Director of the Arctic Centre Paula Kankaanpää, Lady Catherine Ashton, Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja and Ambassador Hannu Halinen. (Photo: Marjo Laukkanen)The EU Arctic Information Centre will bring the Arctic closer to the European Union, and vice versa. Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission, visited Rovaniemi and the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland in Finland last week.

She travelled together with Erkki Tuomioja, Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs. They attended an invitation seminar at the Arctic Centre discussing the plan to establish the EU Arctic Information Centre as a network of institutions, with a hub in Rovaniemi.

The EU Arctic Information Centre has been proposed by a group of leading Arctic research institutions. It will be a network model with nodes by expert institutions in Europe and a hub in the Arctic region of EU.

The idea in this proposal is to organize European cooperation to inform and communicate about the Arctic, its environment, communities, cultures and peoples through the Information Centre. The new Centre will also offer requested information material to the experts, decision makers and the general public on arctic issues.

The proposal follows the Arctic statements of the European Union (Commission 2008 and the Council 2009) that have high importance for sustainable development of the Arctic regions.

Ms. Ashton and Mr. Tuomioja were very positive in the meeting. Ashton noted that "this is a very important place because it's also the birth place of both the Northern dimension and the Arctic Council. And I will be completely upfront in saying I can
think of nowhere better for the Arctic Information Centre to be but here."

The proposed Centre would have numerous positive effects and Ashton was positive it could be established in the near future. And minister Tuomioja noted that it just needed a final decision.

"EU is preparing to establish an Arctic Information Centre in Rovaniemi. To reach that a decision prepared according to the Commission rules is still required. In Rovaniemi there was a confident mood that the decision will be ready soon and the comments given by Ashton did not weaken this confidence, to say the least", wrote minister Tuomioja in his blog after the visit.

Ashton also talked with the leaders of Sami parliaments of Finland, Norway and Sweden. She continued her Arctic trip to Kiruna (Sweden), Tromsö (Norway) and Svalbard.


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