Finland – an Arctic Expert

Finland’s new Arctic Strategy was adopted a year ago. Besides a clear-cut strategy, it includes an extensive set of objectives for Finland’s Arctic policy and concrete actions to reach those objectives. The strategy addresses education, research, social issues for local residents, the economy, infrastructure, the environment, stability and international cooperation in the Arctic.

Finland’s role in the fundamental change currently ongoing in the Arctic is to promote sustainable development and stability, both nationally and internationally. Simultaneously, Finland is engaged in efforts to exploit the economic opportunities emerging in the North. These two goals are not mutually exclusive, as long as the economic activities in the vulnerable Arctic regions take into account the environmental concerns and are sustainable also in terms of local communities. In short, Finland’s Arctic Vision states: “Finland is an active Arctic actor with the ability to reconcile the limitations imposed and business opportunities provided by the Arctic environment in a sustainable manner, while drawing upon international cooperation”.

To give some examples of the Finnish Arctic expertise: our airports stay open even during heavy snowstorms (because of our snow-how) and all our ports are ice-covered during winter, but neither are they ever closed, thanks to our ice-breakers. Sixty percent of all ice-breakers in the world are built in Finland and we are busy with new innovations in ice-breaking and ice management technologies. Furthermore, to live and work in a cold climate is natural for all Finns. Machinery and houses are built to last even the coldest temperatures, cars are winter-tested in Finland, clothing is high-tech; comfortable but always keeping you warm. Concepts such as renewable energy, cleantech and green mining are routinely applied in our Arctic activities. You know that Santa Claus comes from the Arctic Circle in Finland, but did you know that 90 percent of all hotel beds in the Circumpolar Arctic are in the Finnish Lapland; we are an Arctic superpower in tourism. And finally, one third of all citizens living in the Arctic – above the 60 degree of latitude – are Finns.

The Arctic Council is the pre-eminent forum for Arctic issues, recognized by all. The Council’s institutional role has been steadily growing following the establishment of a permanent secretariat, the adoption of binding agreements and the extension of the Council’s agenda. Finland promotes broadening the Arctic cooperation towards economic and business issues, including the work of the recently established Arctic Economic Council. Both the U.S. and Finland stress further strengthening of the Council. We support the Council being open to global cooperation and enhanced interaction with observers. Finland fully supports the U.S. proposal to arrange the Arctic Summit in 2016, if circumstances permit.

The U.S. will chair the Arctic Council on 2015–2017 and Finland will follow thereafter. Together we are aiming at more focused alignment of interests between chairmanships. This will involve active dialogue and longer-term thinking between our two countries and partners in the Arctic. We are seeking for an informal bilateral Arctic framework – a partnership, if you will – to intensify the already existing good cooperation on Arctic issues, and to widen bilateral relationships in new areas. We are thinking of extended cooperation in particular in science, technology and research; in climate and environmental issues; in information and communications technology; and in safety and security related sectors, as well. The Finnish Fulbright Program is already a partner in this strategy through its grant and outreach programs.

Hannu Halinen
Arctic Ambassador of Finland

Fulbright Center News 2/2014