New tasks and mandate for the Norwegian Barents Secretariat
The Norwegian Barents Secretariat will continue to be a central tool in the High North and Arctic policy, where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development collaborate closely.
A larger portion of the Secretariat's work will now be focused on regional cooperation with Finland and Sweden in the North, as well as indigenous collaboration in the region. This is stated by the Norwegian Government in a press release (in Norwegian).
“We find it positive that the government wants to assign new tasks to the Barents Secretariat. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, we have observed that people-to-people cooperation with Russia has become more difficult and therefore reduced in scope. Many of the projects we have worked on in the Barents region have had a strong Nordic dimension, so we believe we can contribute effectively to the new tasks the government now wants us to carry out," says Acting Director Marit Egholm Jacobsen.
Good dialogue with the ministries
Until now, the Barents Secretariat has mainly been funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and its main task has been collaborative projects with Russian partners. Following the introduction of sanctions against Russia in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine, the government has now considered new tasks for the secretariat. The responsibility is now being moved to the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development.
The Barents Secretariat has been regularly involved in the government's work to expand the scope of our mandate.
"We have had a good collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the years, and we now look forward to continuing our work together with the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development," says Jacobsen.
Continuing work on tasks
The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation will work with the owners of the Barents Secretariat in the Northern Norwegian counties to specify the new mandate by 2024. To the extent possible, the secretariat will continue people-to-people cooperation with independent Russian actors, but this will be a smaller part of its future tasks.
"We have had a good dialogue with both ministries about this. The Northern Norwegian counties also have some ideas about how the work of the Barents Secretariat should continue in the future," says Øystein Ruud, Chairman of the Barents Secretariat.
"Will play an important role"
"The opportunities for cross-border cooperation are now greatly reduced due to the war Russia is waging against Ukraine and the totalitarian developments in the country. But we see that the Barents Secretariat still has an important role to play in the Barents region," says Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt.
The transfer of budgets and responsibilities for the Barents Secretariat will take place in January 2024.
"It is important to me that the Norwegian Barents Secretariat functions well in the future. It will play an important role in closer regional cooperation between Sweden and Finland in the North, in indigenous cooperation, and in the regional development of Northern Norway," says Minister of Local Government and Regional Development, Sigbjørn Gjelsvik.