Roadmap of Finnish chairmanship of Arctic Council paved with question marks
HELSINKI, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Finland is to formally assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council on Thursday this week, during a time when the Arctic body faces increasing challenges caused by the international situation.
The final version of the document of goals for the chairmanship, which was published late last week, has left several plans pending on the international development.
According to the roadmap, Finland is prepared to organize an Arctic Summit if "the international situation allows it" and if a sufficiently heavy agenda can be agreed for the summit. At a lower level, Finland plans to arrange a meeting of Arctic Ministers of the Environment in 2018.
Finland is also ready to continue the strategic planning process for the Arctic Council that began during the current U.S. Chairmanship. "In favorable international conditions", these goals could be confirmed at an Arctic Summit, says the document.
Harri Mikkola, Senior Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute for International Affairs, commented to Xinhua that the Finnish government "showed realism" when it listed some visions as "subject to political feasibility" in the Arctic programme.
The Arctic Council has, so far, avoided falling victim to the international tensions of recent years, with the exception of some meeting boycotts. "But any negative development may suddenly break the balance. The current level of uncertainty is highly problematic", Mikkola told Xinhua.
Leading Finnish politicians have been unusually outspoken in connecting the problems with the change in the climate policy of the United States.
Foreign Minister Timo Soini said recently that the U.S. cannot any longer be expected to give unconditional support to the prevention of the climate change. At the prestigious discussion forum Atlantic Council of Finland last week, Soini suspected that the U.S. may exit the Paris agreement but may also choose just to be more passive.
He meanwhile said clean technologies and energy production are already important businesses for Americans and it would not be easy to reverse the situation. Soini said the input in climate affairs by the European Union countries as well as China and India will have a great importance.
Soini said Finland wants to avoid "drifting into a collision course" with the U.S.. "But we are not giving up our aims and commitments either", he said, adding that the arctic cooperation with the U.S. demands now particular "dexterity".
Harri Mikkola of the FIIA said he understood the "dexterity" used by Soini as a reference to fast reappraisals of the U.S. Arctic policy Finland may be confronted with.
During the upcoming chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Finland will continue the Arctic Council's long-term goals of focusing on climate change and sustainable development. The priorities in Finland's program for the chairmanship include environmental protection, meteorological cooperation, cooperation in communications, and education in the Arctic.
The Finnish business daily Kauppalehti reported this week, however, that attitudes in the Finnish maritime industry cluster differ somewhat from the emphasis on climate change and sustainability. Kauppalehti analyst Martti Kiuru said the Finnish maritime industry looks for "orders without limits" when Russia would increase the use of the energy reserves of the Arctic.
The document of goals noted that Finland will use its Chairmanship to promote Finnish Arctic expertise. Finnish icebreakers will be used for scientific excursions.
The Arctic Council is a body for intergovernmental cooperation for the Nordic countries, Russia, Canada and the USA. Representatives of the Arctic indigenous peoples also participate in the Council. Many European and Asian countries are observers. The Ministerial Meeting for the transfer of the Chairmanship is to convene in Fairbanks, Alaska, U.S. on Thursday.