The following administrative areas belong to the Barents Region:
Norway: Nordland, Troms, Finnmark
Finland: Kainuu, Lapland and Oulu Region
Russia: Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Karelia, Nenets, Komi
Sweden: Norrbotten, Västerbotten
One of the main ideas behind this coalition is to establish stability and further development within the Barents Region by broadening the co-operation, crossing former boundaries in the process. This is probably why it has been called the largest peace-making exercise in the north ever.
Formally, the Barents Region co-operation was established 11th of January 1993, when the Kirkenes Declaration was signed. Earlier the same year, the Barents Euro-Artic Council (BEAC), also called the Barents Council, was formed at Foreign Ministers level to be a forum for intergovernmental co-operation in the northernmost part of Europe.
Current projects build on the 1993 protocol and cover issues regarding business opportunities, IT, health and environmental issues, culture, tourism, education and research. The extent of the projects and the increasing awareness between the regions in the north can be seen in connection with a general European trend, where regionalisation has become more and more important.
The 1993 Kirkenes Declaration determines the aims and structure of the regional co-operation. Troms County Council is involved with the Barents Co-operation at several levels:
Barents Regional Council
Troms is a member of the Barents Regional Council, which has 14 members; one representative from each of the 13 regions mentioned above, in addition to one representative for indigenous peoples. The Chairmanship of the Barents Regional Council alternates on a biennal basis between the member regions. The council is currently chaired by the Finnish region of Oulo. From 2010-2012 the Barents Regional Council will be chaired by Troms County Council. The Regional Council meets two-three times per year.
The Barents Regional Council defines overall aims and priorities for the regional co-operation through the Barents Programme, staking out priorities and strategies for the coming period. The Barents Programme is not self-funded; each country contributes with individual funding.
In order to deepen and concretise their work, the Barents Regional Council has established six Working Groups in the following areas of priority: Information Technology, Culture, Environment, Communications, Youth issues and Economic relationships. Together with the working group of Indigenous Peoples, which has an advisory role both to the Regional Council and the BEAC, additional three working groups are reporting to the Barents Regional Council. These three groups are also reporting back to the BEAC, and they cover: Health and related social issues; Education and Research; Energy; Information and Data co-operation.
Troms has the following representatives in the working groups:
Working Group for IT:
Sigurd Sjursen (Information Manager Norut-IT)
Working Group for Culture:
Ellen Østgård (Ass. Manager Dept of Culture Troms County Council and leader of the group)
Working Group for Environment:
Toril Skoglund (Consultant, Dept of Culture, Troms County Council)
Working Group for Youth Issues:
Maria Johansen, International Adviser
Working Group for Education and Research:
Gerd Bjørhovde (Pro-rector University of Tromsø)
Working Group for Indigenous Peoples:
Bjarne Store-Jacobsen, Troms, leader of the group
Barents Regional Committee
The Barents Regional Committee consists of civil servants from the member counties, mirroring the representation within the regional council. The committee has overall responsibility for preparing the regional council meetings and to carry out annual plans and they meets from six to eight times per year. The committee has also got responsibility of implementing decisions made in the regional council and other relevant business between meetings of the Barents Regional Council. The chairmanship of the regional committee follows the chairmanship of the regional council, and consequently alternates every second year. This entails each periodical chairman is responsible for setting up a secretariat to assist the work of the committee.
Special Adviser in The Executive Office, Roald Røkeberg, represents Troms in the Barents Regional Committee.
The Norwegian Barents Secretariat
The Barents Secretariat in Kirkenes was established in the aftermath of the signing of the Kirkenes Declaration, and is now owned by the three North-Norwegian county councils, Nordland, Troms and Finnmark. The main task of the Barents Secretariat is to assist the Barents Regional Council, Norwegian Authorities and other major regional structures. The secretariat administers Norwegian project funds supporting the Barents Programme, and they deal with Norwegian applications on behalf of the regional committee and the regional council. In addition, the Barents Secretariat is the funding body for exchange programmes like Barentsplus Junior (for students at high school level), Barentsplus (for students and teachers within higher education) and north2north associated with the University of the Arctic.
The secretariat also administers the Barents Regional Youth Programme, which is financed by BFD (Ministry of Children and Equality). Together with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Eurasia Foundation, they also fund The American-Norwegian-North Russian Small Grants Initiative, or North-West Programme for short.
The Barents Secretariat is organised as an inter-governmental corporation at a regional level, meaning the Board consists of three councillors or political representatives from each of the three northern councils. The delegates for Troms County are:
Terje Olsen (Chair, Troms County Parliament)
Pia Svensgaard (Chair, Troms County Government )
Ellen Øseth (Cllr, Troms County Parliament)
The Barents Secretariat Board is made up of five people, one for each of the three northern county councils and two observers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD) and
the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development (KRD).
Chair of the Barents Secretariat Board is Stein Ovesen, Director of the North Norway European Office, Brussels.
Troms County Council has bilateral agreements with Arkhangelsk Oblast, Murmansk Oblast, the Republic of Karelia and the Republic of Komi, North-West Russia. These agreements regulate co-operation within the following areas: Energy, business, tourism, health and social issues, sports, culture, education and research, issues regarding indigenous peoples and ecology.
The Department of International Relations in Troms County Council has the overall administrative responsibility to oversee that the implementation of these agreements are carried out. The actual implementation is done by the respective council departments and other external partners. In some cases specific agreements have been drawn up between individual county council departments and one of the above mentioned regions.
All bilateral agreements are negotiated and re-adjusted every two years during official delegates’ visit.
Pia Svensgaard, Chair of Troms County Government, is our political representative in the Barents Regional Council.