Strong Norwegian focus on economic cooperation in the Barents Region

A resource-rich region in Europe is the main theme for the Norwegian BEAC Chairmanship 2011-2013. The point of departure is the growing importance of the Barents Region thanks to the proximity to vast natural resources and the development of the Northern Sea Route.

The word resources in this aspect makes us primarily to think about natural resources, but the resources of the Barents Region also have a human dimension in terms of a well-educated and skilled work force, advanced research institutions and a developed business sector. Nothing, however, is good to the extent that there is no room for improvement. There is, for example, a need to build sustainable societies in a wide sense as a base for long term development.

It is obvious that the realization of the great potentials requires a variety of initiatives. One of them is cross-border cooperation as a tool to tackle challenges and optimizing a sustainable use of assets in the Region. To our list of resources we should therefore add the Barents Cooperation with almost 20 years of experience. Particularly the Barents Working Groups in the economic field both on national and regional levels are of course instrumental as well as adjacent fields such as transport and logistics and of course cooperation in environment.

The Norwegian Chairmanship is focusing on topics and activities aimed at having an impact on enhancing the huge economic potentials.

Mineral sector
Mining and minerals entered the Barents agenda on an initiative of the Swedish BEAC Chairmanship 2009-2011. The Barents Region is one of the most important sources for metals and minerals in Europe as the Fennoscandian Shield comprises a diversity of geological settings containing large resources of mineral deposits. Geological surveys and other public institutions hold a key position in providing the industry and decision-makers with information and knowledge.

- I believe that the Barents Cooperation can become an important arena for international cooperation also in mining and minerals as the Barents countries share both the potentials and the challenges in this field as well as a long experience of extraction and refinement. We will explore these issues in our work on a Norwegian national strategy of minerals which will be finalized later this year, said Rikke Lind, State Secretary, when visiting Sør-Varanger iron mine in Kirkenes in April.

Maritime traffic in the Arctic Ocean
Receding Arctic ice opens up for new shipping routes challenging the Suez Canal as the major maritime passage between Europe and Asia both in time and fuel costs. Transport of goods and raw materials is likely to increase over the coming years as well as tourism in the Polar Regions. In this perspective it is important to ensure that ships can operate safely in the Polar areas, and at the same time find a sound balance between ship operation and preservation of the environment.

Marine bio-prospecting
The oceans cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface but the abundance of marine organisms has still not been adequately explored. The High North and the Barents Region have access to unique Arctic marine organisms, marine industries, expertise, and research infrastructure. The Barents Cooperation will be of great importance in exploring the potentials for new and sustainable growth in this field.

Cross-border business cooperation
In order to strengthen the cross-border business cooperation the Norwegian chairmanship will in coordination with regional authorities promote initiatives for increased cooperation between business organisations and between young entrepreneurs in the Barents region.

Cross-cutting cooperation
Norway aims to optimize potentials through closer cooperation and coordination between the Barents Working Groups – primarily the Working Group on Environment, the Steering Committee for the Barents Euro-Arctic Pan-European Transport Area (BEATA), the Joint Working Group on Energy (JEWG) and the Joint Working Group on Tourism (JWGT). The chairmanship will also support initiatives that promote closer cooperation between Barents Euro-Arctic Council and other relevant regional structures.

Full Chairmanship Program of the economic cooperation, tentative calendar of event and contact information.

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Rikke-Lind, State-Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry

Ms Rikke Lind, State Secretary of Ministry on Trade and Industry,
visited Syd-Varanger iron mine in Kirkenes and the Sámi Parliament
in Karasjok in April as part of the preparation of the Norwegian mineral
strategy. Ms Lind also visited the Russian-Norwegian Border Station, Borisoglebsk-Storskog that has been expanded to handle the
increase of cross-border transport.