Revival of years-long friendship
The recent years were the turning point for the cross-border cooperation between Russia, Norway and Finland. Ruble devaluation, sanctions, decreased tourist traffic and trade turnover seemed to be destructive enough to put an end to the years-long cross-border cooperation. Though in less than two years decision-makers of the Northern regions start talking about the revival of Russian-Norwegian and Russian-Finnish cooperation. SeverPost has talked to experts and politicians to find out how the cross-border cooperation is currently developing.
Thus, according to the Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Russia in Norway Teimuraz Ramishvili, the neighboring countries keep cooperating in the fields of fishing and ecology since this is where their interests meet. Though there are still many problems in the Russian-Norwegian relations.
One of them is weakening collaboration in the oil sector.
“We keep cooperating in the oil sector, but since Norway supports sanctions, the investment cooperation has been terminated which is vital for the development of oil-and-gas projects,” explained T.Ramishvili.
He added that both countries are enduring decrease of trade turnover. But while the Russian export decreased by 10-17%, Norway exported almost 50% less.
Besides, the Russian MFA is concerned about military activities near the border. We shall remind that recently 300 US marines arrived to Norway for deployment. The Plenipotentiary Ambassador noted that the Russian diplomats will monitor the process.
This is the situation on the federal level. Meanwhile on the regional level, according to T.Ramishvili, the cooperation has always been stronger, especially in the Murmansk region. The Ambassador said that Northern Norway is the only region where the tourist traffic and business contacts have become even stronger.
Earlier the Mayor of border town Kirkenes – Rune Rafaelsen – also told that in recent months there has been a slight increase of Russian tourists’ arrivals to Kirkenes. The Norwegian Consul General in Murmansk Ole Andreas Lindeman has also recently underlined that there have been positive developments in the Russian-Norwegian relations.
Despite the political situation, northern regions of Norway and Russia also maintain scientific cooperation.
“For 25 years Akvaplan-niva has been cooperating with Russian scientists and implementing joint projects in Russia and Norway. We’re deeply concerned about the current situation and do everything possible to support our contacts with Russian scientists,” said Salve Dale, the Head of Norwegian company specialized in exploring of marine/ freshwater ecology and aquaculture development.
The situation in Northern Finland is also improving – due to ruble strengthening the tourist traffic grows.
In 2010 there was an increase of tourist arrivals coming from Murmansk to Oulu. A number of exhibitions including “Kola Partneriat” were carried out. In the past two years the tourist traffic has obviously decreased by appr. 50%. Now when ruble is strengthening (end of 2016 – beginning of 2017) the tourist traffic is slightly growing and we’re expecting a new wave of Russians,” told representative of the Regional Council of Northern Ostrobothnia Roman Gokkorev.
Besides Finland has relaunched the Kolarctic programme which provides funding for the cross-border cooperation.
“We’re expecting the cooperation between the Murmansk region and Laplandia to strengthen in the coming years. From January, 23 we started accepting applications for Kolarctic grants, which financially support such cooperation. The previous programme proved to be productive and we had good results. Four years have passed since then and the first projects of the new Kolarctic programme shall be launched in autumn 2017,” informed SeverPost the Director of the Regional Council of Lapland Päivi Ekdahl.
Finnish authorities also count on cooperation with Russia in the field of high technologies. Thus in December 2016 during his visit to Oulu the Russian Prime-Minister Dmitry Medvedev had a meeting with his Finnish counterpart Juha Sipilä where they discussed the project of laying fiber-optic cable along the Northern Sea Route.
Finland puts special hopes on its forthcoming chairmanship in the Arctic Council in the frame of which cooperation with Russia may be developed.
Thus, it can be summarized that the cross-border cooperation between Russia, Norway and Finland has been revived despite all the challenges that have to be solved to restore the good neighborly relation between the countries.
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