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Tragicomic that Norway postpones new Storskog

Head of Finnmark County Council, Runar Sjåstad, at Storskog border check-point.

Head of County Council in Finnmark, Runar Sjåstad, urges money on the table so Norway could match Russia’s funding to construct new border check-point.

Location

Runar Sjåstad made a short stop at Storkog border-check point on his way towards Murmansk this week to mark the 25-years anniversary of people-to-people cooperation between Norway’s northernmost county and Russia’s Kola Peninsula. His delegation was lucky, queues are often much longer. 

Traffic over the Russian, Norwegian border has doubled over the last three years and is expected to pass 310,000 border-crossings this year. Much better roads, easing in visa demands, cross-border shopping and generally better contacts are the main reasons. The challenge now is lack of sufficient check-point facilities on both sides of the border.

While Norwegian authorities for years have been discussing how to find funding for a new border check-point at Storskog, Russia last month announced a €26 million funding plan for a brand new check-point at Borisoglebsk.

“It is somewhat tragicomic that we can’t find funding, while Russia uses EU-funding from the Kolarctic program to build a new check-point,” says Runar Sjåstad to BarentsObserver.

The current Russian check-point was opened in 2003, built entirely with cash from Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We will follow up. The new government said very clearly that funding to a new check-point at Storskog should come. But they don’t follow-up with needed funding. Everything is ready, the plan is made, the only thing missing now is money on the table,” says Runar Sjåstad.

Head of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, Rune Rafaelsen, agrees with Sjåstad that it is embarrassing that Norway is now becoming the lazy boy in the class.

Rafaelsen fears lack of cash for a new border station would hamper business developments between the two countries.

“There are huge possibilities for developing businesses across the borders in the region, but a state-of-the-art border station with enough capacity to meet the boost is essential,” says Rune Rafaelsen. He also says new technology for immigration and vehicle control should be given to Storskog.

“Norway has only one land border crossing to Russia. Storskog should facilitate for easy and fast contacts between our two countries, not queues,” says Rafaelsen.