Report | Date: 06/04/2001 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
nd Foreign Ministers´ Conference
on the Northern Dimension,
Luxemburg, 9 April, 2001
Norway welcomes the Action Plan for the Northern Dimension in the external and cross-border policies of the European Union. The Action Plan provides a broad framework for a common effort to develop the societies and economies of the countries in the region. The integration of Russia in the process of European co-operation and the extension of the zone of stability and welfare to the eastern part of our continent are fundamental aims of Norwegian European policy. We have consistently underlined the need for active involvement by the European Union in order to support these goals in the northernmost part of Europe. That is why we highly value the contribution of the EU Commission to regional bodies such as the Barents Council, the Council of Baltic Sea States and the Arctic Council. The challenges we face in the northern regions in areas such as nuclear safety, the environment and economic development require a broad international effort. For its part, Norway is ready to contribute to the ND as part of our policy of active participation in European cooperation.
In the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, Norway has developed a broad range of regional activities which are relevant to the ND, most notably in the fields of the environment, nuclear safety, energy, economic cooperation and health. Norway has also participated actively in the Council of Baltic Sea States. The Stavanger Conference of Ministers of Energy in the Baltic Sea Region was convened on the initiative of the Norwegian Government in 1998. The conference became the starting point for cooperation on energy matters in the CBSS. Following a proposal by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Baltic Sea States Summit in Kolding in April 2000, the eleven Heads of Government and the European Commission established a Task Force on Communicable Disease Control.
Norway appreciates the acknowledgement of the Arctic Window of the Northern Dimension as a reason for fostering close links between the Union and Arctic cooperation in the fields of environmental protection, sustainable development and research. The Arctic Council also provides a basis for developing a new type of transatlantic cooperation with Canada, the USA and Russia.
People-to-people contacts and cross-border activities are central to Norway’s regional approach. Norway supports cross border and subregional cooperation in the Baltic Sea region to stimulate collaboration between regional and local authorities. Effective and decentralized local government based on democratically elected structures are key requirements for promoting stability, economic growth and welfare.
Norwegian regions participate in several INTERREG programmes. All counties in Norway have the option of participating in projects within the framework of INTERREG.
Norway has developed a comprehensive programme for nuclear safety cooperation with Russia. Our approach is based on Russian priorities and our aim is to assist Russia in solving her nuclear waste problems in a safe and environmentally acceptable way. In particular, we have been focusing on problems relating to the safe handling of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste.
The Northern Dimension concept could serve to achieve better coordination and to improve the effectiveness of EU and Norwegian policy in the region. The infrastructure for defuelling and scrapping submarines and for treating and storing the resulting nuclear fuel and radioactive waste is still far from adequate.
We have given priority to projects focusing specifically on the management, storage and disposal of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel that would be suitable for a common approach within the Northern Dimension concept:
- Development of an international agreement on a Multinational Nuclear Environmental Programme for the Russian Federation (MNEPR)
The aim of this agreement is to facilitate and promote project cooperation between Russia and other countries in the fields of nuclear safety and management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. The agreement has been under negotiation for two years, and only a few issues remain unresolved. The European Commission and several member countries of the European Union are playing an active role in the negotiations, and we hope to conclude the agreement in the near future.
- Cooperation projects:
Building of infrastructure for the transport, treatment and storage of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste:
- a specialized ship for transportation of spent nuclear fuel
- storage facilities for solid radioactive waste on the Kola Peninsula
- storage facilities and containers for spent nuclear fuel
- Emptying and decommissioning the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Andreev Bay and Gremikha
- The "Lepse"-project.
Maintaining and developing viable societies in the North is a political priority for Norway. The region’s natural resources are of great importance to the Norwegian economy. The sustainable use of these resources is a basic principle in our management regimes. The management and protection of the seas is based on an ecosystem approach. Norway is actively engaged in bilateral and regional cooperation to prevent environmental degradation and to promote sustainable development. Close partners on Arctic and northern matters are the Nordic countries, Russia, the USA and Canada. We have a close cooperation with the EU on environmental policies for example under the Fifth Environmental Action Programme. Cooperation with Russia is part of the Sixth Action Programme "Our Future, Our Choice." In addition to cooperation in regional fora such as the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Arctic Council, which are geographically focused on the northern areas, the northern areas are given special attention in cooperation under global and regional environmental conventions and agreements, including those on climate change and long range transboundary pollution.
Norway has concentrated on the environmental sector in its cooperation with Russia, in order to focus on a few key areas of fundamental importance where high cost efficiency can be achieved. Our aim is to enhance the capacity of the Russian authorities and industrial companies to manage their own economic and environmental problems and challenges, for example using targeted training programmes to introduce modern methods and management instruments and practices.
Norway is presently chair of the environmental cooperation of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and will arrange a Ministerial meeting in Kirkenes on 20-22 August 2001. A document has been developed by the Barents Environment Working Group, which contains specific suggestions on areas for cooperation as a follow-up of the Northern Dimension Action Plan. High priority is given to cooperation under the Arctic Council's Environmental Programme. Special attention is given to indigenous peoples both in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Arctic Council.
- Cleaner productionprogrammes. Several cleaner production centres have been established in northwestern Russia to support the economic and technological development of Russian industrial companies and public utilities, as well as to assist the development of modern technical and financial consultancy services and environmental management systems in Russian business and industry.
- Establishment of an Investment Financing Facility for small and medium sized environmental and cleaner production projects in Russia, building on available financial instruments, such as NEFCO's Environmental Development Fund and Revolving Fund for Cleaner Production Investments, also including funds from TACIS (in line with the initiative by the Nordic Environment Ministers).
- "Hot spots" in the Barents Region. Modernization and reconstruction of major point sources of industrial pollution will be of great importance in order to achieve environmental results in the region. One of the major hot spots in the region is the Pechenga Nickel Mining and Smelting Combine, which has a major environmental impact in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
- The development of institutional capacity and rules and regulations for safety and environmental protection in the offshore sector, including contingency plans, are of vital importance for the development of the oil and gas sector in northwestern Russia.
- Management programmes for the environmental sector of the public administration at the regional level have been introduced and carried out in the form of pilot projects by the Norwegian authorities and by institutions such as the EBRD and the UNDP.
- Preservation of the cultural heritage. Present cooperation on cultural heritage is focused on the Solovetsky Archipelago with the Monastery, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- Cooperation to stimulate local action for protection of the environment . A separate network on Local Agenda 21 has been established. A separate network has been established among the indigenous peoples.
- An Action Plan to Eliminate Pollution of the Arctic (ACAP) was approved by the Arctic Council in October 2000.
- Conduct an assessment of the consequences of climate variability and change and the effects of increased UV in the Arctic region for the period 2000-2004 as agreed on in October 2000. (ACIA)
Successful exploitation of Russia’s vast energy resources is important in order to secure economic growth and to integrate the country’s economy into the international economy. The implementation of the Energy Charter and Protection Sharing Agreements legislation are key elements of structural reforms in the Russian energy sector.
There is a well-established framework for bilateral cooperation between Russia and Norway in this field. Development of energy efficiency demonstration projects, competence-building activities at the energy efficiency centres and information dissemination are key elements in Norway’s bilateral energy cooperation programme in the Barents Region.
The creation of integrated Baltic Sea energy markets, particularly in electricity and natural gas, will provide for the efficient production, distribution and use of energy and thereby reduce both the costs and the environmental impact. It will also enhance the opportunities for making increased use of renewable energy sources. Studies from the Baltic Sea Electricity Ring BALTREL show that decisions about technical connections involve huge consequences for investments. Similarly, the joint work of the gas industry in Baltic Gas points out the need for additional investments for further integration.
The Baltic Sea Region Energy Cooperation (BASREC) is in our view the most important energy project in relation to the Northern Dimension. The main focus of the BASREC project will be to contribute to generating a sustainable development, that takes into account environmental concerns within the framework of more integrated and deregulated energy markets in the region. BASREC needs further financing in order to be successfully implemented.
The deteriorating health situation and rapid spread of communicable diseases in the eastern part of the region is a serious barrier to cooperation and further integration.
During the Norwegian chairmanship in the Barents cooperation in 1998/99, health was chosen as one of the priority areas for cooperation in the Barents region. In order to improve the health sector in northwestern Russia, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in March 1999 adopted a Health Cooperation Programme in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region for the period 1999-2002.
This programme is based on bilateral projects and projects carried out by international organizations and non-governmental organizations. The projects must, however, fall within the programme’s five main areas:
- Combating new and re-emerging infectious diseases
- Supporting reproductive health care and child health care
- Counteracting lifestyle-related health problems
- Improving services for indigenous people
- Improving the quality of medical services
Within all priority areas, special attention is given to projects that focus on children.
The Barents Secretariat in Kirkenes has developed and is coordinating a database for information about the health projects in the Barents region, irrespective of financing source. This information bank will be used hopefully to help avoid overlapping in some areas and insufficient action in other areas.
The Prime Ministers and the European Commission established a Task Force on Communicable Disease Control at the Baltic Sea States Summit in Kolding, Denmark on 12-13 April 2000.
Barents Euro-Arctic Council:
- Implement the BEAC Health Plan
- Surveillance. The chief epidemiologists in the region are going to establish early warning systems that can alert health officials about outbreaks. They will develop compatible information and reporting systems.
- Tuberculosis. All prisons in the region will be offered twin prisons projects and a cost effective and internationally agreed programme for tuberculosis control.
- HIV. Low-threshold HIV support centres will be established in major cities. Treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and health education targeted at young people, sex workers and men who have sex with men are the core elements of an HIV control strategy for the region.
- Antibiotic resistance andhospital infections. More prudent use of antibiotics will be achieved through offering primary health care physicians and hospital staff training and twinning projects. Strategies for best practices will be developed through expanding professional networks and surveillance systems, and through cooperation on enforcing regulations on the provision of prescription of drugs. Twinning of competent reference laboratories, guidance and support from central government institutions, and planning and training are preconditions for effective public health practice.
- Primary Health Care. The Task Force will strengthen public health training linked to the strengthening of primary health care. The development of a Baltic Sea Region School of Public Health will be supported. Training and exchange programmes in primary health care, initially for 400 individuals, will be supported.
The Arctic Council has initiated several health-related projects. Projects have been launched on telemedicine, living conditions, infectious diseases and the health and well-being of the children and youth in the Arctic. The health of indigenous people is of particular concern in many of the projects.
Trade and investment
The recent Ministerial Conference of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, held in Murmansk on 14-15 March 2001, supported activities initiated by the member countries to enhance economic cooperation between Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Russian Federation. The activities include efforts to reduce barriers to border crossings and trade, studies to evaluate the investment climate in the Russian Barents region, and development of an action plan for the forest sector.
Norway has in particular encouraged the efforts undertaken to improve cross-border cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region. One of the basic conditions for dynamic cooperation is communication. In this connection, Norway has financed English language training for Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish and Russian customs officials. The language courses have helped to improve the understanding of regulations and cultural diversity in the different countries among the respective Government officials.
- The development of an information database, directed at businesses and the general public interested in updated information on trade regulations in Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Russian Federation.
Stimulating sustainable economic growth through increased trade and investment is an essential part of the efforts to secure peace and prosperity in the Baltic Sea Region. Both insufficient investment flows and underdeveloped trade, and an underdeveloped business environment in many parts of the region create major obstacles to exploiting the potential for growth in the region. This potential can only be realized through the reduction of existing barriers to trade and investment.
The ministerial conference on trade and economic cooperation in Bergen (in February 2000) agreed on an Action Plan for the period 2000-2001 to further remove obstacles and barriers to trade and investment. A report on the progress achieved during this period will be made by the end of 2001.
- Improving border crossing conditions for goods
Objective: By the end of 2001 the clearance time for border crossings should be less than 2 hours.
- Conformity in standards and certification requirements
Objective: To develop conformity assessment procedures covering the fields of metrology, testing, certification, accreditation and market surveillance in the region.
- Fight against corruption
Objective: To intensify the fight against bribery and corruption.
- Facilitating a favourable business environment for SMEs
Objective: To improve access to information relevant to SMEs and to develop regional networking on public policies regarding business incubators.
- Developing a Northern eDimension Action Plan
The objective: The CBSS decided in January 2001 to develop a Northern eDimension Plan. This plan should be developed, adopted, implemented and monitored in a process involving relevant actors in the region. A Ministerial Conference is planned to take place on 28 September 2001 where this plan is to be adopted.
Improving conditions for transport and transport infrastructure is of vital importance for strengthening economic links and increasing trade flows between the European Union, Russia and Norway. The Barents Euro-Arctic Pan-European Transport Area (BEATA) provides the basic framework for reaching these objectives. The main objective of the Action Programme for the period 1998- 2003 is to create an efficient and integrated multi-modal transport system of international significance in the Barents area, and to define the prerequisites for the most efficient use of funds and know-how both from public and private sources.
In the current period work to identify joint infrastructure projects that can be promoted through the BEATA framework has started. As part of this work, Norway has taken on the task of evaluating existing studies of future transport demand in the area, in order to secure consistency in recommendations and in the longer term to give input to methods for developing forecasts for demand for international transport in the area.
- Improvement of road connections between Kirkenes and Murmansk
- Construction of a new Russian border station at the border crossing-point between Norway and Russia
- The establishment of an international transport corridor along the Russian and Norwegian coast, "the Northern Maritime Corridor". Initiatives have been taken to establish an international transport corridor along the Russian and Norwegian coast - the Northern Maritime Corridor. The NMC represents major commercial possibilities for manufacturing companies in the petroleum sector, the international fishing industry and other related business, and to the maritime society of Northern Europe. Seaports, institutions and private companies in the North Sea Basin, Iceland, Northern Norway and Russia are likely to have the strongest interests in participating. The Northern Maritime Corridor is a maritime transport concept that connect the North Sea Basin with the industrial developments and transportation needs of the north. NMC could strengthen the maritime dimension in international trade, and develop cooperation between the maritime regions in the area.
- Development of railway connections between the port of Narvik and Russia through private investment.
Human resources, development and research
Human and scientific resources play a key role in democracy building and economic and cultural development. Exchanges in the fields of higher education and research promote the transfer of expertise and new technology. Educational exchanges are basic in developing cross-cultural understanding and reinforcing democratic values. It is important to include young people in school and training in relevant cooperation and exchange programmes. Research cooperation under EUs Northern Dimension should be closely linked to priority areas such as the environment, nuclear safety, health, energy, and economic cooperation, in addition to democracy building. Successful research cooperation and exchange of researchers in these areas would contribute to a restructuring of society in order to secure democratic and economically sustainable development. Participation in the community programmes Socrates and Leonardo da Vinci, in Youth and the EU Framework Programme for Research, by the EFTA/EEA countries and the candidate countries in the region has great significance.
- Norwegian bilateral programmes support cooperation projects, and exchanges between higher education and research institutions in Norway and similar institutions in central and eastern Europe. Several of the priority areas that are mentioned above (e.g. the environment, health, democracy building) are central. Cooperation already established between individual researchers and institutions through this programme should be further developed within the context of the Northern Dimension.
- The Exchange programme for higher education and research in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region was established at the ministerial meeting of the Barents Council in 1999. The programme includes exchange of teachers and researchers between institutions. To that effect a website has been opened. Exchange of pupils and teachers also has high priority in the Barents Programme.
- Agenda 21 for education for sustainable development in the Baltic Sea Region. The Haga Declaration on the development and implementation of an Agenda 21 for education in the Baltic Sea Region has included education as a sector of crucial importance for sustainable development in the region. The follow-up of the Haga Declaration is an important priority.
- EuroFaculty is making an important contribution to regional cooperation in the field of higher education. A common effort is needed to secure a stable financial framework for Eurofaculty. The recent establishment of EuroFaculty-Kaliningrad has reinforced its potential for promoting regional cooperation.
- Norwegian academics have participated actively in the development of the Arctic University, which will be launched in June this year. The University of the Arctic is a network of academic institutions and programmes, which will provide higher education in the Arctic. The University of the Arctic aims to integrate multiple disciplines, to investigate contemporary issues in the region from local, regional and global perspectives and to harmonize learning systems of traditional and scientific knowledge.
- Norway wishes to strengthen research cooperation between the Arctic countries on topics of common interest, both in natural sciences and in human and social sciences. Capacity building among indigenous peoples is an important part of the development of the North.
Fight against organised crime
The new opennes and closer relations in our region has unfortunately also provided fertile ground for organized crime in the form of trafficking in drugs, illegal trafficking in stolen goods and weapons, smuggling of human beings and money laundering. There is now heavy traffic through countries that formerly maintained a close guard on their borders and severely restricted the movement of their people. This poses new challenges in such areas as illegal immigration.
The development of co-operation and common procedures to combat trafficking in human beings, illegal migration, drugs and money laundering within the scope of the Baltic Sea Task Force.