Finland handed the Arctic Council Chairmanship to Iceland in May, but Arctic affairs are still at the heart of Finland’s policies as it assumes the EU Presidency on the 1st of July.
Arctic cooperation is also an important element in the programme of Finland’s new government lead by Mr Antti Rinne. Ambassador Harri Mäki-Reinikka, Secretary General of the Arctic Advisory Board underlines the role and function of the Board as a forum for Arctic stakeholders in Finland.
“First of all, the mandate of the Advisory Board is to support and strengthen Finland’s Arctic policy and advance its objectives. Our mandate ends in October, but we feel that the Board will be needed also in the future”, says Mäki-Reinikka explaining that the Board provides continuity and expertise from various regions, sectors and businesses and is an important national resource.
“The new government has taken up Arctic issues in its programme in the environmental and climate context, promoting sustainable economic activities and transportation in a balanced manner. New government will have a central role in promoting EU’s Arctic policies. It will formulate a new Arctic Strategy for Finland and takes into consideration the well needed resources”, tells Mäki-Reinikka and believes that Board’s good services are welcomed by the new government as the previous governments did.
The Secretary General of Finland’s Arctic Advisory Board reminds that Finland's EU Presidency and EU as such will largely benefit from that experience what Finland gained chairing the Arctic Council for last two years. “Arctic issues in the EU are more important than ever, but still more work is needed to mainstream and integrate them in different sectors”, Harri Mäki-Reinikka says.
A seasoned diplomat, Harri Mäki-Reinikka among many duties as Ambassador abroad, has occupied roles at home front in Nordic Cooperation, Baltic Sea Cooperation and EU’s Northern Dimension over the years. As being also expert on Northern Policies he is worried about the consequences of climate change and warming process in the Arctic, which is at least two times faster than global average. Ice melting process is equally worrying as it is causing rising sea levels and many other problems globally.
Harri Mäki-Reinikka reminds us that the Arctic is the most important barometer for global warming.
As an optimistic diplomat, Mäki-Reinikka tries to avoid too serious alarmism, because it does not help as such.
“Instead, we need to take concrete actions and decisions both at the European level and globally. We have many technological and other opportunities available for slowing down climate change and for promoting sustainable economic growth and cooperation. These things go together, hand in hand”, he affirms.
“We should not be undermining the possibilities the Arctic cooperation provides globally. What works in the Arctic will work everywhere”, Mäki-Reinikka quotes Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, who is just now stepping down from his ministerial duties.
“I believe that the new Prime Minister Antti Rinne has quite a similar approach”, Mäki-Reinikka says and believes that environmental concerns in the Arctic region do not necessarily have to clash with the new economic opportunities that climate change is bringing.
Arctic is also increasingly involved in power politics, as it is not in any kind of vacuum or isolated from situations in other parts of the world.
“Finland has the opportunity to act as a promoter of constructive dialogue, to advance peace in the Arctic region. That is just what Finland did also at the meeting of Arctic countries Foreign Ministers in Rovaniemi early May”, Mäki-Reinikka reminds.
Ambassador Mäki-Reinikka has been the Secretary General of current Arctic Advisory Board since its appointment, January 2017. The Board has met four times a year on an average.
“At the meetings, we have exchanged views, shared information and consulted expert bodies and for example Arctic Ambassadors from various countries on various topics – just according to our task of disseminating information on Arctic issues and enhancing Finland’s Arctic identity”, Mäki-Reinikka concludes.
Photo: Harri Mäki-Reinikka attending yet another Arctic meeting. Photo (c) Markku Heikkilä.