Opening the Sámi Summit which was held at the European Parliament in Brussels, the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola spoke on the importance of dialogue. "Many decisions that have the potential to affect the lives of Sámi people start right here, at the European Institutions."
Dear Prime Minister,
Dear Sami people, friends,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you proud Sami people to the European Parliament.
It is only right that the fourth Summit of the Barents Euro-Arctic Indigenous Sami People should be held here, at the House of European Democracy. This house is your home too.
We are here for you, to listen to you and hear your concerns. You are indigenous people of our Union. The European Parliament will always listen.
In 2017, our LUX Film Prize went to a movie called “Sámi blood”. It tells the painful story of forced Sámi assimilation at the beginning of the last century. It was only right for the European Parliament to shine a light on this sad chapter of your Sámi history, so make it known across the world.
Europe’s history has known many troubles and many tragedies. But we have also experienced many examples of solidarity and empathy. Solidarity based on common values of dignity and respect for diversity.
The Sámi culture is an integral part of Europe's cultural wealth. The need to safeguard cultural diversity is at the core of our European Treaties.
The Sámi people enjoy unique traditions, unique languages, and a way of life based on respect and peaceful coexistence with nature. Values that must be celebrated and cherished, always.
This is why Members of this House are committed for your interests within the Barents Parliamentary Conference and other Northern cooperation fora.
Many decisions that have the potential to affect the lives of Sámi people start right here: at the European Institutions. And that is why our dialogue is important, not only today but always.
The European Parliament supports programmes that help empower Sámi people to make their voice heard at the earliest stage of the legislative process, such as at the Interreg Nord programme that paved the way for an ambitious EU-Sámi Strategy.
The most acute issue is how climate change disproportionally affects the Arctic and therefore the Sami people.
The European Parliament is the driver of an avant-garde climate policy, but we must act even faster, against a real climate emergency.
We must give ourselves the means to reach our Green Deal objectives and increase our safeguards against malign actors that seek to exploit our vulnerabilities, as we saw with Russia’s energy blackmail last year.
All projects linked to the green transition in Europe’s northernmost regions must be developed together hand-in-hand with the local people. This European Parliament insists on this.
We must respect human rights and environmental standards. This is so important. The European Parliament takes the Sámi people’s challenges very seriously.
On February 24th last year, a dark chapter of our common history began. Since then, Russia has escalated its unjustifiable attack on Ukraine to a full-scale invasion, which has also impacted security perspectives in the Arctic.
And yet, the war continues. Ukrainians are giving their lives, to preserve their dignity and their European Union future. We will continue to support them.
I would like to commend the representatives of the Sámi Council for putting relations with Russian Sámi organisations on hold in response to this brutal war.
It must not have been easy with you to sever decade-long ties with Sámi brothers and sisters. On the other hand, it was the right thing to do.
We all know that many Russians have severed their support for their regime’s actions too.
In spite of tragedy, our democratic way empowers us to keep fighting for the future that we want for ourselves and for our children.
I would like to thanks the Sami Parliament in Finland and the Presidency of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council for the initiative of bringing this summit to Brussels.
Talking with one another leads to greater understanding and to lasting results.
May your two days ahead of you be fruitful so that the European Union may continue to truly stand ‘United in Diversity’.
You can read the President's speech in Finnish here, and in Swedish here.