November 17th, 2007 04:43 EST
Speech of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the 11th Ministerial Session
Ladies and gentlemen,
The 11th session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council is coming to an end. Let me express gratitude to Finland for an excellent organization of the meeting and especially for its efficient and productive chairmanship of the Council.
Almost all areas of activities of our organization were marked by new constructive ideas. Finland is to be commended for further successful development of the Barents Council as the main tool for joining efforts of the States in the region to address our common goals of development, as well as the interests of people who live here. Taking over the chairmanship from Finland, Russia will continuously promote the existing mutually beneficial partnership and expand it to new areas.
I would like to inform you that the Government of the Russian Federation has adopted these days the Program of the Russian Chairmanship activities in BEAC. Let me outline Russian vision of the upcoming work of the Council for the next two years.
We believe that over the past almost fifteen years the BEAC has developed its own priorities that truly address the needs of the Barents States and regions. We are willing to provide continuity in it.
Above all it is the sustainable development of our part of the world with a focus on social and economic factors. Certainly, these processes should go hand in hand with meeting environmental requirements. Support to indigenous peoples is our another priority. All-in-all, we intend to give special attention to improving quality of life and well-being of people and carry out economic activities so as to make the Barents Region a clean and healthy environment for future generations.
We believe it is essential to provide the population of the region with equal access to health care, promote healthy lifestyle, enhance educational opportunities also through international exchanges, support traditional crafts and identity of indigenous peoples, contribute to mutual acquaintance with national cultures and promote direct contacts in every aspect, primarily between the representatives of the youth and public organizations. We will keep supporting the Barents Indigenous Peoples Office and the Barents Youth Cooperation Office in Murmansk.
We will continue to implement multilateral projects aimed at eliminating environmental "hot spots" in the region that today number around 50. There will be both small but really necessary projects and such large-scale initiatives as the rehabilitation of polluted territories on Franz Josef Land. The Cleaner Production programme will be further developed as a framework for converting industrial enterprises and public utilities to modern environmental standards. We believe it important to take into account the consequences of the climate change and its impact on the region.
Our agenda covers the development of interregional and cross-border economic ties, trade liberalization, including elimination of administrative and technical barriers, of bottlenecks in transport infrastructure and implementation of major joint projects in this field, simplification of customs procedures, introduction of energy-saving technologies, improving the interoperability of emergency and rescue services and their further training, as well as arranging joint exercises, particularly the Barents Rescue that has already become traditional.
We intend to be active not only in the BEAC Committee of Senior Officials, but in all the Working Groups we will chair, i.e. the Working Groups on economic cooperation, culture, transport, trade barriers and youth policy. We will certainly continue the Barents Industrial Partnership Meetings.
We will work in close coordination with the Barents Regional Council and its members - 13 local administrations in our counties. Particular emphasis will be put on events held in the regions. Thus, for example, we are going to host an international folk music festival "Kantele" in the Republic of Karelia and a folklore festival "Pearl of the North" in the Arkhangelsk Region.
Russia, as the Chair, takes a serious responsibility to put into operation a new organizational structure – the permanent Barents International Secretariat. Its mission, as we see it, is to further enhance the efficiency of our cooperation, secure its continuity and bring it closer to expectations at the local level. We highly appreciate the decision of our colleagues to appoint a Russian representative – Ambassador Alexander Ignatiev as the Head of the Secretariat.
Attention is to be paid to a proposal, made recently by the regional lawmakers, who wish to include interparliamentary cooperation into the scope of the Secretariat’s activities. This initiative is again echoing our common aspiration for stronger parliamentary dimension of the Barents cooperation, including plans to convene the 4th Parliamentary Conference of the Barents Region.
We believe that further strengthening of collaboration with other international and regional organizations in the North is an essential prerequisite for success of our work as the Chair. We will maintain traditional ties with the Arctic Council, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, and continue to develop joint projects with the Nordic Council of Ministers. We plan to develop contacts with the renewed Northern Dimension taking into account its potential for extending qualitative standards and scope of cooperation in the region. For our part, we believe that our Council has a sufficiently high expert capacity and practical experience to make an important contribution to developing the Northern Dimension.
There comes an issue of making the entire architecture of the multilateral cooperation in the North as more effective. We mean both searching for areas to joint efforts of various regional bodies and the division of labour between them, on the bases of comparative advantages, harmonization and coordination of their activities, more reasonable use of existing resources, and elimination of needless overlapping. We believe this topic is of importance for securing reliable prospects for collaboration in the Northern and Euro-Arctic Region in the future.
Next year, our Council will celebrate its fifteenth anniversary. Since its establishment, the life has changed both in the Barents Region and around it. The Member States of BEAC have changed, too, some more, some less. Russia has changed drastically. These processes need continuous reflection on the Council’s activities. On our part we intend to think about increasing Russia’s resource contribution to the BEAC activities and about new projects of transboundary nature.
We rely on support of the Russian chairmanship in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council by all Member States, the Barents Regional Council and local administrative entities. I am sure that for the next two years together we would be able to provide continuity and gradual development of multilateral cooperation in the Barents Region.
Thank you for your attention.
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