Timo Soini: Finnish Snow-how

The Arctic region ranks high on the list of Finland's priorities and among mine as the Foreign Minister. We aspire to unlock the Arctic business potential and achieve economic growth that is based on our expertise in northern circumstances. While pursuing this goal, however, we must utilize our knowledge and develop our skills in protecting the natural environment and ensuring healthy living conditions for the people of the Arctic.

Today the Arctic attracts more international attention than ever. The warming climate will ease the access to the region's rich natural resources. At the same time, concerns are raised: the rapid change of the Arctic environment transforms living conditions within the region itself, but it can also have serious global implications. I regard Arctic cooperation as a fundamental tool to address both the challenges and opportunities in the Arctic.

Finland will take over the chairmanship of the most important Arctic cooperation forum, the Arctic Council, from the United States next spring. During the U.S. chairmanship, all Arctic countries and the Arctic indigenous peoples have continued their collaboration for sustainable development in the region. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and I agreed last year that our governments will ensure continuity between the Finnish and U.S. chairmanships of the Council.

Finland appreciates the leadership that the U.S. has shown in climate issues, both in the Arctic Council and in the global climate negotiations. Work on climate change mitigation - and adaptation to irreversible changes - is a self-evident part of the Arctic cooperation. The Arctic countries also have a great responsibility in the reality check of the Paris climate agreement - putting our climate pledges into practice and striving for even more ambitious emission reductions.

The Arctic is a sparsely populated region. Nevertheless, it is home to many people and many kinds of businesses - indigenous peoples' traditional livelihoods, nature tourism, companies marketing Arctic natural products, and large-scale resource extraction industries, just to name a few. Lack of infrastructure has been identified as one of the bottlenecks for Arctic development. This is why efforts to improve transport and data communication infrastructure are needed. The U.S. has brought telecommunications to the Arctic Council agenda, a worthwhile initiative also from the Finnish point of view.

The Fulbright Arctic Initiative is a great example of scientific collaboration in the Arctic region and Fulbright Finland has an important role in it. High-quality research helps us meet the common challenges and reach the opportunities that await us in the Arctic. I am especially delighted to note that both Finnish and U.S. scholars have worked on renewable energy within the Fulbright Arctic Initiative. That is the kind of research we really need.

Unlike the Arctic migratory birds, most Finns cannot fly south for the winter, and we have to cope with the long cold season on our Arctic grounds. This is why Finland excels in cold climate technologies in various fields, from mobile communications to ship building. We are proud of our Arctic snow-how. Over half of the icebreakers in the world, including all the good ones, have been designed and built in Finland and sold or leased to international customers. These impressive vessels can be used for commercial purposes, but also to assist scientific voyages.

When it comes to the Arctic, Finland and the United States are practically neighbors. During the last twenty years, it has become a new and natural area of cooperation for our countries.


Timo Soini
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland

Published in Fulbright Center News 1/2016