"We are eager to help build a sustainable region"

Anna Rybalova speaking at the Barents Summit.

KIRKENES: The Barents Regional Youth Council says the future of the Barents Region lies in transportation.


They say the future belongs to the young. But in the Barents Region, they’re not willing to wait that long.

“Some people think we are the future, but we are also the present,” Anna Rybalova, the representative from the Barents Regional Youth Council, said in her presentation to the Summit.

“We are eager to help build a sustainable region.”

The Youth Council, which works to make living in the High North attractive to young people by including them in the development in the area, gave input during the writing of the second Kirkenes Declaration. Rybalova spoke alongside the senior ministers of the Barents countries on Tuesday morning.

Some of the Youth Council’s recommendations echoed those of their elder counterparts, like visa freedom and better transportation between countries. But Rybalova also spoke of the high rates of youth unemployment in the region and the need for more youth-targeted initiatives like more work permits for youth and greater educational opportunities across borders.

Specifically, youth delegates have called for the creation of a Barents summer school to bring students from all regions together in the classroom.

That last recommendation seems to have been heard by the leaders of the Barents Council. During the Summit, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg announced the creation of a new summer language school—though just for phD students. The new program will be a collaboration between the University of Tromsø, University of Arkhangelsk and Umeå University.

Stoltenberg called the new program part of the “beauty of the Barents Cooperation,” in which people are increasingly involved in all sorts of cooperation.

As the representatives of the first generation for whom the closed borders of the Soviet era aren’t even a distant memory, the Youth Council representatives seem especially keen on anything that increases the flow of people across borders.

When speaking of the need for greater transportation networks across regions, Rybalova cited her own experience. She hails from the Republic of Karelia, a region in the far northwest reaches of Russia on the border of Finland.

But, if she wants to visit colleagues in Tromsø—a major Arctic center in Norway that lies directly west of her homeland—she says it requires a circuitous journey, going first to St. Petersburg or Moscow, then over to Oslo, before finally going north again.

“I’m a person with an environmental education,” she said, “and I can say the sustainability of our region, it’s in transportation.”