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Margot Wallström: People-to-people contacts are at the core of the Barents cooperation

22.1.2018
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On the threshold of the 25th anniversary of Barents cooperation Sweden started its chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. Today, when the world is facing big challenges relating to uncertain economic and political environment and climate change, cross-border cooperation has grown even more important.

– Ever since its inception, the aim of the Barents cooperation has been to strengthen peace, stability, and sustainable development in the region by improving the opportunities for cross-border cooperation and people-to-people contacts. 25 years later this remains the main purpose of the cooperation, says Margot Wallström, the Foreign Minister of Sweden.

Ms. Wallström wants to give credit to the unique interaction between stakeholders at the national, regional, and local levels, including indigenous peoples, for the great and concrete results that Barents Cooperation has been able to achieve.

– We have eliminated (environmental) hot spots from the list, we have established the International Barents Secretariat, which will celebrate 10 years in 2018, and deepened cooperation in areas such as culture, health and social issues and transport.

The Foreign Minister hopes that by the time Sweden hands over the chairmanship to Norway in the autumn of 2019, Barents Cooperation will be even stronger, more sustainable, and more visible. One goal is also to make the achievements of 15 working groups more familiar to the public. She hopes that the partners could create common vision for the future of the cooperation in the Barents region.

– Whatever the result of that process will be, I am convinced that together – with firm commitment, enhanced cooperation and smart ideas – we will make the Barents region thrive, and that our joint efforts will contribute to a sustainable and equitable future for everyone living in the Barents region.

Sustainable development a high priority in the chairmanship program

During its chairmanship Sweden wants to work for a more sustainable region and for respect of human rights and gender equality. The Chairmanship program “Regional sustainable development for the future” highlights the most relevant Sustainable Development Goals for Barents cooperation.

– We will pursue an agenda based on the goals of the Agenda 2030 and the Paris Climate Agreement, and focus simultaneously on the environmental, economic, and social dimensions of sustainable development, Ms. Wallström says.

Attention will be given to the younger generation and the promotion of gender equality in all the areas of the Council’s work. Sweden wants to engage the young generation in all areas of Barents cooperation.

– As part of the 25th anniversary of the Barents Cooperation, we will organize a conference titled “25 Years of Barents Cooperation – Youth Perspective for the Future” to stress the importance of the young generation and their possibilities to shape the future of the region.

For Ms. Wallström, the Barents region is about people-to-people contacts. In Barents cooperation Sweden has emphasized the need for dialogue and constructive discussions.

– Whether it is through people-to-people contacts or meetings on an official level, dialogue provides the tools with which we face our common challenges and work to sustain peace and stability in the region. An important aspect is also the ongoing dialogue with the indigenous peoples of the region, who serve as advisors on all levels of cooperation. This allows the regional development to be combined with a respect for the unique heritage and the traditional way of life of the Barents region.



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