Iceland highly values the Barents Euro Arctic Council (BEAC) as a platform for democratic dialogue, practical cooperation and people to people contacts. Despite distances Iceland has strong political and historical connection with the Barents Region and cooperation with the Region is high on the foreign affairs agenda – BEAC is a crucial link to the Barents Region.
The diversity of tasks and projects inside the BEAC family is a strong indication of our common believes. The achievements made in areas such as economic cooperation, connectivity, health and youth, to name a few, should be recognized and recommended. The BEAC is uniquely suited to add value to the development of the Barents Region, by fostering mutual understanding, building trust, people to people contacts, in which indigenous peoples play an important part, and by deepening cultural and political ties.
We warmly welcome the strong focus on youth in all areas of our cooperation during the Norwegian Chairmanship as indicated by the Barents Youth Summit. The Norwegian Chairmanship has done an excellent job under difficult circumstances. Iceland strongly supports the outcome Declaration from this Ministerial meeting. It reflects well the core role and value of the BEAC and touches upon principle issues that we hold dear and would like to nurture in the fields of economic cooperation, environment and climate action. Global warming is affecting the Barents Region at more than twice the rate of the global average. I would like to highlight the reaffirmation of the commitments of the BEAC member states to the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the Paris Climate Agreement.
Synergies between sister councils in the north
Iceland welcomes and encourages the increased attention on creating synergies between multilateral cooperation formats in the Region. We need to strengthen overall regional cooperation by working more closely together and enhance our cooperation between sister organisations in the Region, such as the Council of Baltic Sea States, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Arctic Council. In this respect the yearly consultations of those four sister councils, have been most useful. I would also like to mention the Northern Dimension where we have opportunities to strengthen our cooperation and enhance synergies. Closer cooperation and contacts between these regional actors will benefit us all.
In our recent Chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the overarching theme of our Chairmanship was sustainable development, but we emphasized the importance of balancing all three aspects of sustainable development:
- the environment, where we looked specifically at green energy solutions,
- the economy, with an emphasis on the Blue BioEconomy,
- and societal aspects, such as gender equality and engagement of Arctic youth.
We believe that to tackle today's biggest challenges, such as climate change, we need an inclusive knowledge-driven approach. Since its foundation in 1993, BEAC has matured and successfully expanded into new areas of cooperation. It now fosters a new sense of unity and a closer contact between people. It simply has a good track record. We express our strong commitment to the Barents Euro-Arctic Council as a vehicle for building mutual trust, understanding and good neighbouring relations in the north.