Norwegian - Russian cooperation in the north

Oslo, 16. juni 2016

Statssekretær Tore Hattrem innledet bolken «Audit without borders – Audit cooperation between Russia and Norway» med dette innlegget under Riksrevisjonens markering av sitt 200-årsjubileum.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • It is a great pleasure for me to be here today for the 200th anniversary of the Office of the Auditor General of Norway.
  • The Office of the Auditor General is an important institution.
  • With its strong focus on transparency and accountability in public spending and performance, it plays an important role in building trust and contributes to good governance and democracy.
  • It is therefore very positive that the Office of the Auditor General cooperates with its sister organisations in other countries, many of which, I am aware, are present here today.
  • Conducting joint audits is one of the ways in which the Auditor General of Norway has cooperated, very successfully I must say, with its partners in the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation.
  • Over the last ten years, my ministry has been among the subjects of three such audits: on nuclear safety, on joint fisheries management, and on the Arctic Council.
  • These topics are all of great importance to both Norway and Russia. They reflect our shared commitment to sustainable, knowledge-based management of Arctic resources, based on the principles of international cooperation.
  • And these are the topics I am here to talk to you about today: the Arctic and our cooperation with Russia, with particular focus on the practical value of the joint audits of nuclear safety, fisheries management and the Arctic Council.
  • Let me start with a few words about why the Arctic is Norway's most important foreign policy priority.

The Arctic – Norway's most important foreign policy priority

  • We know that the Arctic is a region abundant with resources such as energy, minerals and fish. At the same time, the Arctic is a highly vulnerable natural environment, where the impacts of climate change can be clearly observed.
  • Climate change represents a challenge for us all, but it is also opening up new opportunities for economic activity in the Arctic. The potential for shorter trading routes across Arctic waters is currently being explored, as well as new possibilities for resource extraction.
  • To seize these opportunities while ensuring sustainable development of the Arctic, we need increased knowledge, responsible management and international cooperation.
  • Norway i cooperating closely with other countries and various organisations on how to ensure sustainable development of the region.
  • Today, the Arctic stands out as a region of cooperation and stability.
  • The overall goal of Norway's Arctic policy is to ensure that it stays that way.

Norwegian–Russian cooperation in the Arctic – bilateral and regional cooperation

  • Norway has a long history of constructive neighbourly cooperation with Russia in the north.As early as 1974, we established the Joint Norwegian–Russian Fisheries Commission together with our Russian partners.
  • During the 1990s, our region saw the start of new forms of cooperation, such as the Council of the Baltic Sea States in 1992, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in 1993, the Arctic Council in 1996 and the EU Northern Dimension in 1997.
  • All these structures have built confidence and enhanced integration in our region.
  • Significantly, Russia has been – and continues to be – an important partner in all these forums.

Results – examples of successful Norwegian–Russian cooperation in fields of common interest

  • Norway and Russia have identified a broad range of areas where cooperation is mutually beneficial and yields results.
  • The most important areas at the government level are: management of shared fish stocks, environmental protection, nuclear safety, maritime safety including search and rescue at sea, as well as Coast Guard and Border Guard activities more broadly.
  • This, along with the joint efforts of civil society organizations and the informal people-to-people contact in the north, have contributed much to facilitating and simplifying cross-border cooperation and strengthening the bonds between our two countries.
  • Pressing challenges in the Arctic, such as environmental degradation and sustainable management of shared resources, can only be solved in cooperation with Russia and the other Arctic states.
  • I am therefore very pleased that the Office of the Auditor General of Norway and their Russian partners decided to jointly audit key areas where our countries cooperate closely, namely nuclear safety, fisheries management and the Arctic Council.
  • They are all vital for a sustainable future in the Arctic.
  • Let me say a few words about each of these areas.

Nuclear safety

  • Nuclear safety cooperation with Russia is a priority for this Government, and our activities are based on the Government's nuclear action plan.
  • And it is a success story – as was confirmed in September last year when we established common procedures for notification of nuclear incidents.
  • Today we have transparency in nuclear issues and safety assessments that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.
  • Trust and confidence have been built through this work, with ripple effects that go far beyond reducing nuclear challenges. Not least, the Norwegian–Russian collaboration has produced concrete and measurable results that have made life safer for the people on both sides of the border for the last 20 years. During this period, we have allocated 230 million Euros to projects in northwestern Russia, which have produced very good results.
  • Together we have reduced the threats from one of the world's largest stocks of poorly secured fissile material. These efforts are ongoing, and in 2017 we will start removing spent fuels from 100 nuclear submarine reactors in Andreeva Bay, the former nuclear submarine service base for Russia's Northern Fleet.
  • We have dismantled five nuclear submarines and have removed and secured highly radioactive sources from 251 lighthouses. We have also upgraded the Kola and Leningrad nuclear power plants. As a result, there has been a significant reduction in the number of safety related incidents at these plants in recent years.
  • Another area of crucial importance is investigating sunken nuclear submarines. We have carried out successful expeditions to sunken nuclear submarines in Arctic waters in 2012 and 2014. The preliminary conclusion was that radioactive contamination in the area was low.
  • We were glad that the joint audit reports on nuclear cooperation confirmed the effectiveness of these efforts and showed that our cooperation has contributed to a safer world.
  • The insights we gain and the expertise we develop through this work put us in a much better position to handle any undesirable situations that might arise.
  • This is not least due to the good contact we have developed with the Russian authorities.
  • We will keep up the good work in the time ahead.

Joint fisheries management

  • Joint fisheries management is another area where Norway and Russia have cooperated closely with excellent results. We have achieved sustainable and efficient management of a number of shared fish stocks in the Barents Sea.
  • Back in 1989, the Northeast Arctic cod stock was at an all-time low.
  • Today, we enjoy the world's most abundant cod stock in the Barents Sea. This year, for example, we shared a quota of 894 000 tonnes.
  • This development would not have been possible without the close and constructive fisheries cooperation with Russia that we have developed over the years.
  • It is also positive to see how our cooperation in the Joint Norwegian–Russian Fisheries Commission is progressing and expanding, for example on a new species, the snow crab.
  • Robust mechanisms for cooperation are crucial if we are to harvest our shared marine resources in the Arctic in a sustainable manner.
  • Our joint fisheries management stands out as a prime example of the benefits of cross boarder cooperation on sustainable management.

Arctic Council

  • As we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Office of the Auditor General of Norway, it is worth noting that this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Arctic Council.
  • The Arctic Council is the most important forum for multilateral cooperation in the Arctic. It plays a vital role in preserving the Arctic as a region of peaceful collaboration.
  • It is also a forum where Norway and Russia collaborate closely on a wide variety of topics.
  • Moreover, the work of the Arctic Council is producing tangible results.
  • Its comprehensive reports and studies of climate change in the Arctic have highlighted the speed at which climate change is taking place.
  • This has had substantial impact on international climate negotiations.
  • Last month, for example, the Executive Secretary of the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change, Ms Christiana Figueres, noted the significant contribution of the Arctic Council to the science of climate change, stating that the historical Paris agreement of December last year would not have been possible without the Council's contribution.

The joint audits

  • The joint audits of issues that reach well into our respective national administrations is a testimony to the extent and depth of Norwegian–Russian cooperation.
  • On a general level, I think it must be appropriate to say that the audits have contributed to increased transparency and accountability.
  • The joint audits have also been a very useful tool for the whole government administration. We have gained greater awareness of how we are working with nuclear safety, joint fisheries management and the Arctic Council.
  • The joint audits have forced us – in a systematic and positive way I should add – to see our work through the eyes of others. This is always a useful exercise. And doing so with the help of an institution that has 200 years of experience is particularly valuable.
  • I think it is right to say that the Norwegian Government is now working more systematically in its preparations for and the follow up of efforts under the Arctic Council.
  • The joint audit of the Arctic Council has also increased awareness among the Arctic states of the Arctic Council's structure.
  • As a result, the need for a more strategic approach is now being discussed in the Arctic Council. The Arctic states have also initiated a discussion about whether the current set-up of the Council will enable us to meet the priorities of the Arctic states in the best possible way in the future. All these discussions are inspired by issues raised by the audit institutions.

Conclusion

  • Before concluding, let me just reiterate that the Arctic is a region of stability and predictability, and that it is the Government's overall goal that it remains this way.
  • The work of the Auditor Generals has improved our cooperation on nuclear safety, fisheries management and the Arctic Council in many practical ways.
  • The joint audits by our respective Auditor Generals are also an important contribution to the ongoing peaceful cooperation between Norway and Russia in the north.