Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s intervention at the opening session of the 18th Ministerial Meeting of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, Tromso, Norway, October 26, 2021
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to express gratitude to our Norwegian colleagues, and personally to the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Norway, Mme Anniken Huitfeldt for the warm welcome and for organising this session. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of face-to-face communication, and the atmosphere here is very warm even though Tromso is located above the Polar circle.
I am grateful to our Norwegian friends for the immaculate organisation of the events within the framework of their chairmanship and for the high intellectual standards of the discussions held.
The Barents cooperation is a connecting link and a major channel of dialogue for our countries. BEAC countries can discuss issues of importance for the region in a businesslike and constructive manner that is free from the impact of political considerations.
The struggle against the coronavirus infection has added a new dimension to our multilateral cooperation in healthcare. Socioeconomic post-pandemic revival is another of our common priorities. We appreciate BEAC’s energetic and productive efforts in these spheres during Norway’s chairmanship.
We regard the initiative of the Murmansk Region on discussing joint measures against the coronavirus infection as timely. You may be aware that four videoconferences titled Barents Euro-Arctic Region Versus Coronavirus have been chaired by Murmansk Region Governor Andrey Chibis.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges in the region. We welcome the completion of the drafting of the updated Barents Action Plan on Climate Change for the period beyond 2020, which stipulates the implementation of projects with an emphasis on climate change aspects.
We can see positive change in the elimination of environmental hot spots in the Barents region. Russia calls for the further strengthening of joint efforts, which Russia’s Bureau of Best Available Technologies has joined.
The Barents process has always been noted for its practical aspect and its focus on concrete action. We have taken note of the strengthening of financial aspects of our interaction during Norway’s BEAC Chairmanship. There are plans to launch the Barents financial mechanism next year. This initiative was proposed by Russia. This new instrument will facilitate the provision of start-up capital for the implementation and co-financing of common regional projects, first of all, at the level of Barents working groups. So far, we are considering rather modest sums, but we regard this as a vital step that can help launch the implementation of our ambitious plans.
We attach great importance to the development of direct ties among the region’s population. I am looking forward to today’s discussion with the young representatives of the Barents cooperation, because young people will be playing an increasingly significant role in developing our common agenda.
We are giving priority attention to the rights of the indigenous peoples of the North. We are glad to see the development of the Russian initiative on creating a solid platform for dialogue with indigenous peoples in the form of Barents Indigenous Peoples Summits, the third of which was held in June 2021.
We regard improving inner coordination within the unique “two-tier structure” of Barents Cooperation as an important achievement of the Norwegian chairmanship. I am referring to the harmonisation of efforts of the national and regional working groups with a similar mandate. I would like to point out the independent role of the regional segment. Many initiatives to develop the Barents Cooperation are generated precisely at the level of administrative and territorial entities, where people’s real needs and interests are felt most of all.
The Barents Regional Council (BRC) has a special position within this two-level structure. Yesterday, the Nenets Autonomous Area took over from Vasterbotten, Sweden, as BRC chair. I am confident that the Nenets chairmanship will direct its efforts at intensifying our common cooperation. We see the Nenets Autonomous Area’s chairmanship as part of preparations for Russia’s 2023-2025 BEAC chairmanship.
Close cooperation at the scale of the entire North European Region, including the activities of relevant intergovernmental councils and partnerships, is essential for accomplishing the tasks we are facing. Apart from the BEAC, as you know, these are the Arctic Council, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, and the Nordic Council of Ministers, but we should not forget about the Northern Dimension partnerships either. We are in favour of resuming the political meetings of all these northern formats.
Our suggestion is that we should contemplate large-scale crosscutting initiatives. In two years time, as I said, Russia will be “on the bridge” in two regional organisations at once – the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Council of the Baltic Sea States. I can already say with confidence now that we will focus on enhancing the importance of both councils’ applied activities and their commitment to practical projects geared to socioeconomic development and a better quality of life in the North that we share, including to keep women from leaving the area, as Madam Minister has just said. At the same time, we intend to act in the spirit of continuity and support the priorities of all the said formats.
I believe that today’s meeting will be an important step towards strengthening cooperation in the European Arctic. In the next few years, hopefully, the Barents Cooperation will not only retain its dynamics but will be further developed as an important factor helping to preserve the zone of trust, stability and good-neighbourliness in the region.
In conclusion, I would like to wish success to the next chairmanship, that of Finland. Let me once again express gratitude to Sweden’s Vasterbotten for its successful governance of the Barents Regional Council. I am certain that the Nenets Autonomous Area will pick up the torch with honour.