Press release | Date: 23/09/2021
Norway is to host the XVIII Barents Euro-Arctic Council (Beac) Ministerial Meeting, which is being held in Tromsø on 26 October. Foreign ministers from the Beac member states Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Russia and Sweden have been invited to the meeting, as has the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
‘I am very pleased that most of the member states have indicated that their foreign minister will be able to attend. This shows how important our cooperation under the Barents Euro-Arctic Council is,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.
Norway has held the chairmanship of the Beac since October 2019 and will now pass on the baton to Finland.
The Barents cooperation is a high priority for Norway. This cooperation is unique in that it involves not only formal dialogue between the authorities of the member states, but also cross-border contact between local authorities and people in the north. A large number of people in North Norway have first-hand experience from project cooperation in the region, which has been carried out in a range of areas for many years.
‘The Barents Euro-Arctic Council has provided a platform for constructive dialogue between countries and regions in the north. We are pleased that we have succeeded in strengthening the Beac during our chairmanship despite having to adjust to restrictions imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We have maintained a high level of activity in a range of areas and have carried out administrative reform, which has included preparing an outline for a financial mechanism under the Beac,’ said Ms Eriksen Søreide.
Norway organised the first Ministerial Meeting on Health and Social Issues in Oslo in November 2019. Since then, we have arranged an expert meeting on eHealth, and on 28 September, Norway is organising a virtual conference entitled ‘Barents Health Cooperation after Covid-19’, at which state secretaries from the Beac member states will discuss post-pandemic health cooperation. Climate change and the environment are also key areas of cooperation. In April, Norway hosted a webinar entitled 'Policies for Infrastructure and Land-use in a Climate Smart Barents Region', which provided important input to ongoing efforts on the Action Plan on Climate Change for the Barents Cooperation.
The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs has made it clear that Norway intends to maintain a high level of activity throughout the final phase of its Beac chairmanship, and looks forward to holding a webinar on education and research cooperation on 18 October.
Norway will also host meetings at ministerial level to discuss further cooperation on transport and forestry in the Barents region.
In connection with the Ministerial Meeting on 26 October, a Barents Youth Summit will be held at the initiative of the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Young people from the Barents region will have the opportunity to conduct a direct dialogue with the ministers on issues that they consider important. This will be the first youth summit since the Barents cooperation was established.
During Norway’s chairmanship, priority is being given to health, people-to-people contact, knowledge, young people and indigenous peoples.
‘When we chose to make health a priority of our chairmanship, we had no idea just how much health cooperation was going to dominate the international agenda,’ said Ms Eriksen Søreide.
The dialogue between neighbouring countries in the north on addressing common challenges is invaluable. In addition to health and young people, other areas to be discussed at the Beac Ministerial will be climate change, transport, emergency preparedness, culture and forestry cooperation.
‘The meeting will have a wide-ranging agenda, which shows just how comprehensive this cooperation is, and how relevant it is for people living in the north,’ said Ms Eriksen Søreide.
Facts about the Barents-Euro Arctic Council (Beac)
- The Beac members are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the European Commission.
- Nine countries have been granted observer status.
- The Beac Foreign Ministers’ Session is held every other year. The chairmanship rotates on a two-year basis between Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden.
- More information can be found here: Norway takes over Chairmanship of Barents Euro-Arctic Council