Barents Euro-Artic Council meeting, Tromsö 30 October 2013
Carl Bildt, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues and Friends
First of all, let me express my pleasure to be back in Tromsø. Last time, in January, I was here for the Arctic Frontiers conference and the opening of the permanent secretariat of the Arctic Council. This time, we are gathered for a meeting of another important regional cooperation forum: the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. I am also pleased to see my friend and colleague, Norwegian foreign minister Børge Brende, hosting this Barents ministerial meeting as one of his first tasks in his new capacity.
This summer, Barents cooperation celebrated its 20th anniversary. As Sweden's prime minister, I was highly involved when the Council was founded 20 years ago. Since then, I have followed the development and deepening of Barents cooperation with great interest. It has become clear that it can operate in a number of priority areas: energy, transport, culture and tourism, just to mention a few. Today, the Council plays an important role in strengthening mutual trust and stability in the region.
We are gathered in the northernmost part of Europe, and the Barents region stands out as one of the most successful regional areas of cooperation in the north.
are two specific characteristics of Barents cooperation that come to my mind
as unique: one is the close cooperation between the 13 different national regions
within the Barents area, supported by the Barents Regional Council. This adds
a bottom-up approach to cooperation. The second is the fruitful cooperation
reflected at national level between the governments of the five
Nordic countries and Russia.
Equally, being a member of the EU, Sweden highly appreciates the European participation,
which adds to the weight of Barents cooperation and gives important financial
contributions through the regional funds of the European Union.
The economic potential of the Barents region is enormous. Situated at the top of Europe, it has the possibility to become a key transit corridor for shipping between Asia and Europe in the near future. The region is also rich in raw materials: energy, forestry, metals, minerals and fish, onshore as well as offshore. It is our common responsibility to ensure that these resources contribute to the sustainable development of the Barents region.
But our greatest advantage and
resource is our human capital. It is the basis for further developing new technologies
and know-how. Our universities, research institutes and companies, our skillful
workforce and our world-leading technologies are crucial sources for our region's
Another human dimension and capital that we should be proud of is the contribution of the indigenous peoples of the Barents region, which is channeled through the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples. In the ministerial communiqué that we adopt today, we recognise the indigenous peoples by extending permanent observer status to their chairman in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. Sweden supports the indigenous peoples in the Council itself by an annual financial contribution.
The growing impact of climate change is of great concern for the region. In order to step up efforts to address the environmental challenges facing the region, we have to take further action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and black carbon and other short-lived climate pollutants. In this context, I welcome the proposals presented in the Barents Climate Action Plan. This is a solid basis for further engagement.
The Barents region is a zone of peace and stability and it is at the heart of our efforts to keep it that way. With good relations between our countries, we will together be able to develop the Barents region, protect its environment and its population. As we move our cooperation forward, the link to the rest of the Arctic is increasingly important, as well as our cooperation with the rest of the world, which is showing more and more interest in our region. This is of course something that we welcome, as it will help us to develop the Barents region even further.
Looking ahead, the Barents Council should focus on economic prosperity, environmental and social stability and common security as reflected in the ministerial communiqué, which we adopt today. The communiqué contains the essence of what has been done and provides us with some challenging perspectives for the future.
Let me address my personal thanks to you, Børge Brende, and
to Tromsø's Mayor Jens Johan Hjort, as well as to the administration of Tromsø for
hosting this ministerial meeting of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.
Finally, I would like to express my congratulations to you for an excellent and inspiring Chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. I am looking forward to the Finnish Chairmanship with great expectations.
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