Arctic experience to be of world significance
The Barents region is a small model of the world, say the participants of the international conference on “Innovation and Security Cooperation in the Euro-Arctic Zone” which started in the Norwegian city of Kirkenes on Wednesday. They are discussing the northernmost territories in this context. Our commentary is by Olga Denisova.
The region is really the common home for the residents of north Europe, who have to solve a lot of issues. Summing up the future activities, the head of the International Barents Secretariat, Alexander Ignatev said: “Think globally, but act regionally”. The participants of the conference, specialists from Russia and Norway, suggest focusing on several issues. One of them is the production of food in the north, says general secretary Rune Rafaelsen at Norwegian Barents Secretariat:
“When we talk about strategic thinking, we often think about oil and gas. However, I believe the production of food in the Barents region will occupy a more important place in the next decades. The management of fish resources, which was handled jointly by Norway and Russia, is exemplary,” Rune Rafaelsen said.
The contemporary Arctic is the topic of the discussion. This concerns not only oil and gas deposits in the region but also who should develop them. This is also an example in solving territorial disputes. An agreement on demilitarization of the marine routes in the Barents Sea, signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg last year will come into effect on the 7th of July. This is a long-anticipated document by both countries.
Russia and Norway are also involved in large-scale investment projects, including the development of the Shtokman gas-condensate deposit in the Barents Sea, one of the largest in the world. A consortium of Russia’s state-run Gazprom, Statoil of Norway and French Total is engaged in developing the deposits.
Meanwhile, North Europe and Russia are holding talks on simplifying the visa regime and abolishing it. Although Norway is not a European Union member it joined the Schengen zone. In November, the foreign ministers of Russia and Norway signed an agreement on simplifying mutual visits by residents of their border regions. The first people who will enjoy visa-free travel will be residents of the Russian cities Nikel and Zapolyarny and Norway’s Kirkenes. Russia has already submitted the document to the Lower House of the Russian parliament, State Duma, says Russian consul general in Kirkens, Igor Bulai:
“Undoubtedly, the document will come into force. This is the first agreement between Russia and a country in the Schengen zone. In short, the Barents region is a pioneer in visa-free relations between Russia and Europe,” Igor Bulai said.
Among the urgent issues facing the developed and the underdeveloped countries in the world are energy and food security, interlink between the economic and infrastructure development and ecology and territorial disputes. These are common to Euro-Arctic zone too. However, the participants of the conference believe it could avoid many mistakes. The conference ends on Thursday.