Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC)
Press release on a meeting of Russian ambassadors to North European and Baltic countries
On October 6−7, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov chaired a meeting of Russian ambassadors to North European and Baltic countries, as well as ministry representatives in St Petersburg and Kaliningrad. The meeting was held in the Russian Embassy in Helsinki, Finland.
The event included a working meeting between Vladimir Titov and Foreign Minister of Finland Timo Soini. The officials held trust-based and concerned talks, during which they confirmed their high assessment of Russian-Finnish relations and mutual resolve to strengthen them, including through an intensive political dialogue at all levels.
They also confirmed an agreement on organising a regular meeting of the Russian and Finnish foreign ministers on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), which will be held in Arkhangelsk on October 18−19, 2017.
Vladimir Titov and Timo Soini also discussed current regional, European and global affairs. The Russian official proposed resuming 8+1 relations between the foreign ministries of Russia and the North European and Baltic countries in order to upgrade mutual trust and lay anti-Russia phobias to rest.
The officials pointed to the similarity in the Russian and Finnish approaches to the need to build up multilateral cooperation in Northern Europe and the Arctic, in particular in light of Finland’s active position as part of its two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, as well as to maintain the Baltic and the North as a zone of stability with a lower level of tensions than in other world regions. In this context, they pointed to the importance of implementing the initiative of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on enhancing the safety of military flights over the Baltic Sea by instructing military pilots to turn on their transponders just as civilian planes do. The Russian official confirmed Russia’s support for this initiative and expressed hope that the NATO countries would work to implement it.
The Russian ambassadors discussed a broad range of issues related to Russia’s policy in the region. They reaffirmed Russia’s intention to conduct open talks based on mutual respect with all the neighbouring countries and to promote business cooperation aimed at fulfilling practical tasks taking into account the specifics of all the partners. Russian policy will always be based on a willingness to promote cooperation and move as far as its foreign partners are willing to go.
The ministers analysed the possibility of moving forward in practical areas of cooperation, including ties between the concerned ministries and departments, revitalising the instrument of intergovernmental commissions and using the potential of border and interregional cooperation programmes.
When discussing Russia’s economic relations with its partners, they pointed to the possibility of restoring trade and investment cooperation to previous levels, in particular within the framework of large joint projects, despite the mutual restrictions.
The ministers talked about the further development of cooperation within the framework of multilateral organisations, such as the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), BEAC and the Arctic Council. They agreed that the regional architecture of joint organisations largely helps maintain a constructive atmosphere for practical cooperation. However, the regional countries need to work towards the synergy of regional councils by strengthening cooperation between them and coordinating a rational division of labour. With this in mind, these organisations should resume high-level coordination meetings.
The meeting participants held an in-depth analysis of border and interregional cooperation. They pointed out that this cooperation could become the driving force of the movement towards a favourable atmosphere in relations between the regional countries based on respect for public requirements in the adjacent territories.
They discussed the entire range of topics related to the situation with Russian speakers in regional countries and pointed to persisting and serious problems with discrimination against nonindigenous people in the Baltic countries. Russian missions in the region are focused on close ties with the organisations of compatriots aimed at protecting their rights and legitimate interests.
The ministers discussed the requirements and available opportunities for promoting cultural ties with the regional countries, for supporting and promoting the Russian language and for providing objective information about Russia and its foreign policy.
In conclusion, they reaffirmed the expediency of regular regional meetings of the heads of Russian diplomatic missions.