Priorities for the Swedish chairmanship of the BEAC

A little less than a year ago, Sweden took over the Chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. In general terms the Swedish Chairmanship is working to promote an “eco-efficient economy” in the Barents Region, that is to develop the economic and social potential of the region in an environmentally sustainable way. The Barents Region, with its large and rich natural resources plays an important role for the economic development of our countries. But the region is also vulnerable with a legacy of environmental hazards that underlines the imperative of environmental protection and responsible use of resources.

Subsequently, in February this year, the Barents Ministers of the Environment asked the Committee of Senior Officials to develop an action plan for further work on climate change in the Barents region. The Swedish Chairmanship gave the task to the International Barents Secretariat to coordinate the efforts to develop such an action plan. The draft prepared by the IBS will be discussed at the next meeting of Senior Officials in two weeks time. Another issue, on which we are working continuously, is the so called hot spots, environmentally polluted areas which need to be cleaned up.

In May the Chairmanship organised a meeting for the Barents Ministers for Competitiveness. This was the first meeting of this kind of Ministers in the history of the Barents cooperation. In the Declaration from this meeting, Ministers emphasised i.a. the need to support the development of energy efficiency and the supply of renewable energy and the need to promote access to the global markets for the Barents region.

There is a great potential for energy efficiency in the Barents region. Energy efficiency not only contributes to our efforts to mitigate climate change, but indeed is very closely linked to economic development. The Swedish Chairmanship is intensifying the cooperation in the fields of renewable energy and energy efficiency and trying to build networks and awareness of sustainable production and consumption in the Barents region.

In this context should also be mentioned that there are plans for a seminar to take place in Brussels during the Swedish Chairmanship, aiming at putting the Barents region and its vast natural resources on the map and promoting its access to the European Union.

The Swedish Chairmanship is of course promoting the work in other spheres of the Barents cooperation as well: Health and related social issues, culture, youth participation and international exchange, transport infrastructure and emergency prevention, preparedness and response, just to mention some of them. In all aspects of the Barents cooperation the Swedish Chairmanship is taken the special living conditions and interest of the indigenous peoples into consideration.

We are also striving towards coordination and synergies with work done in other fora, such as the Arctic Council, the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Council of Baltic Sea States and the Northern Dimension. In March a meeting of the four councils of the North was organised.

During our chairmanship period, we have often come across the fact, that good project ideas are not implemented, due to lack of resources. The Swedish Chairmanship has therefore decided to finance a secondment to the International Barents Secretariat. The task of this secondment is to make an inventory of all available project financing resources in the region, compile them and then spread the knowledge.

The Swedish Chairmanship is looking forward to the remaining 12 months of its chairmanship and to organizing the Foreign Ministers Ministerial some time in October next year. But before that, the traditional Conference for Barents Parlamentarians will be organised by the Swedish Parliament in May. In September there will be an exercise for the Emergency, Prevention, Preparedness and Response cooperation. The traditional meeting for Barents Environment Ministers will also be organised next autumn.