17.12.2010 | Little Parliament, Helsinki
The seminar focused on the current situation in the Arctic region, bringing together the various views regarding the present and future trends of the region.
Among others speakers and panel members included: Liisa Jaakonsaari (Member of the European Parliament), Hannele Pokka (Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Environment), Scott Brandon (Head of The Political-Economic Affairs Section, US Embassy Helsinki), Ulrik Tideström (Minister Counsellor, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Sweden Helsinki) Hannu Halinen (Arctic Ambassador, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland).
17 December 2010, Friday 9.30–12.30 Little Parliament, Helsinki, Finland
The seminar focused on the current situation in the Arctic region, bringing together the various views regarding the present and future trends of the region. In particular, the topics covered Finland’s role as an Arctic actor, other national interests in the Arctic region and whether the direction is towards competition or cooperation. In addition to the traditional security aspects, at the seminar it was discussed what kind of environmental security concerns may be evident in the Arctic. Mrs. Krista Kiuru, MP, Chair of STETE, welcomed the prominent speakers and guests of the Arctic Seminar. She acknowledged the importance for Finland being an Arctic actor and recognized the value of Finland’s new Arctic Strategy that was released in 2010. Ms. Kiuru emphasized that cooperation in the region is vital. She also stressed the importance of the European Union in Arctic related matters, as well as stressed that the Arctic Council is a key actor in the development of Arctic policies and a valuable channel of cooperation.
The speakers of the seminar were:
Mr. Hannu Halinen, stressed how Arctic is becoming a significant center both regionally and globally. He also claimed that Finland is indeed an Arctic actor. After all it is a founding member of the Arctic Council and due to its geographical location; the country is accustomed to live in the Arctic weather conditions. As an Arctic nation Finland has a natural interest in the Arctic affairs and it released its first Arctic Strategy in 2010. According to Mr. Halinen, Finland has the know how and could be an international Arctic expert for example in transport, logistics and technology related matters. Furthermore it is in Finland’s interests that the fragile Arctic nature and indigenous people must be taken into account, as this vulnerable environment includes the northern part of Finland and Sami people are part of the Arctic indigenous peoples. From Finland’s point of view the Arctic Council is the most important channel for Arctic related actions and Finland aims to strengthen the Council’s Permanent Secretariat and expanding its mandate. According to Mr. Halinen, Finland also sees the European Union as an Arctic actor and welcomes it to Arctic affairs. For instance the EU has a role in fisheries and transportations discussions, which could help in creating more coherent Arctic policies. He also stated that Finland has proposed an Arctic center for the European Union. This could be a network of agencies throughout Europe and the University of Lapland would act as its heart. In general, Finland promotes rules based framework, multilateral environmental security approach and believes that best practices should be applied. In order to progress the discussion, Finland has proposed a highest level Arctic summit to discuss what is required to return to Arctic as an area of cooperation and not confrontation.
Mr. Mikko Niini emphasized that the economic development in the Arctic is still lacking and no one has a lot of business volume in the region. Furthermore, Arctic related business knowledge is rather hidden and not much demonstrated so far. Even though there are considerable challenges when going to the Arctic conditions, according to Mr. Niini, Aker could be an example as it has the capability and expertise. He also pointed out how Finland is actually the only country in the world with total ice isolation during the winter months. For this reason winter technology is everyday reality in Finland. Having 90 percent of its trade done via sea, Finland keeps 24 ports open by 8 ice breakers throughout the winter. The country receives 23,000 port calls during winter – routine activity for Finns, while an Arctic technology for others, according to Mr. Niini. He also highlighted that approximately 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas resources are in the Arctic and this is the key driver of the recent activity in the region. Mikko Niini claimed that there is a huge potential in the north and it will keep marine industry very active in the years to come. At present pipes are used in exporting the gas and oil to Central Europe, but as maintained by Mr. Niini, sea routes would be much more cost effective method of transportation. Mikko Niini also brought into attention the fact that the polar ice is reducing particularly in ice thickness, and this makes it relatively easy to transfer the Baltic Sea concept to the Arctic. He personally believes to very rapid increase in the economic activity in the Arctic.
Mr. Lassi Heininen took a holistic approach when exploring the geopolitics and security in the Arctic. Mr. Heininen claimed that Arctic is no more a workshop for only biological scientists but also for social scientists. Mr. Heininen also reminded how during the Cold War the Arctic was a scene of an arms race. What is more, the military structures are still there – a fact that must be taken into a consideration when talking about security regarding the region. Until the late 1980’s, Arctic was an arena of confrontation as it was highly strategic area both politically and military strategically. However, this all started to change even before the end of the Cold War. According to Mr. Heininen, Arctic is one of the first place in the world where one has had globalization, for example in the form of cosmopolitanism and growing readiness for self-determination by the indigenous people. In addition, rising environmental security awareness grew already during the 1970’s and 1980’s in the Arctic as a consequence by pollution and nuclear submarine accidents. This lead the region to become an area of transboundary cooperation instead of confrontation. According to Heininen stability became the ultimate aim of the states. When discussing about the current state of the Arctic affairs, Lassi Heininen maintained it all depends where one stands, in other words what kind of approach one prefers and whether one takes into an account the previous issues in the region’s history. Mr. Heininen finds that institutionalism versus so-called ‘Arctic race’ stance can often be discovered in the debate regarding the Arctic affairs. Despite of the existing border disputes in the Arctic Sea and independence claims in Greenland, according to him they are not conflicts as understood by politics. Most importantly there seems to be a cooperation tendency among the concerned parties. ’ Arctic five’ versus ‘Arctic eight’ may have a conflict but it is what politics is all about, thus this is only business as usual from Mr. Heininen’s point of view. For him, there is nothing new with globalization and environmental problems in the Arctic, as they already were happening before global warming. Moreover Lassi Heininen claimed that in the Arctic we have entered into a new kind of era – the Cold War is over. These days Arctic is peaceful and stable which can be considered a real achievement in the 2010’s. However the stabilization of the Arctic did not happen by accident but required decisive efforts. If nowadays Arctic is an arena for cooperation, the question is: are we able to see and appreciate that and how to develop this further?
Please find Heininen´s presentation from here.
Mr. Teemu Palosaari argued that both cooperation and competition are happening at the same time in the Arctic. From his standpoint the real problems are not necessarily related to cooperation and competition but to the environmental security. Since the end of the Cold War, ideas of new initiatives and new northern identity had arisen. However, these days much more sinister visions have taken place due to melting ice and its severe consequences. Mr. Palosaari pointed out how Arctic makes good headlines and questioned whether there is actually an ‘Amazing race’ – a media reality – taking place instead of the so-called ‘Arctic race’. He argued that while the ice melts will peace prevails, as there are plenty of regional and sub-regional institutions at place in the Arctic. Also the international law works in the region. Moreover, due to the challenging operating environment there is a need for international technological cooperation. Teemu Palosaari also maintained that the Arctic Council is a tool for Arctic governance and ways should be found on how to enhance the Council. As far as Mr. Palosaari is concerned, the world peace is not threatened by Arctic issues, but it is the environmental security where peace and conflict research comes in. Arctic nature is vulnerable, and one just has to think of the recent Gulf of Mexico incident as an example of the catastrophic consequences. Teemu Palosaari also brought into attention the human security dimension of the Arctic debate: Do the Inuits benefit from the bonanza? About 4 million people live in the Arctic and now many are in a situation of choosing in between the traditional livelihood or becoming a player in oil industry, such as in the case of Greenland and its quest for autonomy. This causes internal tensions within the region and some have gone as far as comparing the situation to neocolonism. Finally, Mr. Palosaari drew attention to the fact that global links to Arctic is unavoidably connected not just because of the Chinese or other interests in the region, but because what happens in Arctic has effects for all of us globally.
Panelists. Chair Kari Huhta on the right.
The panel discussion covered:
National Interests in the Arctic Region – Competition or Cooperation?
Chair : Kari Huhta, Journalist, Helsingin Sanomat
Speakers brought into focus the fact that the Arctic region is acquiring new significance on the international arena. Despite of region’s history as a scene of arms race during the Cold War, and due to economical and political changes, Arctic can now be viewed more as a scene of cooperation rather than conflict or war.
The Panel’s Chair Mr. Kari Huhta pointed out that we seem to be at some kind of a tipping point with regards to the Arctic. He also raised the fact of uncertainty by maintaining that for example shipping in the Arctic waters may be ten or thirty years away - nobody really knows.
Mrs. Hannele Pokka was pleased that Finland finally has an Arctic strategy and can now continue the work by using the strategy as its point of departure. As far as she was concerned, it is Finland’s message towards Arctic cooperation. Mrs. Pokka also reminded how collaboration had started already from the famous Gorbachev’s speech in Murmansk, 1987, in which he proposed a nuclear free zone to the Arctic. Mrs. Hannele Pokka put forth a question how to have a sustainable development in the Arctic so that the vulnerable environment is taken into an account. She also brought into discussion the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group (PAME). According to Mrs Pokka, PAME will launch its new comprehensive review in spring 2011.
Among other things the aforementioned report includes voluntary and mandatory measures how international community handles the Arctic issues and activities. Later on during the panel Mrs. Hannele Pokka also called more discussion between the different bodies including the academics and Arctic Council states among others.
Mr. Ulrik Tideström confirmed that Sweden too sees itself as an Arctic actor. Mr. Tideström confirmed that Sweden is also putting together an Arctic Strategy in the near future. Just recently Sweden took part to a search and rescue mission together with the US Coast Guard in order to rescue a Greek bulk carrier. In addition, Sweden’s joint efforts with Russian ice breakers confirm the collaborational nature in between the Arctic countries. Sweden will have the Arctic Council chairmanship in 2011. Mr. Tideström suggested that perhaps the Arctic Council could spend more time on policy issues, as for an example it could do more with new search and rescue plans. He also asserted that it is in Sweden’s interests to have an open Arctic Council and Sweden would like to grant an observer status for the European Union. He emphasized that the EU has an important role as an Arctic actor, especially when it comes to issues such as the fisheries. On the whole, from Sweden’s point of view, Arctic is an arena for cooperation.
Ulrik Tideström, Scott Brandon, Liisa Jaakonsaari
Mr. Scott Brandon acknowledged that issues such as the infamous Russian flag planting have raised the media attention while perhaps sidelining the actual proceedings that have taken place in the Arctic. Mr. Brandon pointed out that United Nations Convention on Laws of the Seas provides a way to deal with carving the borders in the region. He also maintained that the US already implements UNCLOS almost in its entirety and its ratification is a high priority within the State Department, whilst also the Department of Defense favors joining UNCLOS. Mr. Brandon added that collaboration prevails in the Arctic. For instance, despite of the fact that the US has unresolved boundary issues with Canada, has not disturbed their cooperation in mapping the seabed together. Russia and Canada are particularly important because of the common sea borders with the US. According to Mr. Scott Brandon, the US recognizes its need to work together with the other states, especially with the so-called ‘Arctic eight’. Joining with Mr. Ulrik Tideström, Mr. Brandon stated that as far as the US is concerned, reality is cooperation in the Arctic.
Mrs. Liisa Jaakonsaari agreed with Mr. Palosaari’s earlier presentation, and pointed out how Russia and Norway just recently agreed over a longstanding border dispute. However, her stance was that more cooperation is still needed. Also collaboration with the indigenous and local people is needed, as well as further diplomacy and confidence building. Mrs. Liisa Jaakonsaari brought into attention the European Union’s new report “A sustainable EU Policy for the High North”, in which she had been one of the shadow reporters. Furthermore, Mrs Jaakonsaari was glad to note that all the important issues were managed to include into the report. Mrs Jaakonsaari warned about the possible “Eldorado” like scenario and suggested establishing an interdependent and interdisciplinary panel of experts, just as has been done with the climate change panel.