Norwegian intensified attention on the High North

In a white paper to Parliament on 15 April the Norwegian government initiated a new policy based on strengthened European cooperation in the High North. Combining the use of natural resources with environmental protection in one of the world’s last remaining frontiers will be crucial for the whole of Europe.

15/02/2006 :: Results from the 2004 Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) reveal climate changes occurring in the Arctic. On this basis the Norwegian government has initiated a new policy highlighting the protection of the High North areas.

A new position will be established within the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to better coordinate the policy.

Responsible for vast Arctic areas Norway intends to pursue this policy actively in cooperation with the EU and its Member States, hoping to strengthen international efforts towards improved knowledge about climatic variabilities, climate changes, and their effect on the Arctic.

“It is especially important that our close cooperative partners have an understanding of how complex the situation in the northern areas is,” said Foreign Minister Jan Petersen, identifying the EU, its institutions as well as important Member States such as Germany, United Kingdom and France, and Russia  as key partners for dialogue on challenges facing the northern areas as they all share interests in this region.

The northern areas have gained increased attention as the production and supply of energy and environmental protection in terms of sustainable development play an important role to many European actors dependent on Norwegian oil and gas.

Norway will this fall participate in a contingency excerise “Barents Rescue” with Russia and the other Nordic countries, which aims to strengthen regional efforts.

Norway’s petroleum resources are closely linked to research and environmental issues, as these areas are highly vulnerable to external influences such as pollution, the risks of overexploitation of resources and climate changes that pose challenges to the whole of Europe.

The environment in the region also faces danger related to nuclear waste lingering from the Cold War in the north-western parts of Russia. In this connection Norway hopes to increase its cooperative efforts with Russia and European Member States in the area of nuclear safety.

In 2006-2008 Norway will chair the Arctic Council, in which connection the Norwegian government will strengthen the role of Council by taking the initiative of establishing a Tromsø-based international research fund for the northern areas.

Norway will further work towards the establishment of a permanent Tromsø-based secretariat within the Council which would enable the Council to regularly deal with current issues in the periods between Ministerial meetings.

The Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Arctic Council have been distinguished as key forums for multilateral dialogue and research on environmental issues, such as climate change and pollution.

“There is no simple solution that can solve the challenges we are facing. We need a set of different approaches and I want to strengthen the commitment to our current approaches that we know work,” Foreign Minister Jan Petersen said.


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