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Finland’s role in the Arctic Council: Arctic Team’s dialogue with Finnish Embassy officials

January 29, 2016


Our visit to the Finnish Embassy was a very valuable experience for all of our Task Force members. Ambassador Charles Murto and Head of Public Diplomacy, Anni Ståhle, were both very candid and honest in their responses to our difficult questions regarding Finland’s role in the Arctic Council. They were open to discussing polemic topics and were well versed in Finland’s particular policies and position within the Arctic Council. Mr. Murto has worked as an ambassador of Finland for more than 45 years, seeing firsthand the diplomacy behind many important events, including the end of the Cold War. He was extremely knowledgeable and insightful and revealed to us what themes Finland will focus on during its Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2017. He spoke about the European Union’s long desire to be a permanent observer in the Council and how Finland fully supports its inclusion, as well as the inclusion of the Asian observers in 2013. He believes that inclusion is necessary and that the EU, regardless of observer status, will continue to be interested and involved in the Arctic region. The EU also has vast resources and the ability to aid the Arctic nations. In terms of my own particular contribution to the final policy report, I believe that this visit will help me formulate ideas and topics for my introduction and conclusion pieces. Specifically, Mr. Murto discussed the origins of the Arctic Council and how Finland actually played a monumental role in its creation. He felt as if Finland and Canada were unique in that they both were really the catalysts for diplomatic change in the Arctic region in the 1990s. From this, it is evident that soft power is an important form of diplomacy and that nations who are not superpowers can still be influential within the global system. Because the theme of our report will be surround the Council’s progress after 20 years, it will be beneficial to include Mr. Murto’s remarks about its history, as well as about its future. He seemed optimistic that the Arctic Council will continue to tackle the problems that the region experiences and that the future of the Arctic is promising, under future Finnish leadership. He plans to ensure a smooth transition from U.S. Chairmanship to Finnish Chairmanship and confirmed that both Arctic nations have similar strategies and objectives within the Arctic (environmental protection, sustainable development, etc.) He mentioned that in his own lifetime, he has seen the world change drastically and that he expects it will keep changing, especially in the way that different countries will view the Arctic and its role in the world system.

By: Erika Doane


This publication was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.