“As a Deputy from Finnmark, I have over time seen how both people-to-people cooperation, trade and political cooperation between Norway and Russia have evolved positively over time,” says Kåre Simensen to BarentsObserver.
Simensen has now invited all his fellow deputies to join the Norwegian, Russian friendship association in the Parliament (Storting).
“So far, 18 members of Parliament from different parties have signed up.”
Before being elected to the Parliament in 2009 for the Labour Party, Kåre Simensen was a member of the executive in Finnmark county council and active in the regional cross-border Barents cooperation, especially with Murmansk in Northwest-Russia.
“Development of northern areas is a priority for both Russia and Norway. Our connections to the north are a positive example of good neighborliness, practical cooperation and interpersonal contacts,” says Kåre Simensen.
Via the Russian Embassy in Oslo, Simensen has been informed that both chambers of the Russian Parliament, the Duma and the Federation Council, are interested in joining a Norwegian-Russian parliamentary friendship association.
Although Norway and Russia have developed close ties, and likely one of the best east-west contact networks in Europe, Simensen do not hide that there are challenges.
“Russia, like other countries, has issues and views that can be a challenge for us in Norway. Human rights and the anti-gay are such examples. Accordingly we will certainly find things here in Norway that the Russians could be interpreted as challenging. So are the realities. But the value of having a Friendship Society is that difficult and challenging issues must be taken up in all its forms,” argues Kåre Simensen.
Norwegian and Russian flag outside the Norwegian Parliament when Speaker of Russia's Federation Council Valentina Matvienko visited Oslo in December 2013.