Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov at the Fifteenth Ministerial Session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council
(Oulu, 14 October 2015)
Dear Minister Soini,
I would like to address this gathering and start with thanking our Finnish hosts: the Foreign Minister Timo Soini, the City Council and all citizens of Oulu for their hospitality.
The Council has become an effective and relevant regional cooperation mechanism. We have managed to create a zone of confidence and stability in the Northern Europe. The Council is a true generator of ideas and can take credit for many successful projects which facilitate sustainable development and improve the life quality of people living here. Of course, this can only be achieved by joining efforts, sharing experience, knowledge and advanced technologies. We believe that broad international cooperation at high latitudes has no alternative.
I would like to convey my gratitude to Finland for its efficient Chairmanship of the Council and for the active promotion of cooperation between businesses, as well as in the forest sector, clean technologies, including mining, as well as energy efficiency and quite a number of other areas. Special attention has been paid of course as always to the interests of indigenous peoples, which is our priority as well.
My special thanks to the efforts of the Finnish Chairmanship as regards financing mechanisms of the projects of our cooperation. I believe, the report produced by Ad Hoc Working Group provides for future consideration of various options and we will count on our partners in the Council to join us in this effort. Russia will strive to ensure continuity.
We will attach priority to sustainable development of the Barents Region, establishing modern infrastructure, enhancing the region's competitiveness and investment attractiveness while making a rational use of the resource capabilities, complying with environmental standards and taking full account of the needs and interests of indigenous peoples.
Russia's Chairmanship will make emphasis on development of the Barents Region transport system, environmental protection and climate change mitigation, as well as culture and tourism. A meeting of environment ministers will take place in Sortavala (Karelia) this November, and Arkhangelsk will host ministers of transport and culture in the summer of next year.
We consider that the adoption of the Joint Barents Transport Plan aimed at establishing robust and safe transport corridors will ensure sustainable development of this part of Europe. We also attach great importance to the development of the East-West air traffic and ferry connections. The commercial use of the advantages of the Northern Sea Route, which is the shortest route linking northern Europe and the Asia-Pacific Region, seems also promising.
The conservation of the fragile Arctic ecosystem is becoming increasingly important.
We plan to continue our work towards eliminating environmental hot spots in the Russian part of the Barents Region. I would like in this occasion to highlight the contribution made by the Nordic Environmental Finance Corporation (NEFCO) to this work. We plan to implement the second phase of the Barents Protected Areas Network project. We will focus on the protection of water resources, cleaner production, environmentally sustainable consumption, environmental education and sharing the best environmental practices.
Another urgent problem is the climate change and its direct impact on the traditional way of life and occupations of indigenous peoples of the North. It is very important in this context, to implement fully the Action Plan adopted at the meeting of environment ministers in Inari (Finland) in December 2013. We believe that people-to-people contacts, cultural exchanges will contribute to strengthening the concept of the Barents identity based on a common history and on association with the same social and cultural space.
Creation of modern tourism infrastructure will help ensure better additional investment inflow to the region. A project to extend a ferry line Bergen-Kirkenes operated by the Norwegian company to include Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and the Solovetsky Islands deserves our close consideration.
We will do our best to encourage cooperation along such tracks as energy, forestry, healthcare, emergency prevention and response. We intend to revitalize contacts between customs services.
It remains vital to support the indigenous peoples and provide favourable conditions for their existence and economic activity including their traditional occupations. In this context, we welcome the idea to hold the first Barents Indigenous Peoples´ Summit during the Russian Chairmanship and will be ready to discuss it with the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples and other colleagues.
We consider further strengthening of cooperation with the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Arctic Council, the Nordic Council of Ministers, and Northern Dimension Partnerships.
We are willing to promote parliamentary cooperation as well as dialogue with civil society.
And it goes without saying that we will strongly support the activities of the Barents Regional Council. We wish the Finnish region of Kainuu all success as it takes over the BRC Chair from Arkhangelsk region of Russia. As the Finnish proverb says: "Good neighbour is half of prosperity" (if I briefed right).
During our Chairmanship, we would be guided by this wisdom. I thank the Council Secretariat for its traditional excellent service and wish all the participants of BEAC Ministerial Session every success in our common work.