Barents Business Advisory Group

The Barents Business Advisory Group (BBAG) is a body in the framework of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) and its main role is to give input from the business communities in the Barents region to the BEAC Working Group of Economic Cooperation (WGEC). BBAG consists of one representative from each region and the representatives are nominated by regional chambers of commerce. 


Lapland Chamber of Commerce 
Telephone: +358 20 754 54 99
Maakuntakatu 29-31 B    
96200 Rovaniemi, Finland  

The Euro-Arctic Chamber of Commerce

The Euro-Arctic Chamber of Commerce (EACC) was established in March 1996 in Murmansk, Russian Federation. The main goals of the EACC have been:

  • to launch initiatives and cooperate with governments and organisations to solve economic problems with special attention to:
    • the development of business infrastructure.
    • the development of transport and communication systems.
    • the development of human resources with consideration of social welfare.
  • to support and assist the EACC's member companies in carrying out their duties and tasks with emphasis on:
    • identification and development of business relations.
    • juridical and economical aspects.
    • permanent exchange of experiences and information on market development and regulations.
    • training personnel and specialists.
    • solving international business disputes.
  • to develop and improve the EACC's organisation.

The EACC consists of following member chambers:

  • Finland
    Lapland Chamber of Commerce
    Oulu Chamber of Commerce
    Member application from North Karelia Chamber of Commerce 
  • Norway
    Finnmark Chamber of Commerce
    Troms Chamber of Commerce
  • Russian Federation
    Arkhangelsk Chamber of Commerce and Industry
    The North Chamber of Commerce and Industry
    Republic of  Karelia Chamber of Commerce and Industry
    Komi Republic Chamber of Commerce and Industry
    Observating member St.Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Sweden
    Norrbotten Chamber of Commerce
    Västerbotten Chamber of Commerce

Establishing the Barents Business Advisory Group

In 2002, the Swedish chair of the WGEC started discussing the need for continuous input from the regional business communities in the Barents cooperation and the WGEC agreed that a Business Advisory Group, consisting of representatives from regional business organisations, should be established. It was also agreed that the EACC should organise and coordinate the work of the BBAG and that it should be established according to the model of the Business Advisory Council of the Baltic Sea cooperation where every regional chamber of commerce nominates a representative and also provides with a backup group that can give advice to the representative. In general, the representative is the CEO, the president or director of the chamber.  The BBAG is a body in the framework of BEAC and is not an organisation but an advisory council. 

The activities of the Barents Business Advisory Group

The BBAG came into operation in November 2002 with the aim of advising the various bodies in the Barents region on economic and business matters on behalf of the regional business communities. The BBAG is a small and informal body and it does not receive any funding from BEAC nor any other authorities. The BBAG reports to the WGEC of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, in whose work the BBAG is an active participant, as well as to ministerial meetings. It also produces reports and makes initiatives regarding economic and business matters in the Barents region.

BBAG meetings are held annualy and has mainly been held in Russia at the same time as project meetings or other major events in the business community. Four reports have been produced so far; the first one in October 2003 during the 9th BEAC session, the second in February 2004 during the meeting of the WGEC, the third in November 2005 during the 10th BEAC session and most recently during the 11th BEAC session in 2007.

The Members of the Barents Business Advisory Group

Barents Business Advisory Group consists of following members:

  • Mr. Peter Forssell
    Managing director, Västerbotten Chamber of Commerce, Sweden
    Tel: +46 70 62 40 048
  • Mr. Arve Tannvik
    Kirkenes Næringshage AS, Norway
  • Mr. Anatoly Glushkov
    Preseident, The North Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Murmansk, Russian Federation
  • Mr. Sarkis Manasaryants
    President, Komi Republic Chamber of Comerce and Industry, Russian Federation
  • Mr. Vasilii Sidorivskii
    President, Arkhangelsk Chamber of Comerce and Industry, Russian Federation
    Tel: +7 8182204214, +7 9643002000
  • Mr. Aleksandr Pankratov
    President, Republic of Karelia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Russian Federation

The secretariat of the BBAG is in Lapland Chamber of Commerce in Rovaniemi.

Messages to the meeting of the Barents Council

Barents Business Advisory Group gave its first report during the 9th session of the Barents Euroarctic Council four years ago. The report consisted of the views of the Barents region business community about four main factors which have influence in the development of business:  

  • Barents region and business
  • Taxation and investments
  • Customs and border crossing
  • Transport and logistics

These factors are still today among the most important effecting regional business.    

Barents Region and Business

Barents region is today an increasingly important area in world business and with the future development of  the oil and gas sector, the European Union and the United States of America have shown a greater interest in the north regions. With the development of this sector the region has also seen an increase in infrastructure investments as well as in new technology and further production. The mining industry is also thriving with growing investments in this sector in the northern part of Sweden and Finland. The tourism business in Lapland is also a major sector of investments where the tourism centers in Levi, Ylläs and Saariselkä are key areas. Several new hotels are under construction as well as the development of ski slopes. Total value of these investments amount to more than one billion euro. 

The positive trend of new investments and expectations of future development has created a new business environment in the Barents region where business has gone from being a vision to becoming reality. However, there are still improvements to be made. The last ten years have been difficult for all sectors with some industries shutting down and production moving to Asia. The existing business opportunities lack skilled labour as a result of an aging population in the north, a problem which is aggravated by the southbound migration of the work force. This may effect to cross-border cooperation negatively since companies have enough business and challenges within their own region. This risks creating a new obstacle to trade if nothing is done to improve the situation. 

BBAG urges the following measures:

  • The expectations for transborder business are great in the business community and the situation has improved during the last two years. The main partners in these energy and industrial projects are big international companies. Most important for the region is that the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) participate to these projects as subcontractors or by selling their services to the main contractors.
  • Support from member states and authorities at both national and regional level for the SMEs of the region is needed:
    • to improve participation in projects.
    • to increase cooperation between SMEs.
    • to create subcontracting.  

Taxation and investments

Most of the previously experienced problems in taxation and investments have been identified in the Russian regions, however the situation is expected to improve with Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation.  There is also an increasing interest within the Finnish business community to expand activities in the Murmansk region. This trend has been expected since Russia is today one of Finland's most important business partners. The total value of the investments made by Finnish companies has rapidly increased also in the regions of Moscow, St.Petersburg and Leningrad. 

Customs and Border Crossing

There are still a number of problems with the customs which create regional trade barrier. Although the renewal of the Russian Federation Customs Codex has been improved the situation, it is still far from perfect. The business community has not experienced any problems with the multi-visa applications at the Norwegian and Finnish consulates in Murmansk in recent years. Yet the consulates have experienced a limited issue capacity due to the increasing demand for visas to Russia as a result of the increasing economic activity in the region and growing income among its population.  The recent renewal of the definition and the border zone area has also resulted in some problems for SMEs on the border between Russia and Finland. The business community understands the need of new military policy in the Russian part of the Barents Euro-Arctic region, but it also hopes that it will not create any more obstacles to trade or totally restricted business in North-West Russia.

BBAG urges the following measures:

  • There are still problems that could be solved at the border between Finland and the Russian Federation:
    • There have been recent problems with vehicle inspections in Salla and Lotta, especially with charter buses from Finland.
    • Swedish company Polarica AB has experienced problems with veterinary inspections at the Lotta border-crossing station. According to the authorities, veterinary inspection is only possible at Borisoglebsk border crossing station.
    • The ATA Carnet situation has improved, but Salla customs station has lost its ATA Carnet status.
  • Registration of foreigners is still a problematic issue for the business cooperation between Finland and the northern parts of the Republic of Karelia.
  • The BBAG gives strong support for the plan of the EU and Russia to ease visa application process. The Barents region could be a pilot region in this process and the multi-visas for businessmen could be prolonged up to five years in the region.
  • The business community on the Swedish side is concerned about the increasing bureaucracy of transport declarations on the border between Sweden and Norway.
  • Swedish authorities have renewed the system for passport applications and the new regulation has led to complications for businessmen, especially in Tornedalen region, where the police authority in Haparanda have not been able to issue passports. 

Transport and Logistics

Improving the infrastructure in the north will have a long term impact on the overall development of the region. This includes improvements to road and railway connections, border-crossing facilities, upgrading and development of ports, airports and shipyards, the adaptation of infrastructure for future offshore activities, development of modern telecommunications systems, environmental technology projects and energy- and energy efficiency projects. The deficiency of transport connections, such as the lack of direct flights between Rovaniemi and Murmansk, is a serious trade barrier, not only in the northern regions but also for businessmen travelling from the south of Finland. Despite this problem, the infrastructure has improved in recent years. The development of the mobile network is highly appreciated by the business community and this has also lead to improved safety on the road from Salla border crossing to Kandalaksha.

BBAG urges the following measures:

  • Finnish authorities are planning to end the railway connection between Kemijärvi and Salla. This undermines all future plans for the development of the Salla-Alakurtti railway to the Murmansk region.
  • There is still no train transport on the new railway between Ledmozero-Kotshkoma. This creates problems for further planning of new transport routes.
  • The east-west flight connections in the Barents region are still very problematic. Flight route between Luleå – Rovaniemi – Murmansk – Arkhangelsk, which has been the base for all connections, has recently been closed. Travelling by car is now the only alternative for going to Murmansk from Finnish Lapland and northern Sweden. It is therefore suggested that authorities provide financial support for the maintenance of this flight route.
  • The reparation of the roads to the border crossing stations Lotta – Murmansk and Kairala – Alakurtti should be finalised on the Russian side.
  • The need for improvements of the mobile network along the roads to the border crossing stations is today increasingly urgent, notably in the Murmansk region. Such development also has a positive effect on road safety.
  • Fast broadband connections in the Barents region are the backbone for future business cooperation. 

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