Disagree on much, agree on Barents cooperation

Børge Brende and Sergey Lavrov marked the 70th anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of Norway’s northernmost county from NaziGerman occupation. See video of the press conference.


Speaking to press after a working lunch with the Norwegian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov thanked the people in Kirkenes for the good atmosphere in cross-border relations.

Earlier in the day, the two foreign ministers laid down wreaths at the Russian soldier monument, a memorial erected in honour of Soviet troops which liberated Finnmark County in October 1944.

Brende and Lavrov exchanged views on regional Barents cooperation, by both sides considered to be of high importance in a time when the political climate is at its coldest in 25 years.

“There are some issues in our relations, but that is because Norway follows the restrictive sanctions taken against Russia, but I understand they were taken by something from outside, Sergey Lavrov said.

“Despite this we confirmed today to continue cooperation on economic, radiation safety and cross-border cooperation. We also confirmed the benefits of those forum that exist in northern Europe, that is Barents-, Baltic- and Northern Dimension cooperation,” Lavrov continued.

People-to-people cooperation across Russia’s northernmost border to Western Europe involves thousands of projects in among civil society groups, education, business, culture and environment.

The Barents cooperation was also highlighted by Norway’s Foreign Minister.

“Today we have had the opportunity to show the people-to-people cooperation; it is close and healthy,” Børge Brende said.   

“We agree to continue important fishery, environmental- and nuclear safety cooperation and other regional projects,” Børge Brende continued.

Brende, however, said the disturbing situation in eastern Ukraine was a natural thing to discuss during the meeting. “We do disagree on this,” the Norwegian Foreign Minister told reporters. 

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich underscored earlier this week the importance of Barents-, Baltic- and Northern Dimension cooperation.

“We look forward to continuing our cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council during Russia’s upcoming presidency in 2015-2017. We value our cooperation with Norway in the Council of the Baltic Sea States, which is one of the key organisations working to create an area of stability, security and prosperity in Northern Europe,” Lukashevich said.