What Future for the High North? Norway’s Vision for the Arctic Region - Norway Exports

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What Future for the High North? Norway’s Vision for the Arctic Region

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Slide 1: Intro slide


·        Honoured to speak to you here today on Norway’s foreign policy priority number one. I come straight from the European Parliament where I have been speaking to the Foreign Affairs’ Committee.

·        What attract most attention these days in Europe are of course the financial crisis and the “Arab uprising”. The southern dimension. The developments in the east and China are also followed closely. The eastern dimension. However, there is also another important dimension that deserves attention: The Northern dimension. Look to the North.          

Slide 2: Svalbard

·        Let there be no doubt: As you see people live their lives in the High North. Even on Svalbard. (Must protect her child against polar bears).   

·        Today I will present Norway’s vision for the High North, which is emerging as a new centre of gravity in Europe. Also one of many centres on the global stage. 

·        Some illustrations of this:

Slide 3: From Nuuk Ministerial Meeting

·        Last year Hillary Clinton became the first Secretary of State to lead a US delegation to an Arctic Council meeting.

Slide 4: From HR Ashton’s visit to Svalbard

.   Only a couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of accompanying the EU’s High Representative, Lady Ashton, on her trip to Svalbard for discussions on the Arctic.

Slide 5: From Ny-Ålesund – Chinese research centre

·        China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India all have research stations at Svalbard. The first three have also applied for permanent observer status to the Arctic Council – as have the EU, Italy and Singapore.

·        West, south, east – everyone is looking towards the north. There are three key drivers for this increased attention: climate change, access to resources, Russia. Will touch on them all in turn.

Slide 6: Circumpolar map

Broad agreement on the legal framework

·        But first a fundamental question: What kind of legal and political framework do we have for meeting this increased interest in this vulnerable area?

·        At my last meeting with the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee I spent a lot of time on the question of whether there is a legal vacuum in the Arctic.

·        Today no need to dwell on this issue. The reason: the development of the international debate on this issue the last four years:

  • The Illulissat Declaration May 2008 – recognition by the five Arctic coastal states of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to be the applicable legal framework in the Arctic Ocean;
  •  From 2008 onwards, official policy documents and statements from the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament have consistently displayed recognition of the existing legal and political framework in the Arctic.

·        I am pleased that there is increasing convergence on this fundamental question. “No race for the Arctic”, if understood as a race between states.

·        However, there could be competition between companies – seeking to position themselves for economic opportunities in the High North. (This is sound and the way it should be in a market economy). And there could be a sense of urgency in the search for knowledge – about climate change, best practices for responsible economic activity etc.

·        Political framework: The Arctic Council – only circumpolar body for discussion of issues related to the Arctic. Indigenous peoples.

·        Permanent observers: Norway support the European Commission’s application to become a permanent observer.

·        This shows that we have both the legal and the political framework in place.

Three main drivers behind the formulation of Norway’s High North policy

·        Let me move on to the three main drivers that have formed and continue to influence Norway’s High North policy, and which to a large extent also explain the increasing international interest.

Slide 7: Climate change

·        Firstly: The alarming pace of climate change. Extent of multi-year ice diminishing. Less than 15% of the ice is now more than two years’ old.  

·        The Arctic as a laboratory for studying the effects of climate change elsewhere in the world. Connections between melting ice in the Arctic and drought elsewhere in the world (Chad). The Arctic Council has done pioneering work. 

·        The EU also one of the main contributors to Arctic related research. Important projects through the 7th Framework Programme:

  •  “Arctic Tipping Points” - identify the elements of the Arctic marine ecosystem likely to show abrupt changes in response to climate change
  • “ICE2SEA” – study of the contribution of ice to future sea level rise
  • “Deep Sea Ecosystems” – functioning of deep sea ecosystems and their contribution to the production of goods and services.

 ·        We need to further strengthen our knowledge base on climate change, both for the sake of the High North and for the world at large.

 ·        The ambition to be a leader in the field of knowledge in and about the High North is defined as the first of 15 strategic priorities in the recently published white paper on Norway’s High North policy.

 ·        But this ambition can only be achieved through international cooperation. Knowledge knows no boundaries. The EU’s express commitment to Arctic research is therefore very positive. 

Slide 8: Energy – Estimated petroleum resources in the Arctic (USGS)

Secondly, the High North’s abundance of natural resources and the increased accessibility of many of them:

  • Petroleum – USGS estimate: 22% of the world’s undiscovered petroleum resources to be found in the Arctic 
  • Minerals: the Barents region as a key supplier of critical minerals to the EU 
  • And: already in the region (not depending on increased accessibility): Fisheries and aquaculture - enormous potential when managed properly.  
  • Also new industries like marine bio prospecting. 
  • New shipping routes opening up.

·        Often assumed that where there are resources there will be a power struggle.

·        Not necessarily the case. Most of the natural resources in the High North are uncontested. Today’s known resources are within the boundaries of the 200-mile zones and/or continental shelves of coastal states.

Slide 9: The Arctic 

·        This is clearly illustrated in the map behind me. The intensity of the blue colour indicates the depth of the ocean. As you can see, the areas outside the boundaries of the coastal states’ continental shelves - i.e. closest to the North Pole - are also the deepest and coldest. This also means that there are virtually no fish stocks in these areas, and that petroleum activity would be very difficult.

 ·        As for fisheries, we have an extensive web of global, regional and bilateral organisations and negotiations to ensure responsible regulation.

 ·        Norway also has Integrated Ocean Management (IOM) plans, which aim to find a balance between different user interests. This work has attracted considerable international attention, and provides a model for cooperation on marine management in the High North.

 ·        The procedures are in place. It is up to us to make them work properly.

 ·        So, when it comes to resources in the High North, Norway and the EU generally have mutual interests.

Slide 10: Gas pipelines - interdependence

·        One example is the Barents Sea as a new energy region in Europe. Norway and the EU are long-term gas partners. We take that responsibility seriously (stable, predictable and long-term deliveries, investing in new infrastructure).

 ·        In this context, signals about the future role for natural gas in Europe are important. The industry needs predictability.

Slide 11: Minerals – Map NGU mineral resources in the Barents region

 ·        The same mutual interests exist in the field of raw materials. The map behind me shows important metal deposits in the Nordic countries and northwestern Russia – in geological terms the “Fennoscandian shield”.

·        Norway is already a major supplier of a range of metals and industrial minerals to Europe. However, there is a large unused potential. It is a priority for my government to develop this in a sustainable manner (new legal framework, five year programme for geological surveying, new minerals strategy in the making).

·        A parallel to the EU policy on raw materials that is being developed. The increasing dependence on external sources (European industry consumes 20% of the global production of metals while producing only 3%) was the trigger for the EU’s Raw Materials Initiative in 2008. This policy is now being taken further through the recent Commission proposal for a European innovation partnership on raw materials.

·        We appreciate the openness that has been shown in this process, where Norway has been actively involved in the preparatory work. I hope that this can be an avenue for increased Norwegian participation in the EU’s research programmes and a starting point for a more strategic cooperation between us on raw materials.

Slide 12: Maritime transport – Map possible transport routes in the Arctic Ocean

·        The increased accessibility of natural resources, coupled with melting ice, is one of the drivers behind new opportunities for international shipping.

 ·        Transit routes between Europe and Asia through the North East Passage have received most attention.

 ·        Prospect enticing: Rotterdam-Yokohama 40% shorter through the NEP than through Suez, fuel consumption 20% lower.

 ·        But challenges remain (requirement of ice breaker assistance, insurance costs, climate/weather conditions). Will probably remain a niche for certain products (raw materials). Still, attracting interest both in Europe and in Asian countries. In 2010 four transits through the Northern Sea Route, in 2011 36.

 ·        In the near future probably more potential for destination traffic in and out of the Arctic. Supply services for the petroleum industry.

 ·        Creates opportunities for the petromaritime industry, both in Norway and elsewhere, but also new challenges. Vast ocean areas, an unfriendly climate, little infrastructure. Need to strengthen search and rescue services, emergency response capacity for oil spills, stricter regulations for shipping in Arctic waters.

 ·        Important processes underway, both in the Arctic Council (SAR agreement already in place, instrument for oil spill preparedness underway led by Russia, the US and Norway) and the IMO (the Polar Code).

 ·        An important balancing act. We have to prepare for an inevitable development in a responsible manner.

Slide 13: Dr. Harlem Brundtland and former president Gorbachev – Nobel Peace Prize 1990

 ·        Let me now move on to the third driver – our relationship with Russia.

 ·        You will recognise two important political figures on the picture behind me. In 1987 Gorbachev held an important speech in Murmansk advocating international cooperation in the Arctic in five civilian areas (energy planning, environment, research, resources, maritime transport).

 ·        Was disregarded as Cold War rhetoric. But – we know how history evolved.

 ·        Russia is an important player in the High North. By far the largest Arctic state – 50% of the coastline, at least 50% of the resources. Influential player in shaping Arctic policies.

·        Since the end of the Cold War relations have blossomed – bilaterally, cross-border and through regional organisations like the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.

Slide 14: Map the delimitation line

 ·        Agreement on maritime delimitation in September 2010 a true milestone. Provides legal clarity for exploitation of natural resources. A good example of peaceful resolution of overlapping claims based on modern International Law.

 ·        But challenges remain. Differences in values continue to be a challenge. The recent presidential election highlighted this.



·        What is then “Norway’s vision for the Arctic region”.

 ·        The white paper on the High North from November 2011 sums it up as follows:

 Slide 15: Main goals in the Norwegian High North Strategy 

1. Safeguarding peace and stability;

2. Ensuring an integrated, ecosystem-based management regime and sustainable use of resources;

3. Strengthening international cooperation;

4. Strengthening the basis for value creation. 

·        Summed up: we want to make use of the opportunities that are opening up while at the same time managing the risks involved – peacefully, sustainably and responsibly.

·        As a coastal state bordering the Arctic Ocean, Norway has responsibilities as well as rights. Again, we take this seriously. We are predictable and consistent in our exercise of sovereignty and aim at being a catalyst for increased cooperation.

 Slide 16: End slide


 ·        As mentioned at the outset, the High North is moving from the outskirts to a new geopolitical centre. Interest from new actors is understandable, and legitimate. What happens in the Arctic has repercussions far beyond the region itself.

 ·        What I have tried to underline is that we have in place the legal framework and political institutions needed to deal with these developments.

 ·        There is no need for new structures, but there is always room for strengthening cooperation within these structures.

 ·        With regard to the Arctic Council, Norway supports the Commission’s application for permanent observer status as pointed out at the outset. We support also the other applicants for permanent observer status. Aim at reaching agreement in the next ministerial meeting in 2013. (Need dialogue in order to discuss applications. Currently no dialogue with China).

 ·        In order to manage the opportunities and challenges emerging in the High North we need increased knowledge and we need good partners. Our cooperation with Europe has the potential to provide both.

 ·        Thank you.



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