How did you end up in the Barents co-operation?
"I started at the Regional Working Group on Environment (RWGE) in
2001, when our organization was looking for representatives in the
environmental issues. Since then, I have been participating in the
Working Groups on both regional and national scale. For example, before
my chairmanship of the RWGE, I chaired the water-themed sub-group of the
Euro-Arctic Council’s Working Group on Environment (WGE)."
Has it been difficult to transfer between the regional and national level working groups?
“Not really. The differences between the regional and national groups
are not so wide. Similarity in the objectives forms a good basis and
the water-themed sub-group of the WGE is chaired by people from the
regional side. Both groups also meet at the same time and work with
similar ways, and the regional group reports to the national one. All
this enhances the flow of information between the parties and helps
developing practically all aspects of the international co-operation. At
the same time it is however very good that there are two separate
Working Groups, as this leaves space for the discussion and the
preparation of issues on the regional level.”
The working groups often deal with the most tangible forms of cooperation in the Barents Region. How do they actually operate?
“The Working Groups convene typically two times per year. In addition
plenty of preparation as well as information exchange is done via
e-mail, naturally. Put together, there are around ten members in the
RWGE. The chairmanship rotates between countries biannually and the
current chair is nominated by the country in turn.
Usually the Working Groups are not responsible for the actual
realization of the projects. Our tasks are inclined to searching
adequate initiatives and informing about the projects. The implementers
are usually suitable partners from the local region, in our field often
environmental authorities and like.”
During the two decades of Barents co-operation, there have
been around 50 regional environment projects implemented or financed by
environmental authorities. What issues do the projects most deal with
”The environmental questions on the Barents Region vary very much
depending on the area. That is why we need to focus on certain
spearheads. Climate change, for example, is visible in all our work. It
is a cross-cutting theme in the projects on both regional and national
level. Water is also an important topic. It is often linked with
biodiversity, which is also major issue. The last theme to be pointed
out is mining, although on that field we have not had as much
And what kind of projects are realized on these fields?
“The Regional Working Group especially aims at concrete measures and
goals in its projects. Often the projects also do not focus only on one
of the fields, but several of them. For example, the Kolarctic Salmon
project was not only about biodiversity but climate change as well, and
WGE’s Interreg project on the river basin of Sweden-Finland border was
about both water and biodiversity. Of course, there are also projects
concentrating on one field only, such as the ground water project in
Karelia. The type and theme of the project notwithstanding, we have
always joined some communication aspects in them, too.”
Any thoughts about the future?
“I will continue in the RWGE. Lapland is a good place to participate
in its work, as we have common border with Norway, Sweden and Russia. It
will be interesting to see what kind of new projects will get funding.”
Interview by Ilkka Tiensuu / Arctic Centre
Jari Pasanen from the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment of Lapland chaired the Barents Regional Council Working Group on Environment years 2013 and 2014.