Barents Regional Council

Barents Regional Council meeting in October 2011. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

The Barents Regional Council unites 13 member counties and a representative of the indigenous peoples in the northernmost parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden and northwest Russia.


At the same time as the BEAC was established in 1993 by the signing of the Kirkenes Declaration, the regional representatives, together with the indigenous peoples signed a co-operation protocol that established the Regional Council for the Barents Euro-Arctic Region with the same objectives as the BEAC - to support and promote co-operation and development in the Barents Region. The protocol determines the structure and the general aims of the regional co-operation.

The Barents Regional Council has members from the following counties or their equivalents:

  • Finland: Kainuu, Lapland and Oulu Region (North Karelia was granted an observer status in 2008)
  • Norway: Finnmark, Nordland and Troms
  • Russia: Arkhangelsk, Karelia, Komi, Murmansk and Nenets.
  • Sweden: Norrbotten and Västerbotten
  • Indigenous Peoples in the Barents Region:   Sami (in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia). Nenets and Veps (in Russia).   

The Chairmanship of the Barents Regional Council rotates biennially between its 13 member counties. The Regional Council convenes twice  a year. The Regional Council’s meetings are prepared by the Regional Committee which consists of civil servants from the member county administrations. The Norrbotten County Administrative Board acts as the Chair of the Regional Council and the Regional Committee from November 2011 till the end of 2013.

The establishment of a forum for the interregional Barents cooperation is an acknowledgement of the importance of local knowledge, the ability to identify the most urgent common priorities and the capacity to carry out cross-border projects and cooperate on implementation of common programmes.    

Initially, the Barents Region consisted of seven member counties, but already in April 1993 the Republic of Karelia in Russia joined the co-operation. An increasing interest in the benefits of regional co-operation and the potentials of the northern regions followed. The Barents Region gradually expanded and with the accession of the Russian Republic of Komi on 1 January 2002, the Region now comprises 13 member counties, approximately 1.75 mn sq. km and nearly 5.3 million inhabitants. In 2008, the Barents Regional Council decided to admit the region of North Karelia as an observer into the Barents Regional Council.

Barents Programme
The Barents Programme is the framework for co-operation where the priority areas of work are identified. The focus is on sector programmes, which are strongly oriented towards the natural resource potentials in the region and linked to closely related industries. Six frame sector programmes have been launched: sector programme on forestry, sector programme on mining and minerals, sector programme on oil and gas, sector programme on tourism, sector programme on east-west logistics and sector programme on higher education. A specific region takes leading role in each sector programme and identifies partner regions. Next step is to create bilateral or multilateral targeted pilot projects within each programme. 

Working groups 
In order to deepen and concretise the co-operation the Regional Council has established Working Groups in priority areas of work. There are at present three regional thematic working groups on environment, investment and economic co-operation as well as transport and logistics. Together with the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples which has an advisory role to both the Regional Council and to the BEAC, and six joint BEAC/BRC working groups (culture; health and related social issues; education and research; energy: tourism; youth) there are altogether ten Working Groups reporting to the Barents Regional Council.