Finnish-Norwegian Arctic Partnership strengthened by a state visit
It is of the utmost importance to both Finland and Norway that the northern regions of our countries continue to thrive. For this to happen, they need jobs and educational opportunities. Both Finland and Norway have excellent expertise on arctic issues, but by joining forces we can achieve much more.
The northern parts of our countries can become a world-leading region in terms of growth based on sustainability and knowhow. Promising sectors include clean energy, tourism, and expertise related to cold climatic conditions. One good example of such cross-border cooperation from the field of tourism is the Visit Arctic Europe marketing campaign, launched last year.
Four years ago our countries signed a bilateral Arctic Partnership agreement. We are striving to make the most of the consequent opportunities. The official visit of the King and Queen of Norway to Finland from the 6th to the 8th of September underlines the close political and economic collaboration between our two countries. In addition to political discussions and a business seminar held in Helsinki, the programme for the visit prominently focuses on cooperation in the north – with one day of the three-day state visit to be spent in Oulu.
The Arctic region holds many opportunities for both of our countries – in its vibrant communities with their schools, services and workplaces, as well as in the region’s unique natural attractions. Our northern regions also face common challenges related to their sparse populations, the long distances between settlements, and the harsh climate.
A report entitled “Growth from the North”, produced last year by an independent Finnish-Norwegian-Swedish working group, set out a vision of how our countries could together create growth in our northern regions.
To do this, we will need to further enhance our expertise, and encourage collaboration between businesses and educational institutes. Finland and Norway have both been investing in their well-established northern centres for higher education. By cooperating across national boundaries we can offer students and universities still more opportunities. During their visit, for instance, the royal couple will find out about technological collaboration between the universities of Oulu and Tromsø, designed to produce health services for people living in sparsely populated northern regions. Through the Arctic Business Corridor project, Oulu University and Oulu university of Applied Sciences are working with the University of Tromsø to inform students about the challenges and opportunities facing the region’s businesses, and give them an opportunity to help firms to locate themselves in new markets.
The goals of the Finnish-Norwegian Arctic Partnership include promoting the mobility of labour between the two countries. Northern Norway currently faces a labour shortage; while Finland can offer a highly educated workforce with expertise on arctic issues. In a concrete illustration of such cooperation, the Norwegian IT firm Nordic semiconductor recently opened a new office in Oulu, where highly qualified personnel are available.
A delicate balance exists between the utilisation of natural resources, economic development, and the vulnerable natural features of the Arctic. Finland and Norway specialise in technical solutions that can stimulate ecologically sustainable development. One key organisation with regard to nature conservation in the region is the Arctic Council. Finland will take over the rotating chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2017, focusing on the need to address challenges related to climate change and sustainable development. The recently formed Arctic Economic Council, with its secretariat in Tromsø, will take on an important role seeking out opportunities for ecologically sustainable commercial development.
Finnish-Norwegian cooperation can achieve a lot, especially in the north, where for many people a neighbouring country’s towns and transport links may be nearer than those in their own country. The situation with regard to international security is meanwhile becoming increasingly challenging, due to factors including the actions of neighbouring Russia, making it important that dialogues between northern regions should continue. This week’s state visit will reinforce the close partnership between our countries, and inspire new collaborative efforts involving Finland and Norway. Together we are stronger.