The Arctic Circle assembly took place in Reykjavík in 7.-9.10.2016. Arctic Circle, the biggest arctic related event in the world, gathered more than 2 300 stakeholders interested in the high north. The assembly is an open platform for participants with a wide range of different backgrounds: decision-makers, corporations, organizations, universities and indigenous representatives.
Barents was in the Arctic spotlight in “Regions as Arctic developers” - a break-out session organized by the Troms county. Northern Norway-based experts introduced the strength of the regional cooperation from various perspectives. The double-layer structure of Barents cooperation makes it strong and unique, and enables the decisions to be made on the right level: a cultural project between schools in Troms and Murmansk does not require actions to be taken on the ministerial level, for example. Eirik Sivertsen, a member of the Norwegian parliament, states that the multilevel and cross-sectoral cooperation has made breaking barriers possible in international politics in the arctic. 30 years ago the iron curtain divided Barents, whereas now the inhabitants of Barents towns Nikel, Russia and Kirkenes, Norway, can visit each other’s cities visa-freely with a border resident status. However, he continues, it is vital for the northern regions to cooperate, as they differ from the southern regions in an often negative way with more socio-economic challenges.
The experts regard the future of Barents as bright, since the cooperation is functioning well in multiple levels and spheres. Anne Husebekk, the Director of the Arctic University of Norway, finds that the key to development lies in educating arctic people in their home regions. She points out that since the founding the of university, Tromsø has experienced significant growth in population, economy and internationality.
However, the climate change poses a serious threat to the Barents environment, says Jan-Gunnar Winther from the Norwegian Polar Institute. On a more optimistic note, he adds that the nature in Barents is still pristine, unlike nearly everywhere else in the world. If we set high standards on benefiting from the natural resources in an environmentally friendly and socially sustainable manner, Barents cooperation is on the right track.
Institution represented in the Troms county panel: Troms county government, Norwegian parliament, Arctic Economic Council, the Arctic University of Norway, Northern Dimension Partnership on Transport and Logistics, Arctic Institute and Norwegian Polar Institute
Photo: Sunna Kokkonen