- These are the best people we have

Barents Leaders Forum

This week over 100 barents leaders gathered in Arkhangelsk to be inspired for more Barents cooperation. -The barents community in Russia is not big, but it's growing and they are a highly dedicated group of Barents people, says mister Barents Russia, Andrey Shalyov.
See 50 photos from the conference below. 

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All photos: Jonas Karlsbakk

For the first time a Barents Leaders Forum was organized in Russia, gathering project leaders from all the five regions in the Russian part of Barents. Andrey Shalyov is head of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat's Russian offices and is very satisfied with the conference.

Finding partners
- The people we have gathered here are the best people we have. This conference give them a chance to exchange competence, exchange ideas and see new possibilities of cooperation. I think the conference has been very interesting and it seems like the participants are constantly accumulating new project ideas, says Shalyov. 

The conference is also very useful for Shalyov. He seldom has the chance to talk to so many different projects leaders during one day. He meets project participants now and then when visiting projects or when there are visits at the office, but like for many others the contact is mainly digital.

One very frequent question from project leaders is to help Russian organizations to find a Norwegian partner. This was also an important question for many at the conference. 

Andrey Shalyov

Joint conference
- I think the next step now would be to arrange a joint Barents Leaders Forum for both Norwegian and Russian project leaders. It would be even more interesting if Norwegians and Russian come together to both find partners and to develop new cooperation initatives. 

Shalyov has been working for the Norwegian Barents Secretariat since the mid 90-ties. He sees a lot of changes since then, especially in the number of projects in Arkhangelsk. In the start the Arkhangelsk Region was involved in only 5 - 10 projects annually. Today Arkhangelsk region could be involved in up to 80 projects annually. 

- To me the Barents Cooperation is more important than ever. It is the only corridor of communication today, and it is very good that also regional governments and regional politicians understand this and highlights the importance of the cooperation. 

Erasing borders
Being a central actor in the Barents cooperation for the last 20 years, Shalyov still has strong believes in the concept of cross border cooperation. 

- I just don't like borders. Borders between states is one thing, but also the borders in our mind and in our cultures could be just as difficult. To erase such borders in our mind, Barents Cooperation is an important idea and the main reason why my support for the Barents cooperation just keeps growing, says Shalyov.­