– Without people, no security. Without security, no people

How can new emerging leadership in the Arctic help with the current energy crisis in the EU?

​​The opening panel of Arctic Connections at SIOI in October 2022Opening panel: From left: Frode Mellemvik, Director of the High North Center, Maria Chiara Carozza, President of the National Research Council of Italy, Johan Vibe, Norwegian ambassador to Italy, Riccardo Sessa, Vice President of SIOI  and Rear Admiral in the Italian Navy, Massimiliano Nannini, Director of the Italian Hydrographic Institute. All photos: Hogne Bø Pettersen/High North Center

SIOI is the Italian Society for International Organization​. Thanks to an agreement between the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Rome and the High North Center of Business and Governance, and with the sponsorship of Eni Spa, SIOI organized the International Symposium, “Arctic Connections: Italy and Norway in the Arctic between cooperation and future challenges”, on September 18th, 2018. The conference also took place in 2019, 2021 and on October 18th and 19th this year. 

The conference is part of the study program for the students of First Level Master's Course in Sustainable Development, Geopolitics of Resources and Arctic Studies – SIOI​ at Sapienza Università di Roma​. Associate Professor Bård Borch Michalsen of the High North Center and University of Tromsø is a lecturer in this program. He was also responsible from our side for this conference. 

– The Arctic is not a barren wasteland​​

Riccardo Sessa, Vice President of SIOI wished us welcome and said in his speech that the conference would provide a unique opportunity to discuss the Arctic region. 

– Energy, transport, geopolitics, the energy crises affect all European countries, and it’s important to highlight how we best can cooperate between Arctic countries like Norway and non-Arctic countries like Italy. 

Norwegian Ambassador to Italy, Johan Vibe, talked about the long history of cooperation regarding the Arctic between Italy and Norway.  A cooperation, which can be traced all the way back to 1926 when Italian Umberto Nobile flew with Roald Amundsen in the airship “Norge” from Ny-Ålesund on Svalbard over the North Pole to Teller in Alaska.   

"​– The cooperation with Norway 

is a key issue"​


– Cooperation is a key part of Norwegian Arctic Policy. The Norwegian Arctic is not a barren wasteland, it's a place where people live and work and have their homes. And it’s an area of great national resources and the home of highly skilled researchers, the ambassador said. 

 He also talked about the situation with Ukraine and how this showed how important it is to have citizens in the North. 

– Without people, no security. Without security, no people!

The impact of Ukraine​

Maria Chiara Carozza, President of the National Research Council of Italy talked about national Arctic Research Programs, as well as EU funded projects. 

– The cooperation with Norway is a key issue, and that's why I'm here. We will also take part in other Arctic conferences soon. 

 Rear Admiral in the Italian Navy, Massimiliano Nannini, Director of the Italian Hydrographic Institute said the Italian Navy has been very important when it comes to Arctic research. 


Students: The conference is part of the study program for the students of First Level Master's Course in Sustainable Development, Geopolitics of Resources and Arctic Studies – SIOI at Sapienza Università di Roma.

– We, the navy, we have been in the Arctic for over 200 years.  The navy is looking forward to moving in the direction of the scientific side. We started six years ago a program called High North. We finished the second round this year, and we will start another program for the next three years. We will build a surveillance ship with polar capabilities. 600 million EUR will be used, so we are really committed.

He also said that having spent winters in northern Norway while on manoeuvre, he knew what it means living in that area. 

Professor Frode Mellemvik, Director of the High North Center for Business and Governance, talked about the importance of international cooperation when it comes to develop knowledge about the opportunities for business and societal development in the Arctic.  The High North Center has for more than 30 years cooperated with Russian universities. However  

– Russia’s  attack on Ukraine is also impacting our work at the HNC, he said.

– Because of the sanctions we cannot work with Russian institutions.  

He also talked about the close cooperation the HNC has with Ukrainian universities and institutions, and that theHNC is doing its best to help and cooperate with the 18 Ukrainian universities we have been cooperating with for decades.  


Questions: The students had questions for the panellists during the panels. Here Anna Marino asks a question, while her professor, moderator Bård Borch Michalsen watches. 


– We try to run the programs with Ukraine, even though it's very, very difficult. Many Ukrainian students are in their basements using digital tools trying to follow the education programs.

He concluded that HNC’s wish is to have more PhD students from Italy and to create something that will grow, to the benefit of both Norway and Italy.  

 The Arctic dilemma​​

This was a discussion panel with Clara Ganslandt, EU Special Envoy for Arctic Matters, European External Action Service, Aldo Pigoli, Professor, International Relations Analysis, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan and Andreas Østhagen, Senior Advisor, High North Center, Nord University Business School, Bodø and Senior Research Fellow, Fridtjof Nansen Institute. Editor in Chief of High North News, Arne O. Holm, was the moderator.

Holm talked about his travels along the border to Russia, and how interesting it would be to hear about the EU's views regarding the situation between Russia and EU. tThe panellists did a short introduction each, before discussing the topic of the day. It was pointed out that it was very important to point out which Arctic one talked about. 

"When we talk about 

Arctic ​​security, let’s be specific"​


– It’s like geopolitics in the Mediterranean, Østhagen said. 

– It would be vastly different depending on which part of it we were talking about. Is it the Eastern part, the Western part or in the middle? 

The panel discussed that it’s the same in the Arctic. You also have sub regions of the Arctic and it’s therefore important to distinguish them. For example: There is no military activity in the middle of the Arctic. The situation there would therefore be totally different from the regions where this is the case. What causes tensions in the Arctic is often caused by situations elsewhere.

 Østhagen summed it up. 

– My main point is that when we talk about Arctic security, let’s be specific. 

Never ask for more than you need​

Associate rofessor Bård Borch Michalsen, UiT, the Arctic University of Norway, Harstad and the High North Center, Nord University Business School introduced and moderated the first panel on the second day. ​


Arctic leadership: From left: Tonje Margrete Winsnes Johansen, Advisor, Arctic and Environment Unit, Saami CouncilIda Kristine Jakobsen, General Manager, Clarion Hotel the Edge Nordic Choice Hotels, Tromsø, Carmine Robustelli, Special Envoy for the Arctic, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bjørn Olsen, Professor at Nord University Business School.

Carmine Robustelli, Special Envoy for the Arctic, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation opened and said that the Arctic consists of eight Arctic states. They constitute four million people, of which 500 000 are indigenous.

He pointed out that there is absence of an internationally treaty, unlike the Antarctic. He concluded by going through the various Arctic organisations and their histories.

The students had prepared questions, and one of them was: “Is there a chance that Italy and Russia will stop cooperation with us about climate change?”  

Robustelli denied this. 

– I don't believe that there is an interest from China and Russia to stop such cooperation. The need is so strong, that we will see this cooperation continue. 

Tonje Margrete Winsnes Johansen, Advisor, Arctic and Environment Unit, Saami Council then talked about indigenous groups in Norway and their role in Arctic policies. 

"If you have any salmon left, 

you have been fishing 

too much or shared too little"


– Economic interests want to use the natural resources, adding to more strain on the affected areas traditionally used by the Saami, she said. She argued that studies show that while biodiversity is declining globally, it’s declining less in areas managed by indigenous peoples. 

– We do so for the future generations with mind. The ancient motto we live by is that the salmon should last from the end of the fishing season to the next fishing season. If you have any left, you have either been fishing too much, or you have shared too little. Never ask for more than you need. 

She said that not including indigenous people in talks about exploitation of natural resources or wild areas will be costly to the society. She then told the story about Fosen in Norway. This is an area where they set up 150 windmills, without listening to the protests of Saami using the area for reindeer husbandry. The Norwegian Supreme Court have decided that this was a violation of the law. However, the Norwegian government still haven’t' done anything because it will be very costly. 

Arctic leadership​

Bjørn Olsen, Professor at the Nord University Business School talked about Arctic leadership. 

– It requires adaption and transformations. Russia is right now out in the cold, and there are questions raised about the future of the Arctic Council. The environment changes hit the Arctic harder. As is the decrease in the young population. By studying Arctic leadership, you are studying global leadership. 


Moderator: Associate Professord from The High North Center and the Arctic University of Tromsø was one of the organiser and also a panel moderator. 

Olsen stated that the most important resource, people, are diminishing. 

– What do leaders do with limited resources? They can either do more with less or try acquire more resources. In the High North we have a long tradition of not wasting resources. You don't just use parts of the animal; you use the whole animal. This is the basic idea of circular economy.

A good example of this Arctic leadership came through the next panellist. Ida Kristine Jakobsen, General Manager, Clarion Hotel the Edge Nordic Choice Hotels, Tromsø, talked about how she managed a big hotel, both in normal times and during a crisis like Covid. Especially when she had a huge staff, consisting of people from all over the world. 

– My international employees say that we as a people in the north are very warm. We gain trust and respect. 

However, there are challenges. 

– Norwegians are more direct in their feedback. It' s sometimes a bit hard to get people from other cultures to really say what they mean. Also: Young people want to have opinions about what we do, and they need instant feedback. 


Arctic leader:  Ida Kristine Jakobsen, General Manager, Clarion Hotel the Edge Nordic Choice Hotels, Tromsø, talked about how she managed a big hotel.

She also said assumption is the mother of all evils. 

– It’s also important to show recognition. This boosts loyalty. As a leader it’s important to show vulnerability. During Covid, I had to do layoffs and put people one furlough. I cried! Out company’s motto is that we care, and it’s important to create a good culture to get everyone to be team players. Culture eats strategies for breakfast! 

Europe’s energy crisis ​​​

The last panel was headed by Professor Emeritus, Petter Nore, High North Center at Nord University Business School. 

Marco Piredda, Head of International Affairs Analysis and Business Support – Public Affairs Department, ENI S.p.A. started by talking about the current energy crisis and where the Arctic fits in. 

– Arctic resources will not be the complete solution to the short-term crisis. But it will be a part of the solution.  There is a potential of 400 billion barrels of oil, as well as gas. However, because of many reasons, as environmental concerns, these resources might not be feasible to exploit. This is being discussed in many Arctic countries, while Greenland has stopped all exploration of such resources. 

The Mayor of Berlevåg, Rolf Laupstad, showed how his part of the Arctic might be a part of the solution. 

"– Air pollution in Europe alone causes over 500 000 premature deaths per year"


– We have worked with ammonia and hydrogen energy. However, in our community we have few people to use the energy on. We need to get the energy out to those who need it. The renewable and cheap production in Berlevåg will be a part of the solution for Europe's energy crises, but Europe needs to build an infrastructure for this. We have a power plant that produces 200 MWh and need a 420 kV power line to East-Finnmark.

Tommaso Parrinello, Aeolus and Cryosat Mission Manager · European Space Agency – ESA said global warming is going to change how we look upon our own society. 

–Our economy is based on fossil fuel and it's going to take some time we are ready to use renewable energy

 He then showed animated models on how ESA’s satellites measures the atmosphere, both for pollution and warming. This is very important work, and the data is used by scientists and organisations all over the world.


Panel leader: Petter Nore moderated the panel about Europe's energy crisis. 

– Air pollution in Europe alone causes over 500 000 premature deaths per year.

Paolo Sellari, Professor, Geopolitics of transport, University of Rome La Sapienza talked about the Arctic’s role in the global transport system. Now that the ice north of Russia is melting we can shorten the shipping routes between The West and East with almost 40%. However, there are many issues that must be clarified. 

Knut Vidar Larssen, Exploration and Production Director for the Barents Sea, Equinor started out by saying that he had worked in northern Norway for most of his life. 

– I have studied at Nord university and my whole professional career have been spent on the sea and offshore production.

 He said that the national Norwegian energy company Equinor now will work more with offshore, wind, hydrogen and low carbo solutions. The company has launched an energy transition plan and collaboration is central to the project.   

"We have an area 

perfect for wind productio​n"


​Kjell RICHARDSEN, Business developer, works on the hydrogen and ammonia project with the mayor from Berlevåg, as well as potential wind projects: 

– We have an area perfect for wind production. It's important to have dialogue with the reindeer owners, we must have conversations with them from the start of the project. And maybe it's better in the future to have big farms instead of many smaller farms.

And with that Arctic Connections 2022 was over. The students who took part in the conference asked great questions during the event, and the feedback from them was great. 

We will conclude with the question moderator Michalsen ended his panel with: 

– What should be the takeaway from all of this?

– That the Arctic is a modern and fantastic place to be, replied Professor Bjørn Olsen. 


Happy trio: Director at SIOI, Cristina Puccia (left), Director og the High North Center of Business and Governance, Frode Mellemvik (middle) and Alessandra Caruso are happy that the conference was a success. ​​


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