Change of the chair of the Barents Regional Council in the Kiruna meeting

 Not only ministers, but also the Barents Regional Council (BRC) – all the 13 member regions in all four member states – met in Kiruna. Running a risk of being in the shadow of the ministerial meeting, the Barents Regional Council meeting was crucial as the cooperation directly between regions is the most valuable and cherished features of the Barents Cooperation. The regional participation in the cooperation having its own decision making body, is expected to guarantee that direct interest of the Region and its residents is the very basis for the cooperation.

At the meeting in Folkets Hus, Kiruna, the Troms County Governor, Pia Svensgaard, handed over the BRC Chairmanship to County Governor Per-Ola Eriksson, Norrbotten County Administrative Board, for 2011-2013.
– Norrbotten will especially focus on young participation in the Barents Cooperation, the growth of young entrepreneurship and to continue to work on a comprehensive Barents transport strategy initiated by Troms taking regional needs and realities into account, said Governor Eriksson.
An additional feature of Norrbotten’s Chairmanship is to continue the efforts of Troms Chairmanship, namely to strengthen the Barents Region on the EU map. The office of North Norway in Brussels has been a crucial instrument in this process and Norrbotten uses its own office in Brussels for this purpose. At first sight, this might not seem impressive, but those who have followed these efforts and assisted in this work, know that it really is not that easy to have an impact on EU decision makers.

The task in this respect is dual, namely to market the potentials of Barents Region and find ways to ensure that profits stay in the Region contributing to Regional development. Troms has been a strong voice in this perspective and in pointing out the potentials for more processing and refinement taking place in the Region as a key element.

Thanks to the EU interest and the work on an EU-Arctic Policy, as well as an increased focus on the North in Russia, the expectations are that more resources earmarked for improvement of transport, logistics, research and technology will be channeled to the Barents Region in the future. It would contribute significantly to reach the EU and other international markets, as well as facilitating transport within the region itself leading to a significant change in prospects for Barents businesses and residents.

Comparing with the situation only two years ago, it is clear that the efforts of Troms Chairmanship with contribution of the Swedish Chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, have radically increased knowledge on and interest for the Barents Region in Brussels. But perhaps even more important is that the 13 member regions of the Barents Cooperation have proven to be efficient in promoting a common political agenda providing solid foundation for the future in having an impact on political levels – nationally and internationally.

However, it is a worrying sign that none of the five Russian member regions were represented on Governor’s level in Kiruna in a time when there is a need to come together on decisions leading to strategic long term solutions benefitting the businesses and residents of the region.

BarentSaga wishes to point out that cross border cooperation directly between regions is a world-wide unique feature of the Barents Cooperation.

More information

Barents Regional Council Chairmanship 2011-2013, Sari Roininen,
Governor Per-Ola Eriksson, Elena Haapaniemi, Brynolf Tjarner, Norrbotten County Administrative Board

Barents Regional Council Chairmanship 2009-2011, Mr Oddgeir Danielsen, Adviser, Ms. Pia Svensgaard, Head of Troms County Council, and
Ms Marianne Lund, Interpreter, October 11 2011