Tale/innlegg | Dato: 17.09.2010
- I hope the bilateral agreement on issues at sea, signed this week between our two countries, will also serve as an inspiration for agreement between business partners. Patience, time, negotiations and rethinking of acclaimed truths may be necessary. But the rewards will be worth it, sa utenriksminister Støre bl.a. i Det norsk-russiske handelskammeret i Arkhangelsk 17. september 2010.
Governor Mikhailtchuk, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Our gathering here today is a follow up of last year’s network meeting, where Norwegian and Arkhangelsk businesses and authorities set out to make a new start for cooperation. Yes, it is called a “new start”, but my first message to you today is that we are not starting from scratch!
The fact is that North West Russia, and Arkhangelsk in particular, is one the oldest areas of interest for Norwegian business. This goes back to the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars, when Norway was in a union with Sweden under the Swedish monarch. When Norway declared its independence in 1905 it was the claim for a strictly Norwegian consular service abroad that led to the breakup of the union – consulates such as the one in Arkhangelsk. Because Norwegian business and other interests abroad merited close cooperation between Norwegian and host country authorities.
That is also why we are here today, and one of the reasons for the renewal of our consular presence in a couple of hours, 72 years after the dramatic closing of the last consulate in 1938.
When the Nordic and Russian authorities agreed to launch the Barents cooperation in 1992 they chose to focus on the near-border areas. We opened a consulate in Murmansk, which today has 25 employees. This has proven a valuable instrument for cooperation with North West Russia. However it is not diplomatic presence that triggers business, it is usually the other way around. And business is triggered by available resources and favourable conditions.
We would not have been here today if there hadn’t been entrepreneurs who believed that favourable conditions are about to emerge again through our relations with Arkhangelsk. And favourable conditions are not only natural resources and market opportunities. They are also political will, predictable regulatory frameworks and accessible human resources.
I have no doubt that there is political will on both sides to see closer business relations, and there is no lack of human resources. Later today I will visit the new Artic Federal University, which demonstrates that Russia is making an important effort on education and research in the High North. When it comes to the regulatory framework, it is true that Norwegian businesses often meet challenges in Russia. Arkhangelsk is not an exception.
However, if there is a will there is a way. Governor Mikhailtchuk assured me yesterday of the will. I expect both the Governor and his Norwegian colleagues in the north to pave the way. I will do my part, and hopefully a new honorary consulate will make a valuable contribution.
My government has made High North policy its main priority over the last five years. During these years I have found that the rest of the world’s view of our part of the world has changed. We have all heard the warnings of a race for resources in the north, and some are even worried about possible military confrontation.
As you know, yesterday the Norwegian and Russian governments signed a treaty that determines the Norwegian–Russian border in the Barents Sea after 40 years of negotiations. I had the good fortune to be present, and to have taken part in the final stages of this work.
Norway and Russia share the view that there is no need for an international treaty in the Arctic. Because the legal framework is already in place: the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The five Arctic coastal states – Norway and Russia, together with Denmark, the United States and Canada – agree on our duties and responsibilities as coastal states to the Arctic Ocean, under the Convention. The same obligations and responsibilities are shared by other states in other waters according to the same legal framework.
What we need is to fill this framework with specific regulations and codes of conduct. This is what we are working on in the Arctic Council, and this is also what our new bilateral agreement is all about.
Now, what concrete results can we expect of our new bilateral agreement on the border issue?
What businesses, fisheries, big oil companies and everybody else should expect is clarity, normality and stability. The agreement can be seen as a bilateral contribution to the multilateral framework, doing away with the anomaly of a disputed area and a grey zone for fisheries.
What the agreement is not is a quick fix for business solutions. It should rather be seen as a political contribution to the favorable framework conditions for creating value that I mentioned earlier.
Values, both tangible and intangible, are indeed worth keeping in mind during this special week for our bilateral relationship in the north. Norwegian business in North West Russia spans a broad range of activities. Some are linked to oil and gas, and the prospects of the Stockman development, but this is not the only sector. Banking, engineering, trade, fisheries, incubators, consulting and construction are all part of the picture.
What we expect – and will continue to expect as business extends eastwards along the coast – is that the basic values of corporate social responsibility are respected and developed. We expect this from all the parties involved. This does not mean imposing Norwegian rules or laws on others, but conducting business in such a way that employees, employers, owners and authorities alike may be sure that creating one set of values does not undermine others.
Governor, representatives of the business communities,
I hope the bilateral agreement on issues at sea, signed this week between our two countries, will also serve as an inspiration for agreement between business partners. Patience, time, negotiations and rethinking of acclaimed truths may be necessary. But the rewards will be worth it.
I wish you all the best
in today’s meetings, and I hope to see you at the opening of the Norwegian honorary consulate in a few hours. Thank you.