Morten Høglund (number two from the left) and other members of the Norwegian Parliament’s delegation for Arctic parliamentary cooperation. Here from their visit to REINERTSEN North West Russia's yard in Murmansk. Photo: Thomas Nilsen
“I think it would have been a significant strengthening of our cooperation with Russia if we once or twice a year had fixed meeting points with Russia, the Federation Council and State Duma,” says Morten Høglund, head of the Norwegian Parliament’s delegation for Arctic parliamentary cooperation.
Norwegian Parliamentarians have increasing interest for Arctic issues and are now initiating a debate on how to strengthen cooperation with parliamentarians in other Arctic nations, including Russia.
“There is an absence in our parliamentarian cooperation, perhaps especially related to Arctic issues that I want to take up: Our neighborhood relations with Russia. Nordic cooperation, as an example, is an arena where we have the opportunity to address practical challenges hampering cross-border issues with Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland in a constructive way. We have known each other over time and we meet often, in party groups and other ways. We don’t have the same opportunity with our Russian colleagues,” says Morten Høglund.
He is head of the Norwegian Parliament’s delegation for Arctic parliamentary cooperation, a group established by Stortinget (Parliament) in 2009. Morten Høglund also represents the Norwegian parliament in the Arctic parliamentarian committee together with elected representatives from Russia, Canada, the five Nordic countries and the European Parliament.
The delegation for Arctic parliamentary cooperation has over the last years actively raised issues related to Norwegian, Russian cooperation in the north. Among other places in Russia, the delegation has visited Murmansk to see how cross-border challenges can be solved and how to boost business initiatives.
“We see a good cooperation in the Barents Region that is now celebrating its 20-years anniversary. Elected representatives on the regional level have over many years had cooperation with northwestern Russian regions. We see that these regions of Russia have less and less influence and power, unfortunately,” said Morten Høglund when the issue was debated last week.
He stresses that authorities in Norway and Russia have a good cooperation on many other levels, but regrets that the cooperation between Stortinget and the State Duma and the Federation Council is sporadic.
“There is cooperation, but it has not the same kind of continuity as for instance the Nordic cooperation. I have from different players in Russia got inquiries about how we can improve this. I think it would have been a significant strengthening of our cooperation with Russia if we once or twice a year had fixed meeting points with Russia, the Federation Council and State Duma,” says Høglund.
The initiative is also supported by Ivar Kristiansen, member of both the delegation for Arctic parliamentary cooperation and the Standing committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
There is a strong need to develop parliamentary cooperation in the period we are entering. We must strengthen the mutual parliamentary cooperation in the Barents region and among Nordic countries, and also between the nations directly and indirectly engaged in Arctic issues,” says Ivar Kristiansen.
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.