Prime Minister Sipilä’s Speech at the Arctic Frontiers Seminar in Tromsø
(check against delivery)
Dear Prime Minister, Dear Erna,
Ministers and Friends of the Arctic,
Let me start by saying how happy I am to be here in Tromsø today. I’m happy not only because Norway is such a close and important neighbour and friend to Finland. But also because I come from the north and being at the high latitudes always feels good. I even like the dark winter mornings.
For Finland, the year 2017 is a special one. This is our centenary year and we are celebrating it in many ways both at home and abroad. 2017 also importantly marks the 100th anniversary of Sami cooperation.
What’s more, this is a very special Arctic year for us. We are preparing to take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in May. We take this task very seriously, as we Finns always tend to do.
Over its 20 years of existence, the Arctic Council has become a valuable international forum with distinctive qualities, including the active involvement of indigenous peoples’ organisations and a strong connection with the scientific community. As the chair, we will continue on this path.
During our chairmanship we also aim to increase the cooperation between the Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council. We need to do this to support sustainable growth and business opportunities in the north — from infrastructure to services, from transport to tourism.
But while doing this, we must keep the bigger global picture in mind. Two recent milestones have major relevance to the Arctic and they also form the backbone of our work: these are the Paris Climate Agreement and the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
By bringing together these different elements, the priorities for our upcoming chairmanship are now set; we will focus on environmental protection, connectivity, meteorology and education.
We will build our two-year chairmanship in the Arctic Council on our strong Arctic traditions and expertise. Our motto is: ‘If it works in Finland, it works anywhere.’ Finland is successful because of the Arctic climate, not in spite of it.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Together with the present chair, the United States, and other Arctic countries, we are looking at how Arctic cooperation could respond even better to the changing situation in the far north. Our non-Arctic partners in Europe, Asia, and America are invited to support this common goal as well.
There are opportunities that should be used. For example, improving connectivity in the northern regions is crucial. Finland is exploring the possibility of connecting Europe and Asia via a telecommunications cable running through the Northeast Passage.
We also want to enhance the role of the European Union in the development of Arctic Europe. But as in all EU cooperation, the most important issue is implementation: we need to put our words into action. At the same time, we have to make sure that the opportunities provided by the Union are fully used by the Arctic stakeholders in our countries. We hope to make progress on these issues at the EU’s first Arctic Stakeholder Forum to be held in Oulu in June.
But now – I am looking forward to a good panel discussion. Thank you!