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It is a pleasure for me to address this high-level business seminar. I am delighted that Your Majesties, King Harald and Queen Sonja, are accompanied by several representatives for the Norwegian government and a large business delegation from Norway.
Some of you were present also in Oslo four years ago when I visited Norway. Since then quite a few changes have taken place: the oil price has fallen sharply, EU sanctions have affected trade with Russia and climate change has opened up new challenges.
During recent years the focus of Finland’s export and business efforts to Norway has been the maritime industry and construction. In turn Norway has provided Finland with energy and fish products. These sectors will continue to be important in our trade relations.
However, we should make a serious effort to extend our business cooperation to other sectors too – to industry and cooperation which demands a high level of knowledge and technology. We also need to build a new partnership which goes beyond trade into research, development and innovation.
That is why today’s seminar focuses on new topics and areas of common interest like health technology, gaming industry, education and our promising bilateral defense industry cooperation. I am looking forward to visit the different sectors of the seminar with your Majesties.
I also want to take this opportunity to address an area much discussed these days, an area that offers both significant opportunities for economic growth and innovation and at the same time presents specific challenges from an environmental perspective – the Arctic. The Arctic and the northern regions remain a high priority for Finland not least due our presidency of the Arctic Council beginning next year.
Arctic cooperation is an issue where a long-term perspective is needed and where we share common interests: promoting stability in our neighborhood, furthering sustainable economic development and increasing trade and investments – just to name a few.
To highlight the importance of Arctic, I have made a proposal to arrange an Arctic Summit during our presidency of the Arctic council. Political conditions permitting such a meeting “in cool circumstances” could have a significance beyond the Arctic as you would have Russia, the United States and other Arctic countries and observers around the same table.
The Arctic economic landscape is constantly changing. This creates new business opportunities which should not be missed. The Arctic Ocean’s ice cover will retreat further, opening up northern sea routes. Enterprises seek new markets. The demand for expertise to operate in cold climate is growing. Now we must seize the opportunity to build the future Arctic economy in a sustainable way.
Innovations and commercial applications for Arctic conditions are under constant development. However, more investments, like in communications networks and services, are essential for the development of the Arctic. We need more cooperation and joint cross-border action.
The Nordic countries in the High North – Finland, Sweden and Norway – have a unique possibility to increase their cooperation and to make their unique voice of expertise heard. If we concentrate on developing the Northern Scandinavian area together, it will be beneficial for every country.
We are already off to a good start. Experiences from the cross border tourism marketing project are promising. The “Visit Arctic Europe” -project strengthens our competitiveness and visibility globally. This is a great example of the new kind of cooperation I would like to see even more.
Your Majesties, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finland and Norway are good business partners today but to be even better and more productive partners in the future all we need is just a few simple things: 1) better recognition of each other’s strengths 2) willingness and commitment to seek new opportunities and 3) a lot of practical work. I am convinced that numbers 1 and 2 are covered well in today’s seminar. That is why I am looking forward to number three: let’s walk the walk not just talk the talk.