During the Cold War the Barents region was an area of military confrontation. The underlying premise was that close cooperation secures political long-term stability and reduces possible tensions. This objective has already been successfully achieved. The Barents cooperation has fostered a new sense of unity and closer contact among the people of the region which is an excellent basis for further progress.

Cooperation on governmental and regional level

The members of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the European Commission. The chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council rotates between Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Finland holds the chairmanship for the period 2021-2023.

Thirteen counties or similar sub-national entities form the Barents Regional Council. Nenets, Russia, is the chair of the BRC for the period 2021-2023.

The two councils have established thematic Working Groups. The Working Groups constitute a cross-border platform for exchange for the civil servants and professionals of the respective field both on the national and regional level. Over the past years, the Working Groups have also implemented several projects.

The representatives of the three indigenous peoples, the Sámi, the Nenets and the Vepsians, cooperate in the Working Group of Indigenous Peoples (WGIP). It has an advisory role in both the BEAC and the BRC which means that their participation is welcome in all Barents Working Groups, that the WGIP Chair is a member of the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO) and the Barents Regional Committee, and that they are always represented at the BEAC Ministerial Sessions and the Barents Regional Council meetings. All three indigenous peoples of the Barents Region can participate individually in the CSO meetings, without a formal invitation.

In 2008, International Barents Secretariat was established in Kirkenes. The secretariat supports the multilateral activities within the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and Barents Regional Council and secures the coherence and efficiency of the cooperation.

Where appropriate, there is also coordination with the relevant activities of the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Arctic Council and the Northern Dimension.