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Arctic neighbors strengthen Barents Cooperation

Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide and Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun met in Oslo on Wednesday. Photo: Atle Staalesen/BarentsObserver

OSLO: Regional cooperation across the border remains a key priority in relations between Norway and Russia, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide underlines.

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The High North and the Barents Cooperation was on top of the agenda in Wednesday’s meeting beween Barth Eide and Governor Marina Kovtun of Murmansk. 

Less than two months ahead the 20th anniversary of the Barents Cooperation, Minister Eide says that the regional cooperation has been “a source of inspiration in relations between the states”. He also argues that there is a connection between the long-term Barents Cooperation and the recent delimitation of the Barents Sea. “It is based on the good climate which has been developed regionally over the years”, he told BarentsObserver in an exclusive interview. 

Anniversary celebrations of the Barents Cooperation will be held in Kirkenes in January 2013 and followed up by a top meeting between prime ministers in June.

When established on 11 January 1993, the Barents Cooperation became a new platform for regional cooperation between Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden. Today, four countries, 13 regional entities, as well representatives of indigenous peoples and a wide variety of civil society organizations and public institutions, are closely engaged in the cooperation structures.

A key issue in the upcoming anniversary celebrations will be the adoption of a Kirkenes Declaration II, a new guiding document for the regional cooperation. According to Barth Eide, issues of civil society development and democracy will remain important components in relations.

Also Governor Marina Kovtun has on several occasions highlighted the importance of the Barents Cooperation. In an meeting with Norwegian foreign ministry representatives in June, the governor said that the Kirkenes Declaration from 1993 is a “unique document, which opened new opportunities for international cooperation” and  expressed major expectation from the Kirkenes Declaration II.

Before meeting with Minister Eide, Governor Kovtun attended a session in the Barents Regional Council, a body which includes regional leaders from all 13 counties and provinces in the region. Among the other regional leaders attending the meeting was Governor Igor Orlov from Arkhangelsk.