12 December 200816:25

Remarks by Ambassador at Large Anton Vasiliev, Chairman of the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), at the Signing Ceremony for the Agreement between the Governments in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region on Cooperation in the Field of Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response, Moscow, December 11, 2008


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Esteemed Sergey Kuzhugetovich [Shoigu],

Esteemed colleagues,

At the outset, I am glad to convey to you the greetings and congratulations of the Chairman of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov.

The long and painstaking work on the Agreement between the Governments in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region on Cooperation in the Field of Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response is over. We are pleased that we are holding its signing ceremony in Moscow today.

Cooperation on emergency prevention and management has already been conducted – very successfully – among the BEAC states, bilaterally and multilaterally. Thus, Barents Rescue joint training exercises have become a traditional and regular event and a Barents cooperation calendar is now unimaginable without them. This year alone Russia's EMERCOM held a successful international seminar on these matters jointly with our partners from Sweden at Dudinka and a large-scale exercise with the invitation of foreign observers at Lukoil's new oil shipment terminal in the Barents Sea in the area of Varandey. I had the luck to participate in both events and can attest to their excellent organization and impressive practical results, which their foreign participants also took note of.

The further deepening of cooperation between emergency prevention and management services under the Agreement is an obvious boon for our countries and peoples. Even if slightly, our life is going to be calmer and safer as a result. This is all the more important in northern latitudes where population density is small and natural conditions are severe as nowhere else. It is also important in terms of climate change and the resultant new opportunities and challenges.

Today's signing of the agreement is one of the central events in the period of the Russian chairmanship of the BEAC in 2007-2009. Of course, we do justice to the efforts of the previous BEAC chairmanships during which the agreement was directly worked on.

For the international Barents cooperation the signing has, without exaggeration, a historic significance. It is the first intergovernmental agreement in the 15-year history of BEAC on direct practical cooperation (the only intergovernmental BEAC document up until now was the 2007 agreement on the establishment of the International Barents Secretariat). In this sense we today act as path-blazers. I hope we're setting a positive precedent that may be resorted to, if necessary, in other areas of multifaceted international cooperation in the Barents Region.

There is another essential aspect in today's event. Cooperation in the field of emergency prevention and management in the Barents Region will make it possible to accumulate an additional valuable experience that may be applicable in other parts of the Arctic. The session of the Committee of Senior Officials of the Arctic Council in the Norwegian town of Kautokeino on November 19-20, which I happened to attend, preliminarily endorsed the initially Russian idea of starting negotiations between all Arctic states to craft a new multilateral agreement for cooperation in maritime and aviation search and rescue in the Arctic. The relevant decision may be taken in April 2009 at a ministerial session of the Arctic Council. It seems that we will be able to make a serious real contribution to elaborating the first such pan-Arctic agreement. Also there, in Kautokeino, there was approved as an official Arctic Council project another Russian initiative to start working jointly towards a common system of man-made disaster prevention and management in the Arctic. And here the BEAC experience of multilateral cooperation in emergency prevention and neutralization may also undoubtedly be very useful.

The just-signed agreement provides for the establishment by competent bodies of member states of a Joint Emergency Prevention and Management Committee. I hope that structurally the Committee, if not part of the BEAC organizationally, will maintain the closest contact with it. In February 2009, Petrozavodsk will host the next BEAC Committee of Senior Officials meeting where we will review the performance of the BEAC working groups in 2008 and consider their plans for 2009. We would be glad to hear at this meeting about the plans of the newly created Joint Committee for the next year.

The BEAC Committee of Senior Officials will be ready to provide any necessary assistance to the implementation of the Agreement. In particular, you can use the main information resource of BEAC, the International Barents Secretariat website, for this purpose.

In my national capacity, I would like to reiterate the invariable support of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to your cooperation.

In conclusion I want to thank all negotiation participants from Russia, Norway, Finland, and Sweden for work done and wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I wish you good health, happiness, wellbeing and of course a new year without emergencies.

Thank you.

December 12, 2008

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