Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC)
Remarks by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Arctic Council Session, Tromso, April 29, 2009
Esteemed Mister Chairman,
First of all I would like to express gratitude to our Norwegian partners for the hospitality and the excellent organization of the meeting.
Norway's chairmanship of the Arctic Council was constructive and fruitful. Large-scale and highly important projects were successfully carried through – in particular, the Report on Oil and Gas, the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, and the Northern Economy. I congratulate you, Mr. Store, on this important success. The principal tasks that had been set at the previous Council session in Salekhard have been fulfilled.
As the chair of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council I would like to note its active and fruitful cooperation with the Arctic Council, primarily in such areas as environment protection, the struggle against Northern nature pollution sources, support of the indigenous peoples and adaptation to the consequences of climate change. Taking this opportunity, I would like to invite you, esteemed colleagues, to Murmansk from October 14-15 to a ministerial session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.
The Arctic plays an ever increasing role in the life of our states. That's what prompted the Russian Federation to adopt in September 2008 the Basic Guidelines for State Policy in the Arctic, a document that clearly articulates our national interests in the region; the preservation of the Arctic as a zone of peace and cooperation stands out prominently among them.
Concrete tasks have been outlined to realize these goals, special government programs are being developed and necessary budget financing is being allocated. We are certain that a specification of the Russian approaches will contribute to the further development of Russian bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the Arctic. As President Dmitry Medvedev has repeatedly stressed, many of our national interests in the region can be realized only in close collaboration with the partners. Russia will be a reliable, transparent and predictable partner in the Arctic. This is the chief premise of the Basic Guidelines. Today we are circulating an unofficial document on these issues.
Overall, we are gratified by the development of the situation in the Arctic region. There can be no validity in the view of the Arctic as a zone of potential conflicts, because you won't discern either irreconcilable contradictions in the interests of the Arctic states there or any threats requiring force-based solutions or a presence of military-political blocs in the region. On the contrary, the character of the problems, primarily tied to climate change, and the still-severe Arctic conditions predetermine the necessity to act together and build up coordinated joint efforts. We are convinced that the chief trend in the Arctic is the development of broad regional cooperation.
The May 2008 meeting of the foreign ministers of the five Arctic coastal states at Ilulissat, Greenland, reached important accords, in particular, that all likely claims in the Arctic will be solved on the basis of existing juridical norms. Russia will steadfastly follow these accords. The earlier fears that the meeting at Ilulissat might weaken the Arctic Council had turned out to be unjustified. Its participants unanimously expressed complete support to the Council, and the initiatives put forward by them were later practically realized in its framework.
I mean, above all, the ideas of fostering cooperation in the struggle against emergency situations. We are grateful to the Council participants for support of the Russian initiative ‘Developing Security Systems in the Realization of Economic and Infrastructure Projects in the Arctic' presupposing the elaboration of common approaches and mechanisms for the prevention and neutralization of various man-made disasters that may arise owing to more active economic development of the region. Russia is ready to continue to provide practical leadership in the Council on this theme on the understanding that our partners' involvement is going to increase over time.
We are gratified by the fact that today we are taking decision to launch within the Arctic Council a negotiation process on the first pan-Arctic document on cooperation in the area of search and rescue in the Arctic with respect to incidents at sea and in the air. At Ilulissat we called on the colleagues to return in the new conditions to this Russian idea, put forward in the Arctic Council in 2004. Therefore we supported the initiative of the American colleagues to start talks on this issue on the basis of the Russian ideas and suggestions already proposed in the past.
We think that cooperation between coast guards and other relevant agencies and organizations of all Arctic states must bear a multilateral character. In this connection we suggest considering the possibility of creating a unified information and coordination center for ensuring search and rescue activities in the Arctic.
The Arctic Council has considerable potential. At our meeting in Salekhard we spoke about the importance of inserting a cultural dimension into the Council agenda. Russia hopes for support of its new initiative in development of this theme. It is about a project ‘Electronic Memory of the Arctic' that calls for the creation and storage of, and access to information resources of the polar world in the global internet network. This would simultaneously be an electronic archive, library and museum where to collect the fullest possible information about the historical, scientific, literary and cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples of the North and about Northern development activities. If each of the Arctic Council states makes an information contribution to the common storehouse regarding its national sector, then the project will acquire a truly regional character and, in our opinion, present a cultural and scientific value for all our states.
To realize the project a nonprofit partnership has been set up in Russia encompassing the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, the Severniye Prostory Publishing House and the RusAR Electronic Information Resources Publishing House. The Russian participants will be glad to familiarize the partners with their suggestions and developments. Of course, we see points of interface between the Russian initiative and the Arctic Portal information system being developed under Arctic Council auspices.
The Arctic Council, like any organization, must continuously improve itself. We welcome the work carried out by the Norwegian chairmanship on specifying the role of observers in the Council's activities. Life tells us that this work should be continued. In conditions of the rapid increase of attention to the Arctic Council in the world, which is a natural process, it is important to fix a correct balance between the regional identity of the organization and the use of the possibilities of cooperation with extra-regional partners ready to make a concrete constructive contribution to the realization of the goals and objectives endorsed by the Arctic Council members.
Obviously it makes sense to take a fresh look at financing for the activities of the Arctic Council, its working groups and specific projects as well. I hope we will very soon witness the start of the work of the Project Support Instrument, to which Russia stands ready to make a substantial financial contribution – 2 million euros per year. The activities of this fund may become a good example for other such undertakings.
In conclusion I would like to note with satisfaction the consistent growth of the role of the Arctic Council in arranging regional cooperation and in reinforcing stability and predictability in the Arctic. Russia considers the Arctic Council to be a major regional forum and will continue to actively participate in its work in close cooperation with our neighbors in the common Arctic home.
I wish success to the new Danish chairmanship of the Council and we will be ready to provide necessary help and assistance to it.
Thank you for your attention.
April 29, 2009