Barents cooperation brings a regional and practical perspective to the broader Arctic cooperation.
The Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) was established at Norway’s initiative by the Kirkenes Declaration in 1993. The BEAC aims to promote stability and sustainable development in the Barents region, which covers the northern parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia.
Security policy matters and marine cooperation are not dealt with under Barents cooperation.
The members of the BEAC are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Denmark, Iceland and the European Union. The following countries have observer status: Netherlands, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Canada, Poland, France, Germany and the United States.
The Council’s two-year Chairmanship rotates between the four Barents countries, that is, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russian Federation. Finland will assume the Chairmanship next in October 2021.
In between the BEAC Foreign Ministers’ Sessions, held every two years, the Council’s work is coordinated by the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), which meets on a regular basis.
Finland, which holds the Presidency of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, together with other Nordic countries and the European Union, has condemned Russia’s illegal attack on Ukraine on 24 February 2022. As a result of the attack, the other member countries and the EU have decided to suspend Barents cooperation with Russia, but they are committed to continuing cooperation without Russia.
Finland will continue to implement its Presidency with the priorities outlined earlier, including sustainable development, people-to-people contacts, and transport and logistics. Barents cooperation will focus in particular on Nordic cooperation.
Finland's objectives in Barents cooperation
In its Barents cooperation, Finland emphasises continuity and the natural assets of the Barents region. In the coming years, this cooperation is expected to be influenced by the economic recovery following the coronavirus crisis, continued preparation for pandemics, and the urgency of actions required by climate change and sustainable development.
The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the European Green Deal and the Barents Programme 2019–2023 for inter-regional Barents cooperation are the cornerstones of the Finnish Presidency of BEAC.
During its Presidency, Finland aims to promote sustainable development and healthy environments, people-to-people contacts, and transport and logistics.
Regions and counties play a key role in promoting cooperation in the Barents region. In the promotion of people-to-people contacts, Finland will focus on young people. Young people play a key role in the future of the Barents Region and in keeping the region viable and dynamic.
Peace, stability, well-functioning cooperation and low tension with the Arctic neighbours have been and remain at the top of Finland’s foreign policy agenda.
Northern Dimension together with its Partnerships also offers an additional channel for the promotion of Finland's goals in the Barents Euro-Arctic region.
The Barents Regional Council (BRC) was established to represent the regions also in 1993.
Its members are the following regions/counties or their equivalents: Lapland, North Ostrobothnia, Kainuu and North Karelia regions from Finland; Västerbotten and Norrbotten counties from Sweden; Finnmark, Troms, and Nordland counties from Norway; and the Karelia and Komi Republics, the Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Oblasts and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug from Russia.
Practical cooperation in working groups
Practical Barents cooperation is carried out in sectoral working groups, which focus on: health and social issues, education and research, culture, forests, tourism, transport and logistics, economic cooperation, environment, youth and rescue cooperation. There is also a Barents Region Youth Council (BRYC) and a Working Group of Indigenous Peoples (WGIP).
The Joint Committee on Rescue Cooperation (JCRC) is and independent entity, operating based on the Agreement on Cooperation within the Field of Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response, signed in 2008.
The Working Group of Indigenous Peoples in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region (WGIP) consists or representatives of the Saami, Nenets and Veps people, and the group has an advisory role in all other Working Groups’ meetings.
The International Barents Secretariat (IBS), which was established in January 2008, is based in Kirkenes, Norway. The IBS serves both intergovernmental and regional Barents cooperation.