“The Barents Euro-Arctic cooperation is a over twenty years long success story and should work as an example of how cooperation in the Arctic should be organized,” Rafaelsen said.
Economic development is the answer to development of the Arctic, Rafaelsen said and explained that what is needed, are more concrete projects. This can best be solved on the regional level.
Rafaelsen, who is the newly elected Mayor of Sør-Varanger municipality in Finnmark on the border to Russia, has wide experience in Norwegian-Russian cooperation after leading the Norwegian Barents Secretariat for nearly two decades.
“The Arctic Council has no window to the local communities,” Rafaelsen said. “Barents Cooperation has been a success because it is wanted on both sides of the border.”
Rune Rafaelsen spoke at the seminar “Russia and the Arctic – Regional perspectives”, a break-out session during the Arctic Circle 2015 assembly organized by the Northern British Columbia.
He underlined that cooperation with Russia should be a priority for Norway. “Russia is the main stakeholder in the Arctic.” According to Rune Rafaelsen the cross-border cooperation with Russia is the most important peace project Norway has.
Anton Vasiliyev, Ambassador of Russia to Iceland and former member of the Arctic Council, spoke at the same seminar about Russia’s policy in the Arctic. He agreed with Rafaelsen that the Arctic Council lacks a regional perspective, but says that the council is moving in that direction and is becoming more and more concrete and practical.