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‘What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic’

Opportunities for international co-operation in the Arctic region and the political implications of global warming were the main topics at a meeting of the Sub-Committee on External Relations of PACE’s Political Affairs Committee, which met in Rovaniemi, Finland, on 16 December 2019.

Following a series of interventions from parliamentarians, ambassadors and academics dealing with Arctic affairs, members of the sub-committee agreed that while global problems do not necessarily originate in the Arctic, they often have a greater impact on this region than others. The words of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö were quoted: “If we lose the Arctic, we lose the world”.

“The Arctic is about people and is not a lawless frontier,” pointed out Norwegian MP Eirik Sivertsen, who Chairs the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, adding that there was no bigger challenge than the political implications of global warming and threats to biodiversity. “There is no other option but to step up the parliamentary contribution to addressing these challenges,” added Kimmo Kiljunen, who heads the Finnish delegation to PACE. The sub-committee agreed to discuss how PACE could contribute further to this aim.

Against this backdrop, “parliamentarians must play their part by setting the facts straight, by proposing legislation, by holding their governments to account for their actions and for the implementation of laws and international commitments, and last but not least, by creating a bridge between people and institutions,” said Norwegian MP Torill Eidsheim, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on Arctic Issues. She added that “what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic”.

PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier, who opened the meeting, said it was also “an opportunity to learn about the Arctic co-operation model, which brings together a very diverse group of states, with very different interests, visions and aspirations, to collaborate in the interests of their respective citizens”.

Iceland’s Ambassador for Arctic Affairs Einar Gunnarsson underlined that it was more important than ever to “protect the co-operative spirit” of the Arctic Council.

The sub-committee also heard statements from three academics associated with the University of Lapland, including the Director of its Arctic Centre Timo Koivurova.