The co-operation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region was launced in 1993 in Kirkenes, Norway. The region consists of fourteen counties or similar subregional entities in Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden.
The Barents Cooperation promotes people-to-people contacts and economic development and creates good condtions for interregional exchange in many different fields; e.g., culture, indigenous peoples, education, youth, trade, information, environment, helath and transport. The Barents Cooperation is regarded as an intergral part of creating a stable, democratic and prosperous Europe.
In the spirit of the Northern Dimention, the Barents Euro-Arctic Region is, in its cultural diversity, a gateway to opportunities for researchers, entrepreneurs, pioneers and discoverers. In the 21st Century, the Northern Sea Route and the shortcuts to Asia still remains a challenge and a vision for Europe and the Barents Cooperation.
About 5.5 million people live in the Barents Region. The population density is on average a mere 3,5 inhabitants per square kilometre. This varies from 0,3 (Nenets) to 8 (Oulu) inhabitants. The largest city in the Barens Region is Arkhangelsk (Russia) with its 350.000 inhabitans.
The majority of the Barents Region belongs to the temperate conifer zone wheras the Scandinavian mountain chain, the northern parts of the Kola Peninsula, the Nenets Area and Novaja Zemlja are part of the Arctic tundra. The location mainly north of the Arctic Circle gives a period of exotic midnight sun and also long and dark polar nights.
The surface area of the Barents Region is 1.755.800 sq.km. This Euro-Arctic region is also characterised by its harsh climate and long distances. But no other part of Europe and indeed few places on earth are equally rich in forests, fish, minerals, oil and gas. Besides such natural resources the Barents Euro-Arctic Region has a skilled labour force and constitutes a meeting point between the European Union and Russia.
The Barents Euro-Arctic Region includes the following 14 territories which also are members of the Barents Regional Council:
Norway: Finnmark, Troms and Nordland
Russia: Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Nenets, Komi and Karelia
Finland: Lappland, Oulu, Northern Karelia and Kainuu
Sweden: Norbotten and Västerbotten
History of the Barents Euro-Arctic Cooperation
The Barents Euro-Arctic Cooperation and the intergovenmental cooperation in the region was formalised when the Foreign Ministers of Norway, Russia, Finland, Sweden and representatives of Denmark, Iceland and the European Commission signed the Kirkenes Declaration on 11 January 1993.
The Council was established as a forum to promote interregional contacts in the northernmost parts of Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden. On the same occasion, representatives of the member regions, governors and their equivalents, together with representatives of the indigenous peoples, signed a protocol of cooperation that established the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, with the objective of working together to promote the development of the Barents Region.
Aim and Vision
Today, as decentralisation and regionalization progress in most European countries, initiatives are taken to strengthen or create new regional structures. The expectations of this process are to bring political and administrative structures closer to the citizens and to improve the democratic functions of siciety.
Much has been achieved over ten years of Barents Cooperation. This is a unique undertaking that confirms the value of close interation between intergovernmental, interregional and people-to-people cooperation. It is also an important framework for strengthening and developing the Northern Dimension of EU policies and interaction with Canada, Japan and the United States and other Arctic regions in the far north of Europe.
The vision of the Barents Cooperation is to improve living conditions, to encourage sustainable economic and social development and thus contribute to stability, environmental progress and peaceful development in northernmost Europe. These aims can only be reached through continuous, multifaceted efforts in a broad range of areas, spanning from overall security, environmental concern and economic development to the human dimension.