Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am happy to welcome you all to Helsinki - the northernmost capital of the European Union. The topic of this event “A Clean and Global North” sends a good strong message.
The North is ready to fulfil this ideal. The Nordic countries approved a common vision on becoming the most climate friendly area by 2030, in Reykjavik recently. My government’s climate targets tell this story.
“A Clean and Global North” also refers to our reach to the world. To being part of the world. To connections and contacts. And the world’s eyes are turning more and more towards us.
The importance of the broad arctic region has grown. The dramatic speed of climate change is a driving force behind this development. The region may soon be cut and crossed by many more ship-lanes, data-cables and connections of all sorts. New economic opportunities open. The forest reserves are huge. Many estimates tell us about important and untapped oil reserves in the arctic. Almost a third of the world’s gas reserves are said to be found here. And of course, we already see the geopolitics coming back.
I hope our own actions will be wise. The arctic must be developed carefully and with a long term perspective. Sustainable development is key. Environmental concerns cannot be bypassed when we talk about economic opportunities. I like to stress the obvious: that there are people who actually live here. We have to remember that for local people, the North is their home. We cannot make decisions without respect for their rights.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We need to act now to solve the global climate crisis. The Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda provide the foundation for regional and global cooperation on climate action and sustainable development.
Our EU Presidency slogan is “Sustainable Europe – Sustainable Future”. We believe that the EU can and must be a frontrunner in tackling climate change. I am convinced that we have the opportunity to build sustainable economies at the same time as reducing the risks of climate change. Indeed, climate action and circular economy are part of a transition to a clean, low-emissions future and resilient society.
All of us can make a difference: the research community, industry, investors, citizens and other stakeholders. We have to ensure that research and innovation play a strong role in societies, and we support the development, use and scaling-up of new technologies.
Finland will become a carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative soon after that. We have reduced carbon emissions over 21 percent from the 1990 level. We must continue with accelerated speed on this path and keep reducing emissions. We invite you all to join us.
Finland stresses the importance of cooperation in developing transport connections and services of northern areas. We all have a strong interest in working together in this area.
Well-functioning, safe, smart and green transport connections are vital for the sustainable development of the Northern regions. I am delighted to note that new approaches have emerged to accomplish this, including digitalisation, automation and robotisation of transport. These are areas of significant growth potential.
Globally competitive Europe needs the revision of the TEN-T Guidelines and the new regulation for the Connecting Europe Facility. The proposed extension of the North Sea – Baltic TEN-T corridor is a good example of the potential positive effects of the TEN-T revision. The extension of this corridor is good for the competitiveness of northern industries as well as tourism by bringing the network to the Arctic areas.
The extension will also connect rail networks in Finland and Sweden to each other. The cross-border cooperation within the so-called Bothnian Arc will open up new opportunities for businesses. Major investments are already happening in all sections along the North Sea – Baltic corridor as well in Finland, Sweden as the Baltic states.
TEN-T Guidelines and Connecting Europe Facility Regulation should continue to work as strong incentives to switch to sustainable, safer and user-friendlier transport modes. Besides infrastructure development, we also need to examine all other options – for example smart traffic management and new transport services – to reach the objectives.
I believe that climate change, urbanization and technical developments are bringing us towards service-based transport solutions. Europe could become a global leader in the development of this kind of service models. We need a competitive infrastructure in place.
There is a strong need to deliver reliable services and logistics in the North. We need to guarantee safety of transportation through improving monitoring, communication, weather forecasting and space based observation activities.
It is very important to expand the EU Space Program. We need to improve our ability to monitor the climate change. We must anticipate future challenges and opportunities in the Arctic area. Improved positioning and connectivity would increase the safety of human activities in the North. Galileo and EGNOS systems should be developed in a way that improves safety of navigation in the Arctic Sea routes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Arctic region is warming up more than twice as fast as the rest of the globe. The impacts can be witnessed far beyond the Arctic region. This calls for urgent actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and black carbon.
Cutting black carbon emissions would have an immediate positive effect on global warming. What we can do is use cleaner fuel for shipping, reduce gas flaring, upgrade outdated heating and power plants and prevent forest fires. Finland recently allocated over 3 million euros to regional and global mechanisms to reduce black carbon emissions.
During our EU Presidency, we have kept the Arctic high on the EU agenda. The EU’s contribution to Arctic cooperation is already important. A stronger EU role benefits the Arctic region. I look forward to the new EU Commission and High Representative’s proposals on taking forward the EU’s Arctic policy. It is important to update the EU’s approach to reflect new challenges and opportunities, and the growing international interest. The EU’s arctic strategy must be developed in close cooperation with Member States and among the EU-institutions. The EU should be active in involving the local communities and peoples in shaping arctic policy.
My government programme´s objective is to make Arctic cooperation strong. The preparation of a new national strategy on Arctic policy is a concrete mean to do this. The strategy should be completed by the beginning of 2021. Fight against climate change, sustainable development and respect for the rights of the indigenous peoples will be central to the strategy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
20 years ago, in 1999, we had our first EU Presidency. That is when the Northern Dimension Policy was created. Today the Northern Dimension is a policy framework, which ties together the European Union, Iceland, Norway and Russia on an equal basis.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Northern Dimension Policy. Precisely 20 years ago in November the Northern Dimension Foreign Ministers’ meeting took place in these very same premises in Finlandia Hall.
Over the years the Northern Dimension has proved useful for advancing regional cooperation in Northern Europe. Practical cooperation under the Northern Dimension has provided concrete results. This cooperation also has broader value. This kind of dialogue aiming at finding solutions to common challenges also contributes to the security, stability and sustainable development in Northern Europe. It is clearly in the interest of us all to ensure that this region remains a zone of constructive cooperation and continuous dialogue.
Today we will hear about the significant results provided by the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership in nuclear waste management, wastewater and energy efficiency projects. The construction of the wastewater treatment plants in St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad and Brest is a concrete outcome of the Northern Dimension policy. These projects have led to noticeable improvements in the water quality and greatly benefitted the Baltic Sea. The key to this success has been cooperation and commitment to work together for the benefit of us all.
In the years to come, it is important to develop the Northern Dimension as a platform for constructive dialogue. It is a useful regional tool to address key global challenges such as climate change, connectivity and health threats. People-to-people contacts are also important and cooperation in culture under the Northern Dimension can make a valuable contribution.
Finland remains committed to supporting this work. The Northern Dimension needs not only the partners’ political support, but also financial resources necessary for practical-level cooperation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Regional cooperation in the North is much in focus in the Finnish Government’s program. Our aim is to develop Arctic cooperation, bolster Nordic cohesion and Baltic Sea Region cooperation. The environmental state of the Baltic Sea is a concern. National policies are not enough. Cooperation is very important to protect the Baltic Sea Region – as well as an example for oceans worldwide.
The EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region celebrated its tenth year anniversary this October. I would like to take this opportunity to stress the important role that cooperation under the Strategy has had for the region. I would like to welcome you to the Annual Forum of the Strategy held in Turku, Finland from 16th to 17th of June 2020.
I hope that this conference will make everybody’s commitment to cooperation stronger. Let us focus more on opportunities than problems. Instead of seeing problems let us have a positive approach and look for solutions and opportunities.
We all have the same goal: striving for better prospects for future generations.