I travelled to Tromsø on Monday, 21st of January to speak at the “Arctic Frontiers” conference. The north of Norway is an appropriate place to hold such a conference, looking at how the region is changing and how the challenge of sustainable development can be tackled. Tromsø welcomed a number of notables to the conference, including the Foreign Ministers of Norway Espen Barth Eide and Sweden Carl Bildt, as well as the incoming Chair of the Arctic Council, Leona Aglukkaq, who is currently the Minister of Health of Canada. She is from the far north of that country, and so is able to speak from experience of the lives and livelihoods of those living in difficult conditions in the Arctic region, including the Inuit. I had good meetings with these Ministers on Arctic issues. I also had some very fruitful discussions on fisheries issues with the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries Lisbeth Berg-Hansen.
In my speech to the conference, I reiterated our commitment to working with Arctic indigenous peoples to promote knowledge of Arctic issues, for example through research on climate change. We also need to take a responsible approach to our handling of the Arctic. And we need to do more to engage with those who live in the Arctic to make sure that our actions chime with their needs. In this vein, I invited Leona Aglukkaq to Brussels to continue our discussions and open up a meaningful dialogue.
This open and trust-based dialogue will be important, I believe, for the EU’s successful admission to the Arctic Council as an observer. I am happy to report that both the Norwegian and Swedish Foreign Ministers gave their explicit support to the EU’s admission as an observer.