Statement at the Arctic Frontiers conference 2023

Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt's statement at the Arctic Frontiers conference 2023 in Tromsø.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased be back at Arctic Frontiers and back in Tromsø.

Just two weeks ago, I attended Tromsø International Film festival. I saw the Icelandic movie «A letter from Helga».

I noticed that Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs received a special thanks in the closing credits.

I am happy to be able to convey these thanks in person today, Þórdís!

Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt
Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt at Arctic Frontiers 2023 in Tromsø. Credit: MFA/Tuva Bogsnes

Set in the dramatic fjords of Iceland, the film conveys the main characters’ attachment to nature. I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot. But sometimes, this attachment can be so strong that we choose the love for nature over another human being.

The passion for nature and exploring the outdoors has always united us here in the North.

One and a half centuries ago, that same passion led the Finnish-Swedish explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld on many expeditions in the Arctic. 

In 1879, he was the first to complete the entire Northeast passage – the sea route from Europe to the northern coast of Asia, that runs along the Arctic coasts of Norway and Russia.

Today, another Swede is crossing an Arctic frontier of his own. Sweden’s foreign minister Tobias Billström is attending this conference for the first time. I am delighted that you are here, Tobias!


When Nordenskiöld completed the Northeast passage one hundred and fifty years ago, his ship was stuck in the ice for almost ten months.

Today, his voyage would have been much less arduous.

For a deeply disturbing reason, namely climate change.

Last summer, researchers from Norway and Finland found that since 1979, the Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than the rest of the globe.

The rapid melting of ice is disturbing the environment and marine life in the Arctic. It is also affecting communities in the region.

It could get much worse.


It is easy to lose sight of these long-term trends when a full-scale war is raging in Europe.

Russia is inflicting unspeakable suffering in Ukraine.

As this audience knows far too well, the war has profound impacts also in the North. And for the dialogue arenas in the Arctic.

I am especially pleased, therefore, to see so such an impressive crowd here today.

This year’s participants include representatives from indigenous communities, researchers, policymakers, journalists, students and youth from no less than thirty countries.

This shows that Russia’s actions have not silenced the important conversations that take place at Arctic Frontiers.

Norway will continue to provide substantial military, economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine. For as long as it takes.

Our bilateral cooperation with Russia has been reduced to a minimum. Long-term joint activities have been put on hold.

The Russian regime is becoming more totalitarian and unpredictable.


However, we cannot change our geography. Russia is Norway’s neighbour.

We need to maintain some contact to minimise the risk of misunderstandings and unintentional escalation in the Arctic.

The situation in the north is currently stable. We see a large degree of continuity in Russia’s activities in the north. But things can change fast.

We are monitoring military activity closely. We are increasing our defence presence and coordinating our activities with allies.

We must be transparent and predictable.

Finland and Sweden joining NATO will benefit the Alliance and make our region more stable.

I am convinced that it will lead to further Nordic cooperation here in the north.

Not only in the area of defence and security.

But also in areas such as the green transition and infrastructure development. The high-level Nordic attendance here shows that my good colleagues share this view.


Finland is currently chairing the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, where activities without Russia are continuing.

We fully support Finland’s efforts to keep the Barents cooperation alive.

Norway is ready to take over as Chair of the Arctic Council in May.

We are doing what we can to ensure an orderly transition from Russian to Norwegian leadership.

Normal political cooperation with the current Russian regime is not possible.

Under our chairship, the work of the Arctic Council will reflect this political reality.

But we must make sure that the Arctic does not become the only region in the world with no effective multilateral cooperation.

The Arctic Council’s work on climate and environment is of great global importance.

The participation of indigenous peoples is a unique asset.

The actions we take today will have consequences for cooperation in the Arctic for decades.

A long-term perspective is essential.

It is our ambition as Chair to resume the work of the Arctic Council – and that means engaging with all of its member states.

I look forward to presenting the program for our Council leadership here in Tromsø in March.



In today’s unpredictable security policy landscape, we need resilient communities in the north. Ensuring that people can and want to live in the Arctic is more important than ever.

As I sometimes have to remind colleagues from elsewhere: the Arctic is not a museum.

Sustainable economic development and job and education opportunities will be vital – from a foreign policy perspective as well.

It is also vital that we maintain our focus on the green transition.

Nordenskiöld, the Finnish-Swedish explorer I mentioned earlier, was also a pioneer in terms of his concern for the environment.

On his first expedition to Svalbard, Nordenskiöld saw that greedy eider hunters collected the eggs and killed most of the birds.

In 1880, he wrote:

«If the hunters saved the birds, which they are now shooting just for their expensive feathers, and if they stopped collecting eggs from the beginning of July or took only the fresh eggs, perhaps the number of eiders would multiply.»

This is a fitting image for the long-term approach we should adopt to tackle the challenges that this conference so aptly sheds light on.

Thank you.