Newsletter by International Barents Secretariat, 3/2015
The Russian national chairmanship in the BEAC did not wait long before they started to implement their program for the coming two years. After just a few weeks, the invitation to the first ministerial meeting popped up in the mailbox. Sortavala in Karelia was chosen as a meeting point of environment ministers. In the invitation, a lot of travelling options were listed. None of them was quick and easy. Going from Kirkenes, I would have to spend at least three days travelling to and from the conference, whatever option I would use.
I have learned during my first year at the office that there are many places in the Barents Region that are considered remote. There are people who look at Kirkenes in that way. However, if you just turn the map around, you will see it differently.
After a discussion with myself about a four-day trip for a one-day meeting I finally booked my tickets. The first stage of the journey was by plane. I left in the morning from Kirkenes airport to catch a connecting flight from Oslo to Helsinki and arrived in Joensuu at 00.30. The day after a minibus picked us up for transportation to Russia. Here actually the first “meeting” started. There were eleven of us in the bus. Participants from four different countries, some of us knew each other from before and some were newcomers. Five hours in a bus gives you time to discuss a lot of different topics and to get to know each other. I got a chance to ask plenty of questions and to talk about what we are doing at the office.
The trip to the border control in Vartsila did not take long. Discussion about the similarities and differences with the border area between Russia and Norway took place. The quality of the roads on both sides of the border was also compared. How many border crossings are there per year? What about the trade?
On the way to Sortavala we made a stop at the Ruskeala Marble Canyon. At the spot of an old marble mine an adventure park for tourists was constructed. It looks like a mix of a museum and an amusement park. More than 100 000 visitors per year is not a bad figure for a small town. A discussion about other ways of attracting tourists continued.
The next stop was Winter Dacha, a venue of the ministerial meeting. A beautiful newly built resort at the Ladoga Lake. It immediately became clear why our hosts had chosen this place. In my head, two Swedish sayings popped up: The trip is worth the effort and the journey is the goal.
So what was decided at the environment ministers meeting? You can read more about that in the current edition of the BarentSaga. You also have the chance to learn more about the Barents Rescue operation in Kittilä which was arranged last autumn. Besides, we will offer you an interview with IBS new adviser on Climate, Environment and Hot Spots, Maria Dianova. The outgoing Finnish chairmanship will tell about their experience and have a special report on the ad hoc working group on Finance. Least but not last, you can learn about Ingrid Medby´s research on Arctic identity.
I wish you all very nice holidays, enjoy your reading!
Head of the International Barents Secretariat