The Arctic Chairmanship rotates among the Arctic States (Finland, Iceland, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and the USA), each of them assuming the lead position for two years at a time. With the Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi this week Finland passes over the chairmanship to Iceland. During the past two years the priorities of Finland has included environmental protection, meteorological cooperation, connectivity, and education.
U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holding a speach at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting in Rovaniemi
At the Ministerial meeting in Fairbanks, USA two years ago a joint declaration was finally signed by the foreign ministers, after extensive discussions and unwillingness of the USA to include wording on the Paris 2015 Agreement and the UN Sustainability Goals. The position of the USA was further pronounced when the U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech the day before the Ministerial. He criticized Russian and Chinese activity in the region, and said that these countries must respect American interests in the Arctic, or face the consequences. His speech did not mention US participation in any international effort to combat climate change in the fast-warming polar region.
As a result of this the Ministerial meeting could not agree in signing a joint declaration, as is usually the case. Instead a Rovaniemi Joint Ministerial Statement was signed by the Arctic Council member states.
The Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, also Honorary Doctor of Umeå University, stated in her address to the Arctic Council that the region experience continued challenges and change. Climate change is happening as we speak, she said, and it affects all people. Minister Wallström emphasized the importance of a fact and science based approach. She pointed to important features of the Swedish Arctic as reindeer herding, important mining and top universities. She welcomed everyone to the European Union Arctic Forum meeting in Umeå in October, and concluded that Sweden will continue to support a strong Arctic Council.
Furthermore, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) was approved as a new Observer organization, and a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Arctic Council and the Arctic Economic Council.
Iceland that now takes over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council presented four priorities for the coming two years: the Arctic Marine environment (including bio-economy), Climate and green energy solutions, the people of the Arctic and their ability to build prosperous communities, and a better and stronger Arctic Council.