innlegg i forbindelse med Norges formannskap i Barentsrådet 2019-2021

Utenriksministerens innlegg på politisk møte (digitalt), 26. oktober 2020, i forbindelse med Norges formannskap i Barentsrådet 2019-2021

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Governors,
State secretaries,
Friends of the Barents region

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to this joint national and regional Barents meeting. I am glad to see you all here, even though it is on screen.

These are challenging times for the Barents family. The pandemic has halted parts of our activities, changed our plans and forced our cooperation onto a digital platform. With all this in mind, it is timely to invite Barents partners for important discussions on how to continue to strengthen our cooperation.

Norway is now halfway into our chairmanship. We felt that we were well prepared. We had many plans. However, we did not anticipate having to conduct our activities online. This does not feel natural in a cooperation founded on people-to-people contact. At the same time, we are reaping the benefits of more than 25 years of friendships and ties. We are impressed to see how the working groups, regions, indigenous peoples, young people and project partners are adjusting in creative ways. I feel proud to be part of this Barents spirit.

We must look ahead and plan for new initiatives. I would like to thank our all partners for constructive involvement in establishing a financial mechanism under the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. We are determined to succeed in this effort. We believe it will add more substance to our cooperation.

The pandemic demonstrates the importance of strong infrastructures for international health collaboration. Norway was proud to host the first Barents Health Ministers’ Meeting in Oslo last November. This December, we will follow up with a digital meeting on e-health together with Västerbotten.  

Knowledge is a keyword for our chairmanship. Listening to people is one of the best ways to gain new insights. Personally, I have recently had inspiring conversations with young people from the north to discuss the Government’s upcoming white paper on the Arctic. This has made it even clearer how important it is to include young people in our conversations. We must listen and learn. The Barents Regional Youth Council is an important contributor on today’s programme. 

We all agree that a strong Barents region must be based on sustainability. The ongoing task of revising the Barents action plan for climate is important. Norway sees smart business development as part of the solution for sustainability. The people of the Barents region deserve to live, work and raise their children in modern, resilient societies. We believe the best answers are found when scientists, politicians and businesses talk and work together. Norway is therefore planning a digital conference to discuss solutions for a climate-smart Barents region in the spring.

Going back to knowledge: the Sami, Vesps, Nenet and Komi Peoples started it all and are the heart and soul of our cooperation. Their voice must be heard. It is our ambition to host an indigenous peoples’ summit in Norway during our chairmanship.

Before I conclude, let me emphasise the importance of the regions as the engine of our cooperation. I am honoured to co-host our meeting with Regional Council chair, Helena Hellmark Knutsson. The cooperation with Västerbotten gives added value to our chairmanship.

Dear friends,

COVID-19 has changed the character of our days. It has not changed our vision, however. Our interaction today helps us to remind each other of what this is all about: contact and dialogue across our borders. It is our common duty to continue our efforts. I look forward to hearing your views.