On June 18, within the scope of the 20th anniversary St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF 2016), a Conference on the Economic Development of the Arctic was held for the first time, organized by the Roscongress Foundation.
The Conference focused particularly on expansion of investment opportunities and modernization of the infrastructure of the transport system of the Arctic regions, as well as development of the Arctic tourist sector, environmental safety of the region and measures to preserve the cultural legacy in the Russian Arctic.
One of the key topics of the Conference was development of the North Sea Route – a vital transport artery linking together Russia’s vast Arctic territories and a natural transport corridor between Asia and Europe. Its development might constitute a comprehensive solution to a number of economic, demographic, social and political problems facing the northern regions of Russia and the country as a whole. At the same time, however, there are a series of impediments of an objective nature, from the harsh climatic conditions to lack of the requisite technologies and experience. This question was discussed during the panel session ‘Unified Transport Infrastructure in the Region: The Global Importance of the Northern Sea Route’, moderated by Konstantin Noskov, Head of the Analytical Centre for the Government of the Russian Federation.
During the Conference, Artur Chilingarov, Special Representative to the President of the Russian Federation on International Cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic, stressed the importance of the event and noted: “The task of the dialogue between all the interested partners is to develop forms and models of collaboration under which each party will find its role and place in the complex and multi-faceted structure of international Arctic cooperation.”
The Conference’s main event was the Plenary Session ‘International Cooperation for the Development of the Economic Potential of the Arctic Zone’, at which the participants discussed the importance of expanding business cooperation between the Arctic states and implementation of joint projects with business partners from non-Arctic countries. The session was attended by a delegation from the China COSCO Shipping Corporation Limited and the Conference was the first ever event dedicated to pressing matters of the Arctic that they had visited in Russia.
Sergey Donskoy, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, spoke at the session, drawing attention to the fact that “from the perspective of international cooperation in reproduction and extraction of minerals, considering the extent, landscape and resource diversity of the Russian Arctic zone, the artificial economic barriers impede mutually beneficial international cooperation, the results of which might give a substantial impetus to development of world science and industry.”
The international Arctic agenda is largely determined by the prospects for developing the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation. Consequently, the Roscongress Foundation and the Association of Polar Explorers have concluded an agreement at the Conference on practical development of the results of the St. Petersburg International Economic Conference within the scope of the annual summary public resolution issued by the International Forum ‘The Arctic: Present and Future’.
A new strategy is currently being developed for developing the Russian Arctic, so a special panel discussion was held with the participation of governors of the Arctic constituent entities of the Russian Federation. During this discussion, Aleksandr Tsybulskiy, Deputy Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, noted that the “Support Zone was primarily a project for planning and ensuring comprehensive development of the Arctic territories for the purpose of attaining the strategic interests of the Russian Federation in the Arctic using the entire complex of existing tools and mechanisms of state support.”
Over 300 people took part in the Conference, including Russian and foreign public officials and businessmen, among them:
- Artur Chilingarov, Special Representative to the President of the Russian Federation on International Cooperation in the Arctic and Antarctic; President, Russian Association of Polar Explorers
- Sergey Donskoy, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation
- Viktor Olerskiy, Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation; Head, Federal Agency for Sea and Inland Water Transport
- Kirill Stepanov, Deputy Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East
- Nikolay Kharitonov, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Regional Policy and Issues of the North and Far East
- Timo Rautajoki, President, CEO, Lapland Chamber of Commerce
- Vladimir Barbin, Ambassador at Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
- Sergey Frank, President and CEO, Sovcomflot
- Marina Kovtun, Governor of Murmansk Region
- Roman Kopin, Governor, Head of the Government of Chukotka Autonomous Area
- Igor Orlov, Governor of Arkhangelsk Region
- Andrey Patrushev, Deputy CEO, Shelf Projects Development, Gazprom Neft
- Frederik Paulsen, Member of the Board of Trustees, Russian Geographical Society; Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation in Lausanne (Switzerland)
- Esko Mustamäki, CEO, Arctech Helsinki Shipyard
- Paavo Lipponen, Prime Minister of Finland (1995–2003)
- Lou Naumovski, Vice President, General Director of the Moscow Representative office, Kinross Gold Corporation
The event also saw the signing of an agreement on cooperation between the Chukotka Autonomous Area and the Australian company Tigers Realm Coal Limited (TIG). The agreement covers open-cast mining of coking coal and access for sea-going vessels in the Chukotka region.