State leaders, not only foreign ministers, should meet to discuss the future of a melting Arctic when Finland takes over the Chairmanship of Arctic Council in 2017.
“Finland is actively considering further steps to strengthen the Council, with a view to our approaching Chairmanship in 2017. These include our proposal of organising a Summit between Arctic Council leaders, as well as our initiative to move the Council towards becoming a treaty-based organization,” said Jyrki Katainen when he talked to leading Arctic stakeholders at Tuesday’s conference “In the Spirit of the Rovaniemi Process.”
Rovaniemi in northern Finland was the location of the first talks in 1989 on protecting the fragile Arctic environment. The Rovaniemi process triggered what in 1996 became the Arctic Council, consisting of eight Arctic nations. Over the years, many more countries have joined in as observers, latest at the Council’s Kiruna meeting in May with six new nations, including Asian powers like China, Singapore, India, South Korea and Japan.
Changing climate opens the Arctic to increasing economic and political competition.
An Arctic Summit in Lapland could become one of the top global state leaders meeting in 2017 or 2018. Presidents and Prime Ministers will be invited from the Council’s permanent members like Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and USA, as well as from observer states in Asia and Europe.
Finland’s Prime Minister did not elaborated on where the Arctic Summit could be arranged. Rovaniemi is considered to be Finland’s Arctic capital, while Oulu is the largest city in northern Finland. Over the last few years, Finland has arranged for European Foreign Ministers to meet for unofficial talks at the ski-resortSaariselkä not far from Finland’s northern border to Russia’s Kola Peninsula.
Katainen believes the Arctic Council will get a more global role in the years to come.
“Finland strongly supports the Council by recognizing its global role and supporting efforts to engage Arctic stakeholders outside the region in the work of the Council,” said Prime Minister Katainen.
Finland’s proposal to arrange an Arctic Summit is a clear sign that the Council has matured from a largely symbolic organization to one of global importance. That happens in a time when climate changes make seriously geopolitical and economic impacts on the top of the world.