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The prime ministers of Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland
The prime ministers of Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Finland met in Riksgransen, Sweden, on April 8 and 9 for the Nordic Globalization Forum hosted by Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

They also coordinated their interests and put forth their views on Arctic problems.

The meeting was attended by the heads of Scandinavia's leading industrial and energy companies, trade unions, newspaper publishers, politicians, and globalization, climate and energy experts. It was not just a friendly get-together, although the summit was not expected to make any formal decisions.

Its focal point was the prime ministers' excursion to Riksgransen Mountain, which gave the name to the city, reputed as the northernmost ski resort in the world, 350 km (218 miles) north of the Arctic Circle.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Danish leader Anders Rasmussen, Iceland's Prime Minister Geir Haarde, Norway's Jens Stoltenberg and Finland's Matti Vanhanen were part of the daring excursion.

The subject of the meeting in Riksgransen was "A competitive Nordic region in a globalized world," or rather challenges of economic development, climate change and energy. The Arctic theme sounded quite loudly at the summit, with the climate, energy, globalization and Arctic experts gathered to encourage the Nordic leaders and Nordic cooperation to move in the right direction.

This was bound to happen, taking into account recent moves made by strong players such as Russia, Canada and the United States in and around the Arctic. However, while these three players are at loggerheads with each other over the region, the Scandinavian countries seem ready to act jointly, which they are likely to do better than other countries, considering their forays into other territories in past centuries and their experience in developing northern reserves.

The Arctic countries were stirred by Russia's August 2007 expedition, which placed the Russian flag on the seabed of the Arctic Ocean.

This infuriated Peter MacKay, then the foreign minister of Canada, who said: "Look, this isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say, 'We're claiming this territory.' Our claims over our Arctic are very well-established."

MacKay said there was no threat to Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic, despite the latest claims by Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov retorted that Russia was not just placing flags, but doing what trailblazers always do.

Canada knew what it was all about by that time. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made four visits beyond the Arctic Circle since then, and Canada has pledged to allocate tens of millions of dollars for the construction of a deepwater port and naval base at Nanisivik, is expanding the army training center in Resolute Bay, has earmarked $7.5 billion for building several Arctic patrol vessels to protect its sovereignty, and will increase the group of 100 servicemen to 1,000 in the Arctic.

The United States is also increasing its presence in the region, and its ocean surveillance ships make regular visits there.

Canadians claim that Russia is trying to steal 460,000 square miles of seabed, an area five times larger than Britain, in the Arctic. But it was Canada who started trouble in the Arctic in the 1950s by proclaiming its sovereignty over the North Pole. The International Court of Justice ruled then that the territory would be proclaimed Canadian property, unless some other country proved during 100 years that it owns the seabed of the Arctic Ocean. This started the race.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a multi-disciplinary science organization that focuses on biology, geography, geology, geospatial information and water, more than 25% of undiscovered oil and gas reserves could be under the Arctic shelf. Compared with them, the total reserves of Saudi Arabia, the world's largest net oil exporter, look like a keg of beer next to an Olympic swimming pool.

Besides, the world's climate is getting warmer, and the Arctic is thawing faster than any other region in the world. In 10 or 15 years, or possibly even sooner, the Northwest Passage off Canada, the shortest route from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean halving the travel time from Japan to Europe, might become navigable throughout the year.

It is therefore not surprising that the world has become addicted to "geographical discoveries" and the Arctic nations are marking "their" territory.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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