International Annual UN-Water Zaragoza Conference 2012/2013
Preparing for the 2013 International Year. Water Cooperation: Making it Happen! 8-10 January 2013

Agreement between Russia and Finland on the utilization of the frontier waters

The cooperation between Finland and Russia is based on the 1964 Agreement for all rivers (Finnish Russian Agreement on the utilization of transboundary watercourses). The 1964 agreement has many basic principles which the Helsinki convention contains now and have been implemented. It includes regulations on: Water flow and structural measures; Floods and water scarcity; Timber floating and navigation; Fisheries and fish migration; Pollution and water quality; Frontier guard issues (related to water); public health and economic considerations.

The Joint Finnish – Russian Commission was established in 1965. Each party appoints 3 members, 3 deputy members, experts, secretary and has Annual meetings (50th meeting in 2012, 50th anniversary in 2014) and has permanent working groups. The Commission includes scientists, diplomats, and representatives of ministries. This has facilitated a high level of trust between both countries, which allowed good achievements and implementation. The Commission’s long-term cooperation has been successful and well respected also in the field of water protection. The monitoring of transboundary waters started in 1966 initially including all major rivers. As most transboundary waters were (and still are) almost in a natural state, monitoring was concentrated in the south-eastern part of the river basin which is exposed to wastewater loading from communities and industrial plants. For water quality and water protection there are common monitoring programs. The main challenges relate to water regulation, hydropower production and control flood risks. This often means that there is a need for development targets at the outset and investigate alternatives jointly. The Commission analyses all the impacts of the potential actions from the point of view of either party in a holistic way. As management of water involves the management of industries, agriculture and other users, there has been created working bodies, involving users. One of the most significant results of the cooperation is the Discharge Rule between Saimaa and Vuoksi. The integrated water management group played a major role when this rule was being prepared at the end of the 1980s. Participation by energy companies has been essential. The 1964 agreement includes the bilateral intergovernmental commission that is between producers.

Overall without knowing the strategies of the development of countries it is impossible to define the cooperation. It is important to respect the interest of the partner and try to satisfy the needs of the other. The problem is not about funding (this is an instrument) but to formulate and agree on the aims. The long term cooperation demonstrates that mutual understanding can achieve positive results when managing scarce resources. From the cooperation experience there are some important lessons including: Identification of shared interests and goals; Analysis of multiple interests disregarding state borders; Finding an optimal solution for sharing costs and benefits; Participatory approach; Long-term commitment; Being open and transparent increases the trust between partners

The Remaining challenges include Climate change (Increased occurrence and variability of heavy precipitation and drought periods; Shorter snow period, less spring floods; Alterations in ice conditions). Forecasting optimal flow control become crucial as well as Flood risk management tools: mapping and planning. There are also some waste water issues (redirecting).