Minister Rehn in Finland Arctic Expertise Seminar

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment 18.5.2016 15.13

Finland Arctic Expertise Seminar in Japan

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be in Japan and participate in this Arctic Expertise Seminar. What would be a better way to show our commitment to the Arctic than organizing this unique possibility for researchers and companies. 

As stated in the Joint Strategic Partnership, Finland and Japan share major interest in the Arctic which offers great opportunities for our research and economic cooperation. This seminar is one step forward in the development of our partnership. Knowing well the achievements of Japan in marine research, I would like to point out some important issues from our side.

Ice-breakers - and all the research that goes into designing and building them - are one of the crown jewels of the Finnish arctic knowhow. Finland has build 60 percent of all the ice breakers in the world. Continuous development has happened during these years. The newest ice breaker is equipped with environmental friendly LNG dual fuel engines.

However, safe navigation in the North is not only about ice-breakers. It is a seamless effort that comprises of many different technologies and services. World class weather and ice forecasting knowledge, information technology, space and satellite technology, land and sea infrastructure, as well as search and rescue services – they all play an important role. This is an area where Finland has expertise both in the public and private sector.

The Memorandum of Understanding between Japan’s National Institute of Polar research (NIPR) and The Finnish Meteorological Institute is an example of our joint work on analyses on weather and ice conditions in Polar and Arctic regions. Today, you have learned about the outstanding knowledge and offerings of Arctia, Wärtsilä, Finnair and Iceye. It’s really easy for me to be proud of these champions.

Potential of the Arctic region is enormous. In suitable circumstances it can develop into an economic and investment area that will sustainably create prosperity to people and companies for tens of years to come. Investment plans in the region are already now remarkable.

It is estimated that oil reserves in the Arctic can last until the end of this century and gas reserves for even longer period. Mineral deposits are rich and can create incentives for developing new technology, for example, underwater mining technology. Natural resources are also becoming more easily accessible, when Arctic trade routes are opening for shipping.

Japan’s Arctic strategy estimates that the trade route “Northeast passage” could shorten the shipping time from Asia to Europe by as much as 40 percent when compared to the Suez canal route. Clearly the possibilities are huge.

Along with increased tourism, ships will definitely be visiting Arctic waters in growing numbers. This means that safe shipping in the long icy arctic routes is also becoming more and more important. It also demands more attention to be focused on Search and Rescue (SAR) infrastructure and capabilities.

Finland will be chairing the Arctic Council in 2017-19. During the chairmanship we will emphasize jobs, growth, and the development of infrastructure in Arctic Europe. Finland’s Arctic strategy recognizes the broad business potential in the region.

Finland provides an outstanding base camp for all Arctic operations by offering well developed infrastructure, excellent connections and high-level knowhow. For example, Finland offers an ideal location for vehicle and tyre testing in the winter and arctic conditions. Military winter training opportunities are part of the Finnish Lapland tourism and travel concept.  

In addition, Finland is an innovative and sustainable location for Arctic data centers and cloud services. We are also currently examining possibilities and interest for “Arctic Connect”, which is a high-speed data cable connecting Europe and Asia. The Finnish location in this regard is ideal as the shortest and safest route for such a cable would go via our territory.

Arctic region can offer new opportunities for Arctic and non-Arctic states, companies and other organizations. We also recognize that this is not always straightforward or without problems. There is a need for new solutions. It is our task to create an environment where research and business can flourish and innovations be created.

There are definitely new avenues for the Finnish-Japanese partnership in realizing the economic potential of the Arctic. Both Finland and Japan emphasize that Arctic development in a sustainable and safe way is not possible without increased vigorous research and deeper co-operation in all fields and all levels. When facing new and complicated environments we need knowledge that is dispersed around different companies, universities and countries in the region and beyond.

This calls for research exchange and co-operation across borders. From this perspective the Arctic 100 Expedition fulfils an important task of organizing the possibility for actors to meet in actual Arctic environment. The Arctic 100 Expedition is also part of the celebrations of Finland’s 100 years of independence in 2017. We would like to invite Japanese members to participate in the expedition. I am certain it will lay a strong basis for our future research and business co-operation.   

Dear friends, with these words, let me wish the best of success to the Finnish-Japanese Arctic partnership.

Thank you.