BARENTS COOPERATION IN WINDS OF CHANGE
The head of the Barents Regional Council, Arkhangelsk Governor Igor Orlov, told his Oblast
government in September 2014 that complicated geopolitics should not affect Barents
Cooperation. This cooperation is beyond big politics, Orlov argued.
Traveling the Barents Region after Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea Peninsula in March, and
meeting the different official players, the organizations and people in the Russian north, it is easy
to see that the Arkhangelsk Governor has a good argument. More than 20 years of people-topeople relations across borders can’t be torn down overnight. Despite a way colder political
climate between the trio of Stockholm, Helsinki and Oslo towards Kremlin’s rule of Putin in
Moscow, the contacts between regional capitals like Murmansk, Rovaniemi, Tromsø and Luleå
goes on. So do the non-governmental networks.
In Europe, Brussels has encouraged regional cross-border (CBC) programs not to be affected by
sanctions. In Norway, the Government says the importance of regional and civil society
interactions with Russia in the north will continue to be supported. The Barents cooperation
serves as an open door in times of challenging geopolitical troubles. Normal peoples’ travel and
contacts will never cause any harm; rather it serves to facilitate dialogue and minimize potential
misunderstandings between countries.
Established in 1993, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) was built in a Post-Soviet period
full of confidence with a common belief that promoting people-to-people contacts would
contribute to economic, cultural, social and peaceful development in the northernmost part of
Europe. Today, no doubt, the Barents cooperation itself has proven to be one of the most
successful cross-border cooperation areas in any Russian border region. A generation of friendly
Thomas Nilsen is the Editor of BarentsObserver.com, a news portal serving the Barents Region and the
European Arctic. He is also an advisor with the Norwegian Barents Secretariat.