Cross-border cooperation between Finland and Russia

Finland and Russia have engaged in cooperation involving projects on both sides of their shared border, which is more than 1,300 kilometres long. The cross-border cooperation (CBC) programmes have had access to both European Union and national funding. The programmes have been financed equally by the EU and the participating countries, and the parties involved have chosen the programme objectives and projects together.

Satama. Kuva: Helsingin kaupunki

The aim of many projects has been to improve traffic flows at border crossing points. Photo: City of Helsinki

The projects under the programmes have promoted the economic development of the programme areas, environmental cooperation, smoother cross-border traffic flows, and cooperation in education, research and culture.

In addition to these development projects, the programmes have provided financing for investment projects, particularly those seeking to improve the operation of border crossing points.

Between 2014 and 2020, three CBC programmes funded by the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) were implemented in the border regions of Finland and Russia:

  • Kolartic
  • Karelia
  • South-East Finland–Russia

The programme administration was carried out by the regional councils in Finland. In total, the three programmes financed 160 development projects and 14 investment projects with a combined turnover of EUR 178.7 million.

Cooperation programmes have been suspended

Following Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the EU has suspended the cooperation with Russia and its ally Belarus in the European Neighbourhood Instrument cross-border cooperation programmes (ENI CBC). This means, among other things, that payments to Russia and Belarus have stopped.

The suspension had immediate effect on nine ENI cross-border cooperation programmes, including South-East Finland–Russia, Karelia and Kolarctic which involved Russia and Belarus during the 2014–2020 programming period.

The rules on the ENI CBC lay down provisions on the suspension of cooperation with non-EU countries in case of breaches to international law, human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.

Cooperation with both countries in programmes under the new 2021–2027 programming period is also suspended.

Cooperation between Finland and Russia in the neighbouring regions, 1992–2012

In 1992, Finland and Russia signed an agreement on cooperation in the Murmansk region, the Republic of Karelia, St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Oblast. This cooperation in the neighbouring regions continued successfully for over 20 years.

During that period, Finland allocated nearly EUR 330 million to the cooperation programmes, financing some 200 development projects annually.


The key objectives of the cooperation were to promote regional stability, support economic and social development, improve the rule of law, and reform governance and legislation.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs was responsible for the overall coordination, supervision and financing of the project activities. Most of the projects were carried out under the leadership of Finnish ministries.

The financing for the neighbouring regions also supported projects carried out by Finnish NGOs and SMEs in North-West Russia.

Significant benefits were achieved by linking bilateral financing for the neighbouring regions to broader international activities. For example, the major waste water treatment programme in St. Petersburg involved international joint projects which were mainly funded through loans from international financial institutions and local sources of funding, with donations providing an important financing incentive.

In an independent evaluation (Impact Consulting Oy, 2011), cooperation in the neighbouring regions was found to have been exceptionally successful and productive by international standards. An important outcome of the programmes was the network of contacts that emerged in nearly every branch of government, facilitating efficient cooperation.

The cooperation between Finland and Russia in the neighbouring regions provided a model for cross-border cooperation at the EU’s external borders.

In 2012, Finland and Russia made a decision to end the existing forms of cooperation and to sign a new agreement on cross-border cooperation that also sought to develop the regions on both sides of the border.

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