Publisert med forbehold om endringer under fremførelsen
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It’s a great pleasure for me as President of the Storting to welcome you to the Sixth Northern Dimension Parliamentary Forum in the Arctic city of Bodø.
This forum gathers participants from national parliaments of the EU, Russia, Iceland and Norway, as well as representatives from regional parliaments and indigenous peoples’ organizations. At this year’s forum, we have the pleasure of welcoming close to a hundred delegates. The forum is a vital meeting arena. It enables important players in Northern Europe to come together and to engage in dialogue about issues of common interest in the North.
The Arctic is an important part of Norwegian identity. We are a polar nation. We have a long and rich history of polar expeditions, with Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen at the forefront.
Not only is the Arctic a top priority in our foreign policy, it’s also a priority of the Norwegian Parliament. In 2009, the Storting set up a Delegation for Arctic Cooperation. Most of its members are here today, while yesterday they had a meeting in the Standing Committee of the Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region.
The High North is also a special region in the global context. The distances are huge. The climate is tough. Luckily, the people here are just as tough. And nature provides plenty of resources. Cross-border cooperation between the peoples of the High North stretches way back. The Pomor Trade between the coastal peoples of Northern Norway and North-West Russia, in the 18th and 19th centuries, is such an example. Trade, cultural exchange and numerous small initiatives and projects have strengthened ties between local communities for centuries. A modern example is the local border traffic permit for people of the Barents Region, enabling them to cross the Norwegian-Russian border freely.
I would like to extend a special welcome to our Russian friends, headed by Ms Olga Epifanova, Vice Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation. The last occasion that Norwegian and Russian high-level politicians were gathered was to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Eastern Finnmark by Soviet armed forces on 25 October 1944. Yet another example of our shared history and the resilience and cooperative spirit of the peoples of the High North.
The High North is also a vulnerable region. Especially so to climate change. Though a result of global emissions, it’s here in the Arctic that the effects are most serious and first noticed. The rise in average temperature is highest in the Arctic region. A global cause requires a global solution. Hopefully, by standing together, the four partners of the Northern Dimension can raise awareness about this issue on the global stage.
The communities of the High North also face other challenges. Vulnerability to a falling population, urbanization in the region, infrastructure challenges and harsh weather conditions, to name a few.
This requires coordinated efforts. It requires that we, the MPs, pave the way for continued friendship between the peoples of the region. I sincerely believe that such efforts will help to improve the quality of life for all.
Specific challenges need tailor-made solutions. This brings me to the core of the Northern Dimension Parliamentary Forum – cooperation through specific projects within four established partnerships. During the conference programme, we will learn more about the work within the partnerships on
- transport and logistics,
- environment and climate,
- and health and wellbeing.
Among the many exciting projects are
- common search and rescue missions in the High North,
- cross-border projects on energy efficiency and nuclear waste management,
- and efforts to ease antibiotic resistance.
The Northern Dimension was established back in 1999. In 2006 it was renewed as an equal partnership at government level between the EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland. It was recognized that collaboration between important players in Northern Europe had to be strengthened. The Parliamentary Forum began its work in 2009, and has been organized every second year since on a rotational basis between the four partners. The last time Norway had the pleasure of organizing the forum was in Tromsø in 2011.
This year we are proud to introduce you to another Arctic city of Norway – Bodø. We have enjoyed excellent cooperation with the local authorities of Bodø and Nordland County. Later today, you will learn more about work and life in the city of Bodø and the region surrounding it.
As it’s the 20th anniversary of the Northern Dimension, and a time to celebrate, we will also take the opportunity to reminisce a little. I am truly happy that the Founding Father of the Northern Dimension, and former Prime Minster of Finland, Mr Paavo Lipponen, is joining us at this forum. That said, the forum wouldn’t be complete without some thoughts about the future. In the next session, a youth panel will present their perspectives on the future of the Northern Dimension.
I would also like to extend a special welcome to our newly elected MPs of the European parliament, headed by Vice President Mr Othmar Karas. Likewise, I’m very pleased that the Icelandic delegation is joining us here today. Iceland currently chairs the Arctic Council, and I am sure its MPs will bring interesting new perspectives to the debates.
Let me finish by wishing you all a successful conference. I hope that today and tomorrow will provide a space for fruitful discussions and debates, and new friendships. I wish you all a wonderful stay here in Bodø.
Please welcome to the stage the Mayor of Bodø, Ms Ida Pinnerød.