Tal av utrikesminister Margot Wallström vid Barentsrådets utrikesministermöte

Arkhangelsk, Ryssland den 19 oktober 2017.

Excellencies, colleagues, Barents friends,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here in Arkhangelsk. Interactions in our region and between our countries have been ongoing for centuries. Since 1993, Kiruna and Arkhangelsk have been twin towns and engaged in cultural exchange activities, including 'Sweden days' here in Arkhangelsk.

I would like to thank Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Governor of Arkhangelsk region, Mr Igor Orlov, for their warm hospitality.

I also wish to thank and congratulate the Russian Barents team for a successful Chairmanship, Kainuu for its regional leadership over the past two years, and the International Barents Secretariat for all its assistance and support.

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I grew up in the Barents region, in a town in Västerbotten, so the region is particularly near and dear to my heart.

Cross-border people-to-people contacts are at the heart of Barents cooperation, enriched by our common history and culture.
Barents cooperation is strengthened by unique interaction between stakeholders at national, regional and local levels. The indigenous peoples of the region – the Sami, the Nenets and the Vesp – sitting at the same table, create a unique environment and spirit.

Peace and stability are prerequisites for development. Constructive regional cooperation has played an important role in ensuring stability in the Barents region. And this stability is the key to our sustainable future.

The current challenge of climate change is making our interaction and cooperation even more necessary.

The eyes of the world are turning to our region. It is here that the effects of climate change are plainly evident and temperatures are projected to rise the most. The impact on the ecosystems, societies and communities are already evident and will be even more severe in a not so distant future.

Needless to say- what happens in our region will have global consequences. It is crucial that we continue our efforts, strengthening and enhancing cooperation in our region.

Important steps have been taken in areas such as climate change, biodiversity and environmental performance.

Implementation of the Barents Action Plan on Climate Change is a concrete example and a solid basis for further engagement, not least in our working groups.

Other examples include reducing the number of hot spots on the Barents list, developing networks for regional climate strategies and continued conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.

These are important accomplishments to encourage us in our continued efforts for a cleaner and safer environment.

Barents cooperation has also made valuable progress in the field of sustainable development, transport, prevention and control of communicable diseases, benefiting societies, including indigenous peoples and local communities.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

In 2018 we will celebrate 25 years of cooperation. And it is worth celebrating, because in 25 years we have achieved a great deal together.

Our 25th anniversary also provides us with an excellent opportunity to take stock of our achievements, and to look ahead at the opportunities and challenges we face.

The Swedish Chairmanship will seek to create a joint vision and define future strategic priorities for Barents cooperation.

Barents is not an isolated world of ice and snow. Our region is rich in raw materials: metals, minerals, forestry, energy and fish. It is a world of economic activity and of technological innovations.

Green mining and forest industry aside, the northern part of my country is also about space industry, research and advanced vehicle testing. Let me give you another example. Facebook has set up server facilities outside the city of Luleå, which met the criteria: cool weather, reliable energy supply and broadband connections.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris climate agreement represent a paradigm shift, providing aspirations for a better life for present and future generations and enabling us to embark on the sustainable development of our societies.

The Swedish Chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council will pursue an agenda built on regional sustainable development and the goals of the 2030 Agenda. Youth cooperation and gender equality will be promoted in all areas of the Council's work.

I am convinced that together – with firm commitment, enhanced cooperation, smart ideas, even better education and research, and fewer administrative obstacles – we can make the Barents region thrive.

In 2018, Sweden will continue to hold the Presidency of the Baltic Sea States and will take over the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. We will also coordinate the informal Nordic and Nordic-Baltic foreign and security policy cooperation. Our ambition is to find points of contact between these forums and all countries of the Barents and Baltic Sea regions to strengthen overall regional cooperation.

I am convinced that our joint efforts will contribute to a sustainable and equitable future for the Barents region.

We look forward to cooperating with all of you, and to working closely with the incoming regional chair, Finnmark.

Finally, I look forward to welcoming you to Norrbotten and Västerbotten.

Thank you.