Norway opens office in Russian border town
An honorary consulate will be established in the Russian town of Nikel in a bid to support local cross-border cooperation.
The consulate unit is established in connection with the opening of a local visa-free travel regime in the Norwegian-Russian borderlands. Since late May, Russians living in a 30 km range from the border have been entitled to get special id cards enabling them to cross into the neighboring Norwegian municipality of Sør-Varanger without visas.
However, to get the permit, Russians currently have to travel the 200 km to Murmansk where they need to line up at the Norwegian General Consulate. The new honorary consulate will help facilitate procedures, Norwegian General Consul in Murmansk Øyvind Nordsletten says to newspaper Sør-Varanger Avis. He is confident that the honorary consulate after some time will be able to take on functions like the reception of permit applications.
On the Norwegian side of the border, Russia has since 1993 had a general consulate in Kirkenes.
Commenting on the initiative, Leader of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat Rune Rafaelsen underlines the importance of getting a local office, which can assist the General Consulate in Murmansk with the issuing of border traffic permits. “We welcome the new honorary consulate, it will facilitate infrastructure between people in the area”, he says to BarentsObserver.
The Nikel honorary consul will not get diplomatic status, but will help promote local Norwegian interests and also play a key role as an information center.
Norwegian diplomats have already started looking for a suited person for the job and contact with the Russian Foreign Ministry has been establish on the issue. The person chosen will have to be approved by the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.
In 2010, Norway opened an honorary consulate also in Arkhangelsk.
The opening of a consulate unit in Nikel is not a new idea. Already in the early 1990s, Norway considered to establish a consulate in the border town. The idea has also been promoted by the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, which in its Barents Review 2012 recommends that Norway opens an information center in the border municipality of Pechenga.