Mrs Anne Berner, the minister of transport and communications, made a contribution to the discussion about arctic connections of Finland. Her output might accelerate the debate not only on issues of traffic but also on climate change and protection of environment.
Finland happens to preside the Arctic Council of northern countries for the time being, and this small country – without a real corridor to the Arctic Ocean – dreams about a decisive role as a passage of transport from east and west to south.
Finland has actually no passage of its own to the Arctic Sea having lost Petsamo to the Soviet Union in WW2. So, how to get to the arctic waters, the Barents Sea? Three different routes were presented to Mrs Berner by a work group that prepared possible solutions.
All routes started from Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland in the northernmost Finland.
The eastern route went to Murmansk, a Russian city of about 350 000 inhabitants, mostly over Russian territory. The western route led to the Norwegian coast at the Atlantic, partly in Finland and partly in Norway.
The middle route followed mostly the domestic Finnish land up north to the border of Norway from where it was directed to Kirknäs, a smaller Norwegian city at the Barents Sea. Of course, it’s the Norwegians who say if any trail connection can be built on the side of Norway.
A railway track would be almost 1 500 km from Kirknäs to Tallinn. There is an existing rail connection from Rovaniemi to Helsinki, about 900 km. The distance between Helsinki and Tallinn Estonia is 80 km.
Unfortunately, there is the Finnish Bay of the Baltic Sea between Finland and Estonia. A mission impossible to build a railway track? No, Finns are audacious enough to face this challenge by planning to build a tunnel under the sea. Is it only a dream? Are they alone with their plan?
No, all big players in the world politics are interested in benefitting from the new chances which the meltdown of glaciers in the Polar area opens for business, transfer of goods but also for exploitation of arctic oil and gas. China is involved in the game.
The whole Russia lives by selling oil and natural gas. The Russians have vast resources of fossile energy at their northern coasts. They possibly wait for a chance to sell more oil and gas at a better price.
China has a second Silk Road strategy, which aims at using the arctic route for transfer of Chinese goods. A couple of years ago they made a big bargain about purchase of Russian oil. And China might be even more interested in Russian natural gas, which is better for their environment than crude oil.
For obvious reasons, there are politicians and business people in Finland who think that the time is ripe to realise the connection from the Arctic Sea to Europe over Finland, even under the Baltic Sea.
However, globalisation is not a simple process. Would the arctic connection speed up transition to renewable energies? Probably not. It seems more possible that the result would be more burning of oil, gas and coal. And more carbon dioxide in the air.
That would be contradictory to what our common atmosphere can take in. If they don’t feel that in Moscow yet, the people of Beijing may be better aware. But do people ever have their say?