Speech/statement | Date: 30/03/2017 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende (Arkhangelsk, 29 March 2017)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende's opening address at Talking Barents.
(Check against delivery)
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here in Arkhangelsk to talk about the Barents cooperation.
Because the Barents cooperation is a success story.
In a world not short of difficulties, it is good to be able to speak about something that actually works and produces tangible results.
There are many reasons for the Barents cooperation being so successful.
The most important, I believe, is that it has enriched the lives of the people living in the region.
People-to-people contact creates new opportunities – both for individuals and for communities.
The Barents cooperation also has a value as a political process, and it supports - and is supported by - many Arctic regional organisations.
The dual national and regional structure is a key factor in the Barents cooperation.
The three northernmost counties in Norway, Finnmark, Troms and Nordland, cooperate closely with the Russian counties of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk.
Relations are thriving at the local level too, not least between the two border municipalities of Sør-Varanger in Norway and Petchenga in Russia.
A flourishing civil society is essential for economic, social and political development.
The achievements of the Barents cooperation would not have been possible without the contributions of civil society organisations - and the many private-sector initiatives.
Next year, in 2018, the Barents cooperation will be celebrating 25 years.
In a quarter of a century, we have developed a new and forward-looking dynamic in our relations in the High North.
This is no small achievement.
The anniversary gives us an opportunity to assess our common results. And to consider new directions for our cooperation in the future.
Allow me to share a few reflections on what should be our priorities in the years ahead:
First, Transportation and infrastructure is essential to ensure economic development in the Barents region.
The Barents Transport Plan is key in this context, and cross-border tourism has great potential.
Second, cooperation on education and research is crucial.
We have to ensure that we have the knowledge we need for the region to prosper - and that the coming generations have the skills they need to make it happen.
And third, we need to keep focusing on climate change.
Climate change is already having an impact in the Barents region.
We have a strong common interest in making sure we are prepared to address the consequences.
Let me wrap up by thanking the Russian Barents Euro-Arctic Council chairmanship for its excellent work.
I am especially pleased that the Russian chair next month will organise the first ever Barents indigenous people's summit in Moscow.
This is important to increase our understanding of indigenous peoples' legitimate rights and concerns, and to make sure their knowledge is recognized in regional policies and decision-making.
With these introductory remarks, I wish you fruitful discussions.