The Arctic Council opened doors towards the east
The status of the Arctic Council as the hub of Arctic policy will strengthen. The Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council, held in Kiruna, Sweden, on 15 May, approved six new Observer States: China, India, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Italy. In principle, the European Commission was also granted an observer status in the Arctic Council, although exceptional arrangements are still required as regards the ban on seal products.
In Kiruna, the Foreign Ministers signed an agreement on cooperation on marine oil pollution, preparedness and response in the Arctic. The agreement obliges the Arctic Council Member States to enhance their national oil pollution preparedness, increase cooperation and sharing of information, and arrange joint exercises and training.
Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, who represented Finland in the meeting, considers the preparedness agreement signed as a good start. “One of the near-future tasks is to prepare concrete operating instruction on the basis of the agreement,” Tuomioja says.
“The starting point of Finland's Arctic Strategy is the exploitation of Arctic top know-how and the reconciliation of environmental conditions and principles of sustainable development,” Minister Tuomioja pointed out. “All economic activity must be performed in a manner that takes account of social, cultural and environmental aspects from the perspective of northern inhabitants, and indigenous people in particular.”
The updated Finnish Arctic Strategy will be completed by summer.
The Arctic region is more than tundra and glaciers
On 16 May, Europe Information launched a book concerning the Arctic Region, “Arktinen kutsuu - Suomi, EU ja arktinen alue” (in Finnish; “Call of the Arctic – Finland, the EU and the Arctic Region”). The purpose of the book is to help people see and understand the major changes the Arctic region is currently undergoing. The large natural resources of the Arctic region attract worldwide interest.
The Arctic Region is often discussed from the outside perspective: how the region should be protected or, on the other hand, exploited economically. In this new book, the writers have wanted to observe the region from the inside, through the local people. The book was written by science journalist Marjo Laukkanen and Markku Heikkilä, Head of Arctic Centre Science Communications at the University of Lapland.