the North. A true child of the post-cold war era. Tens of thousands of people have participated; many projects have been completed. Cross-border links have been created and maintained. Now, Russia’s actions have put a decisive halt to this achievement.
Activities under the Arctic Council are also on hold. For 25-years it has been a success. It has been the most important international meeting point on Arctic issues. The challenges in the Arctic will not disappear. They must be dealt also in the future. That requires multilateral cooperation.
Norway will Chair the the Arctic Council from May next year. Our preparations are underway. But it will be a very different chairmanship than we had anticipated.
Russia has been our neighbour for 1000 years. We’ve had a pragmatic cooperation, also in challenging times. For the last 30 years, we have deepened and expanded our relations. This has been in our common interest, especially here in the North.
Clusters of expertise on Russia have developed in the North. The success of Arctic Frontiers is a manifestation of what has been achieved. Many have invested their careers in this cooperation. Now, this cooperation is frozen.
Russia’s actions left us with no options.
Some limited practical cooperation with Russia will continue. Such as search and rescue, border control, sustainable resource management and nuclear safety.
Since 1991 there has been low tension in the high north. Now, we are required to increase our vigilance. Nationally and with our NATO-allies. The Government is therefore boosting defence capabilities and military presence in Northern Norway.
But our best defence investment is to continue to develop Northern Norway as a strong, dynamic, and highly competent region. I’ve said it before: without people no security, without security no people.
The situation in Finnmark, closest to the Russian border, is of particular concern. We will make use of the Green Transition to further strengthen infrastructure and services in the region. Job creation, education, and research shall create opportunities for young people. And a sustainable future in the North.
The firm European and Allied response to Russia’s aggression is a defining moment. We do not yet know the long-term consequences of the war. What we do know, is that the war has brought some of us closer together, others much further apart.
Thus, we are already facing a very different Arctic than the one we envisioned before February 24th. And that is why this year’s conference is so important.
Thank you for your attention.