Rovaniemi is hosting six major Arctic meetings this week. In the 11th Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting, Finland will pass the gavel of the chair to Iceland.
For Finland, the Rovaniemi Ministerial Meeting is the most special international summit in 2019. Whatever the upcoming EU presidency brings, it will happen in Helsinki. Not so, when it comes to Arctic Council meeting. International guests may consider the city of Rovaniemi an unlikely venue for such a major event, but the home of Santa Claus and the largest city in the European Union by surface area (8 017.19 square kilometres) has a long history of hosting foreign dignitaries. After all, it is also the place where international Arctic cooperation started 1991 with the Rovaniemi process, Finnish initiative for Arctic environmental cooperation.
No effort has been spared in the preparations. The meeting venues are now ready, and a range of side programmes will show the visitors Finnish Arctic expertise and Lapland exoticism.
Putting together the declaration of the Ministerial Meeting seems to be much more complicated. The officials have worked hard to find formulations that would describe climate change and sustainable development without mentioning the very words, so that the U.S. could endorse the statement.
“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.” We have heard this phrase hundreds of times during the Finnish chairmanship. In Rovaniemi, global events are likely to enter the Arctic arena. In the press coverage of the Ministerial Meeting, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will probably field more questions about Venezuela than about Arctic affairs.
Despite global tensions, representatives of all eight Arctic States have continued to come together to discuss their joint visions for protecting the Arctic environment and maintaining peace and stability in the region throughout the Finnish chairmanship. Over the past two years, the Arctic Council Working Groups, Task Forces and Expert Groups have engaged in more than 100 projects and initiatives.
On Twitter, the Chair of the Lapland Arctic Council Host Committee, Professor Timo Koivurova commended the good practices introduced by Finland. He mentioned especially the way Finland has involved the observers in the work of the council, and the sustainable meeting concept Finland has initiated.
Senior Arctic Official René Söderman reviewed the Finnish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council after the SAO meeting in Ruka.
Meteorology is one of the success stories of the Finnish Chairmanship. Two major meteorology meetings will take place during the Arctic superweek. On Monday, the Finnish Meteorological Institute launches cooperation to develop meteorology services in the Arctic region. "Connecting meteorology with traditional knowledge and local knowledge" brings together all the meteorological institutes of the Arctic Council member countries, as well as representatives of indigenous peoples. On 8-9 May, rescue services, tourism, navigation and regional actors can present their needs of critical climate data at the Pan-Arctic Regional Climate Forum (PARCOF). At the end of the workshop, the World Meteorological Organisation WMO will give a long-term forecast of the Arctic climate.
The Arctic Economic Council will have their Annual Meeting on Wednesday. On the same day, mayors and municipal leaders from around the Arctic region will convene, network and share their experiences.
The week of meetings concludes with at the Arctic Business Forum, organised by Lapland Chamber of Commerce. Some 150 participants are expected to attend to debate responsible growth in the Arctic. During the week, there is also a continuous flow of side events and panel discussions.
Top of page: Rovaniemi welcomes the Arctic guests. Photo (c) VisitRovaniemi/Marko Junttila