Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko’s remarks at the Northern Dimension online forum, November 20, 2020
Mr Schilling, participants, friends,
This year, we are meeting in an unusual, but already familiar, online format. The pandemic has changed our lives a lot. However, our contacts and interaction within the Northern Dimension continue to expand.
This is happening due to the desire of those who appreciate cooperation in our common northern European region and are willing to strengthen it despite the hurdles, including political hurdles. I would like to thank for this the Northern Dimension Business Council, the Association of European Businesses in Russia, and the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, who made today’s event possible. I know it will be instrumental in finding ways to overcome the existing challenges.
The Northern Dimension has a special place among regional international mechanisms. It is a unique political platform represented by Russia, the EU, Iceland and Norway. This is a network of partnerships with a fairly wide range of participants. It is also a platform for a dialogue between the parliamentarians, experts and academia. Of course, this also includes the Northern Dimension Business Council, which really helps expand economic ties and overcome artificial barriers.
These entities complement each other well, which is confirmed by practical joint events. We welcome the more active interaction of partnerships with the Business Council and the Northern Dimension Institute.
Each of the Northern Dimension mechanisms boasts significant achievements.
This year, health is of particular importance. Of course, the Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-Being can play a key role here. We hope that a new strategy for developing it after 2020 will be adopted soon and will equally reflect the participants’ approaches. Amid the pandemic, the partnership has become a platform for exchanging information on the current situation in the participating countries and the measures they are taking to combat the disease.
The Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership is closely related to supporting people’s health and quality of life. Dozens of meaningful projects have been implemented and continue to be implemented. They are aimed at improving the environmental situation in northern Europe. The partial, I emphasise that, cancellation, in 2018, of restrictions on financing new projects through international financial institutions has improved our cooperation. It is also important for the authorities of the northwestern Russian regions to provide support for new projects. After all, the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership is an established mechanism with a good track record, extensive experience and sizable funding, a significant part of which, as you may be aware, is provided by Russia.
The Northern Dimension Partnership on Transport and Logistics can make a significant contribution to developing northern Europe. We hope that the countries that are members of the partnership will be able to work together effectively in the near future, including on the topics of decarbonisation and the digitalisation of the transport sector which are of interest to all participants.
I would like to note the interaction within the Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture, which plays an important role in uniting the efforts of creative and business communities seeking to promote “creative industries.” We hope that the next Partnership Forum, which is held annually in St Petersburg, and this time will be held partly online, on December 10-11, will generate new ideas.
The Northern Dimension Institute is making a significant contribution to identifying promising areas of international cooperation in northern Europe. The annual Future Forum has become its hallmark over the past two years. This year’s forum to be held within the next two weeks is dedicated to combating the coronavirus infection.
When talking about the future, it is important to keep in mind the possibility of expanding our areas of cooperation. The world is changing, new opportunities are opening up. We must use them to increase the attractiveness and development potential of the European north. Business representatives have many suggestions on how the Northern Dimension platform can be used for this purpose.
Finally, if we want the Northern Dimension to continue to be in demand ten or 20 years from now, we need to engage young people more actively – with their energy and enthusiasm, their openness to new ideas and their willingness to implement them.
At the same time, it should be emphasised that the development of practical cooperation is impossible without a stable political dialogue at various levels. I think everyone understands that such a dialogue is necessary if we want the Northern Dimension to remain among the key formats of multilateral cooperation in the north of Europe. I am sure that everyone would be interested in this, given the unique composition of participants and activities to fill the project portfolio.
Of course, there is active international cooperation in the region also through other platforms: the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, and the Arctic Council. Eight cross-border and inter-regional cooperation programmes between Russia and the EU states, with the participation of Norway and Belarus, are being successfully implemented. Similar programmes are being prepared through 2027.
I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the role of the Association of European Businesses in Russia in developing and strengthening trade and economic cooperation between our countries and once again congratulate it on its 25th anniversary. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs highly appreciates the efforts of the Association; Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with its members on a regular basis. The last meeting took place recently, on October 5. We are confident that mutually beneficial cooperation between entrepreneurs remains one of the main elements of ensuring stability and neighborliness in the north of Europe.
This is especially important now. After all, in the context of increased global competition, serious efforts are being made to weaken and split Greater Europe, return it to a state of “cold peace” and undermine the partnership that has been built over decades between our country and the EU. Let me remind you that the Northern Dimension was born due to the interaction and strategic vision of Russia and the European Union. It is in our common interest not only to preserve what unites us, but also to move forward.
I would like to wish success to the participants of today’s meeting. I hope that next time we will meet again in the traditional face-to-face format in St Petersburg.
Thank you for your attention.