Historisk arkiv

Cross-border Cooperation. The Norwegian experience from the High North

Historisk arkiv

Publisert under: Regjeringen Stoltenberg II

Utgiver: Utenriksdepartementet

The Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia, 27. oktober 2010

My point is this: Both Norway and Slovakia have cross-border cooperation high on their international agendas. Exchanging views and experience, as we are doing at this seminar, is an important part of this, sa utenriksminister Støre bl.a. på et seminar i Bratislava.

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The Minister based his address on the following main points: 

Illustration: Slide with title “Cross-border Cooperation. The Norwegian experience from the High North”. 

  • Pleased to be with you here today. Always inspiring to be in the company of young people who are eager to learn and understand.
  • I am visiting your country as a member of the delegation of the King of Norway, King Harald, who is on a state visit to Slovakia.

Illustration: The EEA and Norway Grants 2009–2014. Map of Europe, support by country. 

  • Yesterday I had the honour in the presence of our King, to sign the Memoranda of Understanding with Slovakia for the EEA and Norway Grants 2009–2014, together with Prime Minister Radičová.
  • These grants are part of Norway's contribution to reducing social and economic disparities in Europe: a total of EUR 1.7 billion for the period 2009-2014. Slovakia will receive EUR 80 million of this.
  • Some programme areas for Slovakia are climate change and renewable energy, environmental protection and management, green industry innovation, civil society and scholarship.
  • Cross-border cooperation is also one of the main priority areas. I mention this here as I know that Slovakia is doing valuable work in this field of international relations and is highly respected for it.
  • It is positive that Slovakia is eager to overcome the dividing lines that still exist in Europe and is doing this through different channels. In view of this I am pleased to see that the memorandum of understanding we have just signed will secure more than EUR 8 million for cross-border cooperation with your eastern neighbour Ukraine.
  • And my point, now at the beginning of my address, is this: Both Norway and Slovakia have cross-border cooperation high on their international agendas. Exchanging views and experience, as we are doing at this seminar, is an important part of this.
  • For many years Norway has been involved in broad and concrete cross-border cooperation in the High North with our neighbour Russia.
  • For historical reasons our experience with Russia different from yours (history has taught us different lessons), but today we all are facing common challenges – and we share the common goal of strengthening cross-border cooperation:  
  • Cooperation that covers many areas (and challenges): trade, culture, science, education, sports, civil society, transboundary pollution, communicable diseases, and organised crime, to name a few. Cooperation based on
    • the sharing of knowledge and experience
    • broadening ties and contacts between national and regional authorities and between NGOs and civil society
    • People-to-people contacts.

Illustration: Map of the Arctic/High North (green & blue).

  • Now, looking north, the High North, the main theme of my presentation. What do we see when we look north?
  • Reminds me of “Orbis Pictus, or Orbis Sensualium Pictus”, or “The Visible World in Pictures” (from 1657) – which you know more about than I do - is probably the most well known book by your encyclopaedic genius Comenius, Ján Amos Komenský. The visible world...
  • Behind me: you see my favourite (hangs in my office) “picture of the world” from our perspective, The High North. One point I would like to make is that the white part, the ice covering the North Pole, is melting. What I am also saying is that this area is an ocean.
  • Since (my Government took office in) 2005, the High North has been a strategic priority in Norwegian foreign policy.
  • We set this priority because this region is vital for our current and future livelihoods, for us and for our neighbouring countries.
  • And because, as an Arctic nation, we have a particular responsibility to make a difference here, as well as the ability to do so.
  • The overall aims of Norway’s High North policy:
    • enhance knowledge in and about the north,
    • increase our activity and presence in the area, and
    • lay the foundations for sustainable economic and social development in the years to come.
  • Our High North strategy will only be successful if we manage to foster the kind of cooperation that must characterise a policy for the 21st century. It requires the ability to look across sectors, to cooperate between the public and private sector, develop cooperation with other countries and forge new partnerships across borders.
  • The High North. Three driving forces: climate change, resources (oil, gas, fisheries) and Norway’s relations with Russia. An area of rapid change, where we have important interests to safeguard.

Illustration: Photo. Border Norway/Russia (land)

  • Now, borders - Norway and Russia have been at peace with each other for a thousand years. An established land border of 196 kilometres since 1826, but the maritime border in the north was not finally established until this year.

Illustration: Signing of agreement in Murmansk. Stoltenberg – Putin. Støre – Lavrov.

  • On 15 September 2010 in Murmansk: Signing of a landmark agreement (photo: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg were present).
  • An exceptional event, both for Norway and for Russia. Close to 40 years of negotiations. At long last we could sign the Treaty on Maritime Delimitation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean.   
  • Showed the world how good neighbours resolve border disputes by means of peaceful negotiations firmly based on modern principles of international law. (Agreement reached on 27 April 2010 during President Medvedev’s visit to Oslo). 

Illustration: Map. Maritime delimitation.

  • Under the agreement, the disputed area of 175 000 square kilometres has been divided into two parts of approximately the same size.
  • Will form the basis for determining the Norwegian and Russian zones and our respective continental shelves in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. Will ensure clarity and stability with regard to jurisdiction, law enforcement and the management of resources.
  • Will open up new cooperation possibilities in our common High North, onshore as well as offshore. Of great importance for further scientific and technological cooperation.
  • So this is a new scenario/new horizon. 

Illustration: “Old photo” (1980s). Storskog, border Norway/Russia (land).

  • During the Cold War, this border epitomised the iron curtain.
  • Norway/a NATO country and the Soviet Union/the Warsaw Pact. West/East. Remember, Norway the only NATO country to share a border with the Soviet Union. The Kola Peninsula one of the most heavily militarised areas in the world.
  • The antagonism at the time created tension and fear.
  • Today that is history. Now an area of increasing cross-border cooperation:
    • Border crossings have increased more than 30-fold these past 20 years, from 3000 a year (in 1991) to close to 110 000 today, and
    • we are working together with the Russian authorities to facilitate cross-border activities even further.

Illustration: Street signs, Kirkenes (photo).

  • What has happened is remarkable. People and businesses have come to know each other and develop friendships and partnerships thanks to the elementary fact that communication and cross-border cooperation are legal and encouraged on both sides. Today Norwegian is spoken on street corners in Murmansk. In Kirkenes the road signs in Russian.
  • A new paradigm, signifying normalisation. 
  • And another important dimension. The 1990s were the golden era of regional cooperation:
  • After the collapse of the Soviet Union. European and international policy: involve the new Russia that was emerging as much as possible in the general European integration processes. (This had actually started a few years earlier. As early as 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev, held a now famous speech in Murmansk in which he opened the door for cross-border cooperation with “former enemy countries”. Proposed international cooperation on the use of resources and research. After these first steps, things proceeded fast).
  • Today, there are four regional organisations in Northern Europe:
    • the Nordic Council of Ministers (NMC),
    • the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS),
    • the Barents Euro Arctic Council, (BEAC), and
    • the Arctic Council (AC).
    • in addition: the Northern Dimension.

These organisations are closely linked and complement each other. Each one has its assets and focus.

  • For Norway the regional organisations constitute an arena where we can meet both Russia and other European countries in a low tension atmosphere characterised by cooperation on concrete projects across borders.

Illustration: Map. The Barents Region. Members, flags.

  • The Barents Cooperation established in 1993. The Kirkenes Declaration. Kirkenes is the hub: the seat of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, the International Barents Secretariat and the Barents Institute.
  • The Barents Cooperation: a Norwegian initiative. Innovative and successful: regional cooperation, prominent role of the counties and other similar sub-national entities. 
  • The establishment of the Barents region opened the doors for broad and mutually beneficial cooperation. Thousands of civil servants and ordinary citizens engaged in cross-border cooperation and exchange programmes. Regional authorities are coordinating their priorities in infrastructure, health care, culture, protection of the environment and indigenous issues, etc. Concrete projects.
  • Have created a common regional identity. Optimism and confidence.
  • Another key word: normalisation:
  • We have a bilateral agreement with Russia on visa facilitation, and we are close to finalising an agreement on the facilitation of mutual travel for border residents - for inhabitants of the municipalities close to the border (Sør-Varanger and Pechenga). In a longer perspective, our aim is to work for visa-free travel in general and a flexible employment regime in a common working market in the High North.

Illustration: Arctic Council. Map, members, logo.

  • In 1996 the Arctic Council was established. A regional organisation in which more and more countries now are showing interest.
  • The Arctic merits, and is receiving, increasing attention from many states – for ecological, economic, scientific and geopolitical reasons.

Illustration: Map of the Arctic/High North (green & blue). (Same as the one used previously).

  • Developments in the Arctic have global effects. Global actors have legitimate interests in the region and can make a valuable contribution.
  • A peaceful region. High North – low tension. Our priority is to ensure that this continues to be the case despite the changes that increased human activity – due to climate change – is bound to entail.
  • Greater interest in the region is not threatening or conducive to conflict. The fact that one state undertakes an activity does not prevent other states from doing the same, on the contrary. This is not a “zero-sum game”. The management of our respective resources in the Barents Sea will always be at the heart of our cooperation with Russia.
  • The Arctic is not where the consequences of climate change will be most severely felt, but it is where they are first seen. The Arctic offers front row seats in the global theatre of climate change. A region very important for climate change research.
  • But the melting ice in the Arctic Ocean is also making resources more accessible and opening up new transport routes.
  • There are important renewable and non-renewable resources, and the prospect of developing an “Arctic petroleum province” is perhaps the main reason for the increasing interest in the Arctic over the past few years.
  • Finally, two more words on the Northern Dimension: the most recent cooperation structure. Project-oriented cooperation between four equal partners: the EU, Iceland, Russia and Norway (with the participation of the four regional councils and the international financial institutions). The renewed Northern Dimension was established in November 2006 and has developed rapidly. Large-scale cooperation projects, especially in the environmental field.
  • Next week, on 2 November, I will host the Second Ministerial Meeting of the Northern Dimension in Oslo. On this occasion we plan to sign the Norwegian–Russian Agreement on facilitation of mutual travel for border residents.

Illustration: Title slide (same as the first one).

  • To conclude: A border can be a checkpoint – or a two-way bridge for strengthening common efforts. Cross-border cooperation is cooperation for the future. Builds trust and confidence and unites people and regions. The tension is low across these borders, but the work should be given high priority. A win-win situation which will make our visible world, our “Orbis pictus”, richer. Thank you.