29 October 200811:44

Transcript of Introductory Remarks and Comments by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at the Opening Ceremony of the First Ministerial Meeting of the Renewed Northern Dimension, St. Petersburg, October 28, 2008


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Esteemed colleagues,

Allow me on behalf of all those gathered to thank St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko for the invitation to hold the first Renewed Northern Dimension ministerial meeting in St. Petersburg at this beautiful Yusupov Palace, a former witness of not unimportant events in Russian history.

The fact that we have gathered for this meeting in the northern capital of Russia is symbolic: St. Petersburg, as is known, was founded by Peter the Great as the "window to Europe" and that the capital of this vast state for more than 200 years was in the Northern Dimension region attests to our country's gravitation towards cooperation in the Baltic Sea area, and in a broader sense, in the North of our continent.

As practice shows, the translation of the Northern Dimension from an EU policy into a joint policy of Russia, the European Union, Iceland and Norway has fully acquitted itself and enabled this format to gain greater strength and expand its sphere of activity. We are convinced that the Northern Dimension potential is so great that it can encompass practically every sphere of cooperation in this big region.

There is a very pressing need in Europe today to create a new, equitable system of cooperation and security, without dividing lines and without "buffer" zones, on the basis respect for the lawful interests of each other. Our format can lay its small brick in the construction of that comfortable common home for all Europeans.

Regional cooperation is becoming particularly relevant in the conditions of the global financial crisis. For in the situation where the problems at the national level are so acute that states are unable to render urgent financial aid to each other, clusters of the real economy in the regions can give sustainability to economic ties not only within a country, but also across the borders.

Serving the same aims, but at a local level is cross-border cooperation, the red thread in our common Northern Dimension policy which we have yet to take up in earnest.

Equally significant is the fact that the Northern Dimension has a distinctly humanitarian and people-to-people tilt. In the final analysis, all of our political and diplomatic efforts are aimed at achieving just one aim: to promote communication and mutual understanding between concrete citizens of our countries. These ties are for the most part impervious to the political conjuncture of relations between states or blocs. It is within our power to make borders all the more transparent not only for transport flows, but for people as well.

There is one more aspect to the Northern Dimension that may not be easily tangible at first glance: the rising awareness among our citizens, economic operators and political elites of their belonging to a shared region of democracy and prosperity, the Northern Dimension region. I am certain that given this common mentality the interstate and interregional projects and plans will get going more swiftly.

Now I suggest that you make your opening statements.

* * *

(After the statements of the EU (the French presidency and CEC), Iceland and Norway)

Thank you for your informative greetings, setting the tone for our further work.

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen,

Supportive of the existing multilateral cooperation within the framework of the regional councils operating in the North of Europe, such as the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) and the Arctic Council (AC), the Northern Dimension partners have invited these entities to full-fledgedly participate in the Northern Dimension policy, which is already being carried out in practice.

I now want to give the floor to the representatives of the regional councils in the person of their respective chairmanships.

(After the statements of the CBSS (Denmark), NCM (Sweden) and AC (Norway)

From the Russian BEAC chairmanship Ambassador at Large Anton Vsevolodovich Vasilyev now has the floor (the text of his statement is posted on the Russian MFA's website separately).

* * *

Esteemed colleagues,

It is obvious that there are great opportunities for the further development of dialogue and improvement of coordination between the Northern Dimension and the regional councils. It would perhaps be worthwhile to think of preparing a study with analysis of sometimes overlapping areas of their activity and with arrival at recommendations for the most rational division of labor with a view to saving resources and achieving a synergic effect.

After a short break we shall move to the substantive part of our meeting. (After the statements of the foreign ministers of Estonia, Finland and Sweden the conference continued examining other items of its agenda, including those concerning the Environmental Partnership, Health and Social Wellbeing Partnership and the Transport and Logistics Partnership)

October 29, 2008

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