Ulkoministeri Timo Soini puhui arktisen yhteistyön nykytilasta ja tulevaisuudesta Akureyrin yliopistossa Islannissa 14. tammikuuta 2019.
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Dear Minister Gudlaugur,
Students and teachers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you Minister Gudlaugur for inviting me to Iceland and Akureyri. I have really enjoyed my stay here. This is my third visit to Iceland as Foreign Minister, but my first chance to visit Akureyri.
I would also like to thank the students and teachers of the University of Akureyri for hosting us today. Quality education and top-notch research are keys to all development. Especially today´s demand for sustainable development requires open minds to produce fresh ideas. I will talk more about sustainable development a little bit later.
Iceland has always intrigued me. Iceland is a small country like Finland. Yet it is a great nation of proud people and with a rich history. You have the oldest parliament in the world. You are steadily the frontrunner of international rankings. Iceland was once an isolated island between two major continents; today you may present Iceland as a social, cultural and an economic success story. Iceland celebrated 100 years as a sovereign state last December. My warm congratulations once more to all of you!
Iceland and Finland are good friends. We live in our separate corners of northern Europe, but we cooperate closely with each other. We are both members in the Nordic Council, the Nordic Council of Ministers and also of the Arctic Council. We have built our societies on the rule of law, democracy and equality. These are fundamental values for us. We cooperate within the frameworks of United Nations, Nato and the Nordic Defense Cooperation. International cooperation, free trade and human rights are at the heart of our foreign policies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me turn to the Arctic and say a few words about Arctic cooperation.
The Arctic States and Permanent Participants of the Arctic Council have taken decisive steps to promote environmental protection in the Arctic. Promoting sustainable development and enhancing the well-being of people in the Arctic have been equally important. Since its establishment in 1996, the Arctic Council has worked to improve the living conditions of the people of the Arctic. Scientists and researchers from the member states and beyond have produced reports, finalized assessments and developed recommendations. Indigenous peoples have greatly contributed to the work of the Council.
The Arctic States and the Permanent Participants of the Council are committed to maintain the Arctic as a region of peace, stability and constructive cooperation. I am happy that the Arctic Council has been able to keep the cooperation up and running, despite the tensions in international relations. You can say that the Arctic Council started out as a regional club for science diplomacy. Now it has in itself grown into a major confidence building measure.
The Arctic is changing fast. Global warming will definitely change the environmental and economic landscape in the Arctic. Less ice will open up for new sea-routes and better access to oil, gas and other natural resources. We can already see signs of non-Arctic states increasing their efforts to compete for resources and influence in the Arctic, as the probability for ice-free summers gets closer. This will not happen overnight. Nevertheless, we should ask ourselves; what kind of Arctic would we like to see in the future?
The Arctic Council is preparing its first long-term strategic plan to answer this question. The strategy will lay out both guiding principles and priorities for the Council in the years to come. The Arctic Council will stay true to its original mandate of environmental protection, sustainable development and wellbeing of the people. The strategy is still a work in progress, so there is not much that I can tell you. One thing is clear – the Arctic States should keep the leadership in the governance and development of the Arctic region.
When Finland set to prepare the program for its Chairmanship in the Arctic Council, it seemed natural to include climate change and sustainable development as the broad frameworks.
Climate change is our common concern. The Arctic States are rich and have a special responsibility in living up to the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. There are no short cuts. We need to shift our focus on energy production and consumption. We need to move away from fossil fuels to renewables. Here, I would like to commend Iceland’s Climate Strategy with its ambitious aim of making Iceland carbon neutral by 2040.
Many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals are relevant for the Arctic. They provide inspiration and guidance. The goals for biodiversity on land and under water are especially close to the Arctic Council and two of its working groups. The working groups are Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna and Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment, and they have their secretariats here in Akureyri.
Improving health, education and equality between women and men are important goals for Iceland and Finland that also guide the work in the Council.
Finland has been chairing the Arctic Council for a year and a half. I am very happy that all States and Permanent Participants have been very actively involved in the work. The Working Groups, Expert Groups and Task Forces have made a lot of progress. The Observers have also contributed actively.
I don´t need to remind this audience that Iceland will take over the chairmanship in the Arctic Council in less than four months. I am impressed by the energy and effort you have put into the preparations of your Chairmanship. Oceans is one of your priority areas and it is a good judgement. Clean oceans and a wisely planned blue economy are an important source of livelihood for communities in Iceland and everywhere. You may count on Finland´s strong support for your Chairmanship.
Finally, I would like to thank Iceland for the excellent cooperation in preparing for the transition of the Arctic Chairmanship. We are looking forward to a successful Ministerial in May. The Chairman´s gavel will be waiting for you in Rovaniemi.
Thank you for your attention.