A sociable, humorous and kind gentleman sits down opposite me in the office of the International Barents Secretariat, Kirkenes, and begins smoothly to tell the story of his work in the Barents region. The long-term diplomat with a wide international perspective sees the future of the Barents cooperation in a positive light.
Yury Nikiforov started his long professional career as Soviet and Russian diplomat from the Middle East in Egypt in 1973. After that, he has served in several posts all over the world including Australia, New Zealand and Latvia, with intervals back in Moscow. Mr. Nikiforov moved to Kirkenes 12 years ago when he started in his job as the head of Russian Consulate in Kirkenes, Norway.
– It was the end of April 2004 and the land was full of fresh snow I hadn’t expected. The head of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat Rune Rafaelsen, who is the Mayor of Kirkenes at the moment, had experience about diplomats and helped me to adapt quickly to the local political life. I’m very grateful of that because it made me easier to contact local authorities.
– I found that in the capital of Barents cooperation the local people know a lot of the Arctic region and they are proud of living in here. People are very friendly and it has been great experience to work with them.
Time to work for the common goals
Mr. Nikiforov states that the process of cooperation in Barents has developed well in 24 years. The first 10 years were the period of theoretical framework and the second 10 years were spent to establish it on a practical level. He points out that now, in the third period, is the time to advance it further and get more results for example related to traffic connections, environment and the indigenous peoples.
– The Barents region has the ability to cooperate and it is not that dependent of other events in the world. We should keep together and enjoy the good atmosphere.
– Despite the current problems there is stability in the Barents region. We should continue the same way and leave these troubles behind.
In twelve years, Mr. Nikiforov has seen some positive changes for example in the cooperation between Norway and Russia and he also believes in the positive future.
– Tourism has become very normal and people in Kirkenes travel to Murmansk to spend the weekend and vice versa. Roadworks between Kirkenes and Murmansk are making progress and the checkpoint will give more opportunities to people and the cross border trade. The general attitude has changed because people meet each other more often.
For the last few years Yury Nikiforov has been working as Executive Officer at the International Barents Secretariat, and now, after a long career as a diplomat, he is going to retire.
– I hope I can always keep the positive attitude and that my participation has helped our people to achieve to better understanding and closer cooperation.
Text by Johanna Westerlund