Roundtable Discussion with Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Timo Soini, for a discussion of Finland’s Arctic policy as well as work with the Arctic Council (AC), which it will chair after the U.S. in 2017.  The written text of his speech can be found here.

Soini began by stating that this address is to focus on Arctic issues, and Finland has been active in Arctic cooperation since the end of the Cold War.  His presentation outlined the way Finland can help on Arctic issues.

He stated that Finland has “know how” in many Arctic sectors, including: shipping industries, marine technology, the mining industry, transport, and meteorology.  They have expertise in maritime infrastructure and ports, offshore production platforms, shore-to-ship systems and solutions, as well as hydro, tidal, and industrial energy solutions and services for icy conditions.

Since the 1960’s, all of Finland’s harbors have been open for business year-round thanks to Finland’s icebreakers.  He added that 60% of the icebreakers build across the globe are Finnish icebreakers, which have been operating off the coast of Alaska.

Soini noted that the COP21 Paris deal may lead to a brighter future in the Arctic, but it is too early to declare victory.  Global warming will provide the general framework for all activities in the foreseeable future in the Arctic.

Adaptation to changing conditions is a necessity. Northern and Arctic communities must become more resilient. Traditional sources of livelihood should be complemented with new ones. New skills in the digital age require education and training. All in all, many efforts are needed to guarantee a living for the coming generations in the Arctic.

Now is also a high time to take a look at the valid norms of the international law and assess if they are adequate for addressing the new situation of the opening of Northern sea routes.  It needs to be assessed whether we need new regulations regarding navigation, fisheries, conservation and in many other areas.

This year is the 20th anniversary of the AC, which makes it appropriate to assess its achievements.  Cooperation in the Arctic is useful and necessary, and there have also been a growing number of non-Arctic states that have become interested in the region.

Soini noted his and Secretary Kerry’s accordance with the notion that AC activities require a long term perspective, which is best progressed through continuity between the different chairmanships.

He made note of another way to deepen cooperation – enhancing partnerships with other organizations.  The AC and the Arctic Economic Council are faced with the same challenges, to an extent and should look for ways to coordinate their efforts and work closely together on topics of interest.