Finnish Foreign Min. Foresees 'Arctic Strategy' to Exploit Reserves

Finland is to get an Arctic strategy to allow it to establish guidelines for Finland's possibilities to exploit the areas. According to Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party), the strategy is to be ready already next year.

"The Arctic regions have proven invaluable. We need to put effort into it," Stubb said at the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi.

The value of the Arctic regions has risen both in environmental matters as well as economic and security questions. As a result of climate change, it has been predicted that the average temperatures of the Arctic regions will rise so that already in 2015 the Arctic Ocean would be without ice in the summertime.

This would mean that massive oil and gas reserves and new shipping routes would become available for exploitation.

As Stubb noted in his address, only a few weeks ago: "Two German cargo ships successfully negotiated the North-East Passage, by-passing the Suez Canal and saving some 5,000 kilometers in the process."

"The appeal of the North is increased by significant untapped energy resources. It is estimated that of all the undiscovered gas and oil resources, the Arctic holds 30 percent and 13 percent respectively.

"Easing ice conditions, relative proximity to the main markets in Europe, and high energy prices will further accelerate the pace of exploitation. The key bottleneck will be technical challenges posed by the harsh climate and the availability of financial and other resources," the Foreign Minister commented.

Stubb says that Finland could utilise the opening of shipping lanes in rail transport, for instance. In addition, Finland has plenty of technical know-how, which can be used in Arctic conditions.

"Finland needs a new grip on Arctic activities," Stubb said to Helsingin Sanomat.

He added that preparations are to be made for the strategy as a joint effort of all ministries.

"The idea is to deal with the Arctic regions as a whole. It is not just an environmental question; it also involves economic matters as well as transport and energy questions," Stubb believes.

For the content of the strategy, the idea is to compile a broad-based working group, to which representatives of many sectors, including indigenous peoples, would be invited.

The director of the Arctic Centre, Paula Kankaanpaa, was pleased to hear Stubb's initiatives.

"Finland is an Arctic area, and there are plenty of activities in Lapland at the moment that have increased in all Arctic areas," Kankaanpaa said.

However, the natural surroundings in the region are very fragile.

"Planning the use of land should be made sustainable now that it is still possible."

BBC Monitoring. Copyright BBC.