“The Murmansk office processed 64,307 applications in 2013,” says Visa officer Kristiina Nurmela. That is a tripling of visas over the last five years. In 2009, Finland’s Counsulate branch office in Murmansk issued just over 19,000 visas.
Last year’s numbers are also an increase, although not that sharp, compared with 2012 when 63,488 applications were handled in Murmansk. Finland has outsourced the application handling to the private company VFS that since 2012 has operated a Finnish visa service center down-town Murmansk.
The increasing popularity of traveling to Finland is also highly visible in the statistics at the two northernmost border check-points between Lapland and the Kola Peninsula with a five percent increase in traffic last year to nearly 400,000 border-crossings.
Norway’s Consulate General in Murmansk issued around 28,000 visas last year, less than half of Finland. The figures are, however, not directly comparable, since Norway issues multiple-entry visas valid for longer periods than Finland. A visa to Norway is often valid for three years, and even up to five years. Finland mainly issues one year valid multiple entry visas.
Ninety-five percent of all 1,57 million visas to Finland from world-wide last year were issued to Russians. The majority at Finland’s visa center in St. Petersburg.
The Barents Region has some of the last largest areas of intact natural woodlands in Europe. Scientists, bureaucrats and environmentalists from all four Barents countries cooperate on preserving the forest, but an international initiative is needed.
August 9th, the Barents Region celebrated the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The day was commemorated in several parts of the region, including Karasjok in Northern Norway and Teriberka in Northwestern Russia.