14th Session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, Tromsø, 29 October 2013.

Statement by Mr Børge Brende, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Chair of Barents Euro-Arctic Council.


 

  • Ladies and gentlemen, thank you, Jens (Johan Hjort), for your kind words of welcome. And thank you all for valuable discussions last night.

 

  • The Barents cooperation enjoys broad support in Norway. My government’s commitment to this cooperation is strong.

 

  • The Declaration adopted by the Barents Summit in Kirkenes last June highlights the important role that the Barents cooperation is playing in strengthening mutual trust and stability in Europe.

 

  • The Barents cooperation is probably the most results-oriented, down-to-earth arena for regional cooperation.

 

  • Its success is first and foremost due to initiatives and activities carried out by committed and dedicated people in the region.

 

  • Governments can play a facilitating role. We can lay the foundations for cooperation.  Work to make everyday life better.

 

  • But the key to continued success lies in the Barents region itself. With its people. The most important resource of all.

 

  • As a former Minister of Trade and Industry, I am well aware of the significant resource potential of the High North. Developing these resources is increasingly important for the Barents cooperation.

 

  • Two recent studies on economic and business cooperation in the Barents region have put forward recommendations on what we can do to enhance our economic cooperation.

 

  • The studies recommend that emphasis should be placed on funding, transport and infrastructure, border-crossing facilities, stable and predictable conditions.

 

  • These recommendations should be carefully considered and followed up by both governments and businesses.

 

  • An efficient transport system is essential for economic and social development in the Barents region.

 

  • I welcome the proposals set out in the recently presented Joint Barents Transport Plan as a basis for further developing infrastructure in the region.

 

  • It is vitally important that development is sustainable. Corporate social responsibility and the use of the best available technology are key factors in this respect.

 

  • I commend Finland for having held a Barents conference on “Best practices in the mining industry”.

 

  • The development of the mining industry is having an impact on indigenous peoples and their traditional industries.

 

  • It is therefore vital to find the right balance between safeguarding the interests of indigenous peoples and promoting resource-based industrial development.

 

 

  • The environment in the Barents region is fragile. Some progress has been made towards eliminating environmental “hot spots”. There is a resolve to continue and enhance these efforts. This has our full support.

 

  • The Nickel production facilities on the Kola peninsula, which are defined as “hot spots”, continue to pose environmental challenges, but they also represent potential for industrial cooperation.

 

  • Addressing climate change in the Barents region is a major challenge. This requires cooperation at national, regional and local levels.

 

  • I am therefore pleased to see that an Action Plan on Climate Change for the Barents Cooperation has been drafted.

 

  • The Action Plan includes a number of activities to be carried out by working groups under BEAC and the Barents Regional Council.

 

  • The emphasis is placed on areas where the Barents cooperation can provide added value for local and regional planning, projects and action.

 

  • Cooperation on regional adaptation strategies and the sharing of best practices and experience are key elements. The International Barents Secretariat will be strengthened to assist with the implementation of the Action Plan.

 

  • Universities in the Barents region have a key role to play in developing human resources and knowledge. The dynamic cooperation between universities in our countries is very promising.

 

  • Scientific research cooperation is important for mapping and developing natural resources. It is also crucial for identifying challenges that can only be addressed through joint efforts and cross-border cooperation.

 

  • Border obstacles should be reduced as much as possible to further encourage people-to-people contact and cross-border cooperation.

 

  • The Norwegian Government intends to extend opening hours and increase capacity at the Storskog border station on the border with Russia.

 

  • It is the younger generation that will build the Barents region of the future. I am very encouraged by the interregional university programme for Young Innovative Entrepreneurs that has been established.

 

  • Cooperation on health and related social issues has an important impact on the entire population in the region. Many people are also engaged in cultural activities, and their cooperation is helping to develop a Barents identity.

 

  • BEAC intends to set up a culture award to further stimulate cross-border cooperation.

 

  • A flourishing civil society is essential for economic, social and political development. Indeed, the achievements of the Barents region could not have been made without the active contributions of civil society organisations and small private-sector actors.

 

  • We must do our utmost to encourage and facilitate the development of civil society across the region. The cross-border cooperation between NGOs is particularly fruitful.

 

  • Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making processes that could affect their rights, their development and their traditional land.

 

  • I therefore welcome the inclusion of an indigenous peoples’ representative as a permanent observer to this Council. This is also stated in the communique that I now invite the Council to adopt.

 

  • I now have the pleasure of giving the floor to Aili Keskitalo, member of the Norwegian delegation and President of the Norwegian Sami Parliament.

 

 

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