Public seminar “The Arctic Council – why are we applying for observer status?”, initiated by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia), was held in the Riigikogu Conference Hall today.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Enn Eesmaa said that the Committee had discussed the Arctic issues continuously and regularly. He recalled that, at the last autumn session, the Foreign Affairs Committee had discussed the European Union’s views on a future approach to Arctic policy and had received the first overview of Estonia’s application for observer status in the Arctic Council. “Estonia has a long experience in exploring the Arctic and the Polar Regions, and thus also the competence to contribute substantially to the work of the Arctic Council. Observer status would be a remarkable opportunity for the Estonian researchers, as well as for developing our trade and economic activities,” he noted.
In his opening address, Eesmaa spoke of the study on Estonia’s interests and opportunities in connection with global developments in the Arctic during the coming decade, which had been commissioned by the Foreign Affairs Committee and was due to be completed this spring. The aim of the study was to get the opinion of experts on several issues of the Arctic, like topics relating to economic activities, environmental changes, security, research and development and the situation of indigenous peoples.
Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson underlined that the possibility to develop closer cooperation with the Nordic countries was a valuable aspect of the observer status in the Arctic Council. He assured that the Committee would continue to address the issue in depth and looked forward to completion of the study.
Mihkelson added that the seminar was an introduction to the Arctic Month of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which consisted of a series of Arctic-themed events, and could end with Estonia receiving the observer status in the Arctic Council.
At the seminar, reports were presented by Märt Volmer, Undersecretary for European Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who spoke of Estonia’s opportunities and interests regarding the Arctic Council, and Tarmo Soomere, President of the Academy of Sciences, who discussed the key role of the Arctic and the climate change. Chairman of the Estonian Polar Research Committee Rein Vaikmäe gave an overview of the Arctic policy of the European Union; Associate Professor of Ethnology at the University of Tartu Aimar Ventsel spoke about exploring the Arctic in social and humanitarian sciences, and economic expert Raivo Vare spoke about the economic and transport possibilities provided by the Arctic.
The video recording of the public seminar can be viewed on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
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