Arctic Flag Day event at the Permanent Representation of Finland to the EU
Since 2014, Finland has chaired the European Defence Agency’s project “European Maritime Capabilities in the Arctic”. The project has reported about a need for the European states to consider the continent’s northern dimension and to be prepared for the environmental changes up north, where the rising level of human activities will have direct impact also on safety and security issues.
To address the importance of the Arctic to Europe, an event “Arctic Flag Day” was held at the Finnish EU representation 30 November 2017 in cooperation with the European Defence Agency. The purpose of the event was to promote the importance of the Arctic to Europe and explain already ongoing Arctic capability development deeds but also shortfalls and gaps that require further actions from nations.
Opening remarks of the Rear Admiral Juha Vauhkonen, the Finnish Military representative to the EU and NATO:
RADM Juha Vauhkonen; Military Representative of Finland to the European Union and NATO
Admirals, generals, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Logistically Europe has been called an island with western, southern and eastern routes but lacking the northern logistic route. The reason for this is self-evident, for thousands of years the northern environment has been quite hostile for any human activities. The Arctic Ocean was sailed through as late as 1879 by a Finn, Adolf Nordenskjold. In August 1958 the USS SKATE conquered the North Pole being the first submarine to surface at the North Pole and this year it has gone 40 years from the first sail to the North Pole, when in August 1977 the Soviet Union’s nuclear icebreaker ARKTIKA crushed the multiyear Polar ice all the way to the roof of the globe. Arctic is in many ways a new frontier.
40 years ago very few could imagine how fast climate would change and shape environment up north. Climate change is really making the difference and deriving from that, we are witnessing speeding economic growth in the Arctic. This, however, means that also the level of risk for accidents and incidents is growing. Arctic isn’t immune against security political effects, either. As a consequence, all littoral Arctic nations have gradually begun to develop their Arctic safety and security capabilities, and EU is following the route but from a comprehensive point of view.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Modern time globe is facing a rare occasion when receiving a whole new ocean because of the Arctic Ocean ice is melting. This new water way and natural resources reservoir will have global effects on many areas, and the Arctic really deserves to be taken into consideration also from the European point of view. One essential sector of the comprehensive Arctic frame is the wellbeing of citizens and their safety and security issues, as defined in the EU Maritime Security Strategy.
One can well say that Europe has understood the growing importance of the Arctic issues in time, and not least because of the climate change - security issues nexus. Already some 20 years ago the initiative of the Northern Dimension was introduced leading to establish the Arctic Council. EU adopted the first Joint Arctic Communication in 2008 and now we already have the third update of this EU’s Arctic Policy in our hands. Also the Global Strategy as well as the EU’s Maritime Security Strategy notices northern dimension and Arctic waters.
Based on strategy level guidance European nations and EU structures have gradually launched studies and practical projects to execute European initiatives. Considering the speed of the climate change versus the considerable time needed to develop capabilities, the momentum to launch practical projects is now.
However, Europe is not alone in the north, and luckily so. The challenges we meet are enormous, and cooperation with other stake holders simply is a must. Arctic Council but also some security forums like the Arctic Security Forces Round Table and the Arctic Coast Guard Forum are encouraging examples of cooperative arrangements.
In summer 2016 the Finnish government set a challenging demand for Finland to become leading Arctic nation. This derives from our location and long experience of coping with the harsh northern environment. At the moment Finland is chairing the Arctic Council, the Arctic Economical Council and the Arctic Coast Guard Forum and also the Nordic Defence Cooperation, NORDEFCO. This gives us a unique position to have some influence on multinational Arctic issues.
Finland has also been active in the EU in the Arctic matters. As mentioned today, Finland has chaired the EDA’s European Maritime Capabilities in the Arctic project, PT EMCA, but as always, the results are gained in cooperation. That’s why I sincerely want to thank representatives from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden for their valuable efforts, and the EDA for the support and very active and positive attitude to the EMCA project. In this conjunction the Wise Pens deserve special thanks for their Arctic studies. I sincerely wish, that based on the work done, nations find common will to push practical Arctic projects forward.
Arctic matters and Arctic security matters. We are in a time where there is a need for the European states to consider the continent’s northern dimension and to be prepared for the inevitable environmental changes up north, where the rising level of human activities will have direct impact also on safety and security issues. The comprehensive challenges up north can be met only in close international cooperation. I hope that this morning gave us some new ideas and aspects to elaborate Arctic issues in our future work in Europe and in the European Union.
Thank you all for your attendance.