Speaker of Russia's Federation Council Valentina Matvienko and President of the Norwegian Stortinget Olemic Thommessen met in Oslo last week. Photo: Terje Heiestad/Stortinget and Jonas Karlsbakk/BarentsObserver.
Expansion of the zone for visa-free border-crossing, cooperation in the Arctic, closer contact between the parliaments of the two nations and the situation for sexual minorities in Russia were among the issues up for discussion.
Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matvienko visited Oslo and met with the Norwegian Parliament Stortinget’s President Olemic Thommessen on Thursday.
“Ties between Norway and Russia go long back and I am happy these ties have become even closer in course of the last twenty years”, Thommessen said after the meeting. “We are cooperating well in many areas and it is important to develop this good relationship even further”.
Matvienko emphasized the importance of cooperation within trade and business. The trade turnover between Norway and Russia in 2012 amounted to 2.7 billion USD, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.
Matvienko said that Russia is interested in expanding the zone for visa-free travel across the border to beyond today’s 30 kilometer limit. “This is a question I will discuss with the relevant authorities in Norway”, Thommessen promised.
Visa-free traveling has had big impact on local communities both in Norway and Russia since it was introduced in May 2012. So far more than 4000 people on both sides of the border are holders of a so-called border residents’ certificate.
Norwegian-Russian cooperation in the high north on fields like fisheries, environmental protection and energy were widely discussed in the meeting, Stortinget’s web site reads.
The situation for sexual minorities, first of all homosexuals, has often been raised as a question in meetings between Russian and Western politicians in the last couple of years. Matvienko denied that sexual minorities are being discriminated in Russia, and said that Russian legislation is helping to strengthen rather than weaken the situation for homosexuals.
Before Matvienko came to Norway, she also visited Sweden and Finland.
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.