Quest for Nordic-Russian reload

The Barents Council meeting in Oulu, Finland, assembled the region's top diplomats and regional leaders.

A series of high-level talks were held in the run-up to today’s session in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.


Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov toured Scandinavia ahead of today’s meeting in the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. In Oslo, the top diplomat met with both Foreign Minister Børge Brende and his deputy Tore Hattrem. Among the agenda issues was the current stagnation in cooperation mechanisms between the countries, the Russian Foreign Ministry informs.

According to the Russian deputy minister, both sides expressed mutual interest in an enhanced cooperation within the frames of the Barents Cooperation, the Arctic Council and other regional coopeation initiatives, a press release from the Ministry reads.

That same week, Mr Titov met with Swedish State Secretary Annika Söder in Moscow. In that meeting the parts discussed relevant bilateral questions and noted ”an urgent need for enhanced dialogue” between foreign offices, the Russian ministry informs.

Top Russian diplomats have also lately met repeatedly with Finnish representatives. Two weeks ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Finnish counterpart Timo Soini during the UN General Assembly in New York.

All the meetings have taken place in the immediate aforetime of today’s Barents Council session in Oulu, Finland, an event which included the foreign ministers of Russia and all the Nordic countries.

They signal an enhanced interest from both the Nordic and Russian side to reload relations, currently strained following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and involvements in other parts of Eastern Ukraine. Quite possibly, the Barents Cooperation could be used as a platform for such a refreshed parthership.

In his speech at the Barents Council meeting, Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini underlined that ”the Barents cooperation provides an exceptional framework for cooperation”. According to Soini, the smooth cooperation in the north has not come automatically, but is the result of ”long-term reasoning from all regional players”, a press release from the Finnish foreign ministry reads.

”We should make our ever best that this understanding of our common interests continues to guide our thinking as well as our actions”, the minister stressed.

In the Barents Council meeting in Oulu, the chair of the council moved from Finland to Russia, while the chair of the Barents Regional Council was taken over by Kainuu from Arkhangelsk.