“We will celebrate and look ahead”

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the Barents Summit in Kirkenes.

KIRKENES: The celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Barents Cooperation has started under the bright Arctic sun with the Prime Ministers in place. Jens Stoltenberg says Environment, Climate change, transport and knowledge are key issues in the new Kirkenes declaration.


They arrived one by one Monday afternoon. Icelandic Prime Minster Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was first in line, followed by Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and finally Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. 

Jens Stoltenberg told reporters outside the hotel that there are two aims of the Summit. “First of all we will celebrate 20-years of successful Barents Cooperation. Then we will look ahead and work with current challenges.”

““During 20 years, we have gone from closed border to close ties between the people in the Barents Region. The trust that is created makes up the foundation for the new Kirkenes Declaration that will contribute to further development in the north,” says Jens Stoltenberg.

It was his father, Thorvald Stoltenberg, who designed the first Kirkenes Declaration establishing the Barents Cooperation back in 1993. Thorvald Stoltenberg was then Norway’s Foreign Minister.

“The Barents Cooperation is unique. There are few formerly closed border areas in the world that have developed more positively than here. Before, the east-west borders were divided by the Cold War. Now they are open. Last year, more than 250,000 people crossed the Norwegian, Russian border. That is great,” says Jens Stoltenberg pointing to the Barents Cooperation as a main key for the positive developments.

“Then we have some challenges. The Arctic ice-cap is melting. That is serious, especially for this region, but it also opens up for new transport routes across the Arctic Oceans.” 

The Norwegian Prime Minister was asked by reporters to comment on the current crack-down on civil society in Russia. 

“Norwegian organizations cooperate across borders with organizations in other countries, also Russia. That is a part of the Barents Cooperation,” says Jens Stoltenberg before he had to go for his working dinner with Dmitri Medvedev and the other ministers from the Barents member states.

The Barents Summit continues Tuesday morning.