Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks at the Barents Youth Summit, Tromsø, Norway, October 26, 2021
Thank you for the invitation. I believe focusing on matters of youth is a useful initiative that deserves every support.
You are entering adulthood. In the very near future, you will take our places. Everyone realises this very well.
Russia has always advocated the creation of youth entities in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council region that will help us better understand the future. I believe that this opportunity will materialise today. I sincerely thank our Norwegian hosts, Västerbotten (West Bothnia), its governor and the Barents Regional Youth Council.
I was asked to provide my personal point of view. Frankly, it is hardly different from the official one. The official approaches of the countries of our Council mostly rely on understanding that we should focus on practical matters that unite us, primarily those of us who live just within several kilometres from each other, but are separated by the state borders. The issues we have to deal with in the North are complicated due the climate and remote location of the regions and can be resolved only by joint efforts. It is a good example of a situation with specific issues that need to be addressed in order to be able to live a normal life. There is no place for ideologies. Nobody starts geopolitical battles. This is an example of neighbourliness and mutual assistance. We need to support each other. I think this approach is typical not only of our countries, but also of all ministers and other officials in their personal capacity. This is our common conviction - this is what makes us strong.
Also important is the fact that the Barents Euro-Arctic Council covers national and municipal levels. Regions in each country cooperate with each other as well. There is a special mechanism, namely, the Barents Regional Council which is a major advantage of ours, because the problems and needs, including of women, are clearly visible at the local level. Women must be kept in the North so that men do not flee. But jobs must be created for both women and men. Moreover, now, with advances in research and education, there are no jobs that can be done only by men. In this sense, the local needs are fundamentally important so that the national governments can have proper benchmarks, and we can implement them via our project activities in organisations such as this Council. Thank you for supporting Russia’s initiative to create a financial mechanism. It is still modest, but, as we say, the hardest thing is the beginning. It is the first step that matters.
With regard to encouraging people not to leave and ensuring respect for the traditions of the indigenous peoples of the North, it is important to be mindful of the fact that the Barents Region is the most developed part of the Arctic in terms of scientific research, education and business (in a sense). The potential is there. What do we need to do to avoid a braindrain and replace braindrain with braingain? There are no special miraculous recipes. We must create conditions for the fulfilment of creative potential, be it science, education, art or business. I am strongly supportive of the Norway and Finland’s initiative to step up cooperation in education and science. I suggest the Barents Regional Youth Council get involved in identifying areas of cooperation.
A sense of identity and being part of the family are of key importance. The indigenous peoples’ role is particularly evident here. We must deal with the issues faced by everyone who lives here and instill in young people the feeling of a small and common homeland in the Nordic countries. There are the Barents Council and the Arctic Council, which Russia is chairing this year. Today, I spoke with the Foreign Minister of Finland, Pekka Haavisto, about the need to harmonise the agendas of these entities. There is also the Council of the Baltic Sea States – which is a contiguous region too, with challenges that are similar to those on our agenda.
I am presenting you with the idea of creating a single youth body for all Northern Cooperation entities. We are in favour of coordinating their activities. You will form an agenda, to which governments must respond in good time.