Why do we need the Barents Cooperation?
The Barents Cooperation is first and foremost a tool that helps to establish a dialogue between the regions of the Nordic countries and promote active interpersonal interaction in various fields. We exchange experiences, learn from each other, and implement joint projects. We consolidate knowledge, resources and opportunities in the name of improving the quality of life of the population living in remote, hard-to-reach territories of the Nordic countries. We are therefore improving the strength of the Barents Cooperation every year. The Nenets Autonomous Okrug is honored to be assuming the chairmanship of the Barents Regional Council. We take the responsibility seriously and will try to lead the structure with dignity and in consideration of the interests of all parties.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and created many challenges for cross-border cooperation. What measures can be done to reduce the negative effect of the pandemic in the Barents Region?
The coronavirus pandemic has severely limited international engagement at all levels. The long period of forced isolation will require additional efforts and resources in the coming years to restore contacts and develop sustainable forms of cooperation. The Nenets region takes active part in the Barents Cooperation. Since 2011, the district has been successfully cooperating with the University Hospital of Northern Norway to implement e-health and telemedicine technologies in the hard-to-reach territories of the Far North. In 2020, together with our Norwegian partners, we launched a new three-year project “Innovation for Health Systems in the Arctic”. During the pandemic when contacts between doctors and patients became even more limited, this area of cooperation became even more relevant. In October 2021, the Nenets Autonomous Okrug took over the chairmanship of the Barents Regional Council (BRC); cooperation in this field will be an important focus of our chairmanship.
We have a wealth of experience working with Norway in the implementation of e-health technologies, including joint projects with the University Hospital of Northern Norway.
Nenets Autonomous Okrug is located quite far from the land borders of the Nordic regions. In what sectors do you already have experience in cooperating with Nordic partners?
We have a wealth of experience working with Norway in the implementation of e-health technologies, including joint projects with the University Hospital of Northern Norway. We also have experience in cooperation with Finland in the field of wind energy through the Polar Wind and POLARIS projects. In addition, we are currently pursuing a joint project with Finland called "Reindeer Meat - Quality High" funded by the Kolarctic CBC Programme dealing with the processing of reindeer products. The export of wet-salted skins to Finland has already been successfully established, and we intend to develop this cooperation further. There are still projects underway - we are planning to sell meat to Finland as well!
Nenets Autonomous Okrug just took over the Chairmanship of the Barents Regional Council from Västerbotten. What will you want to achieve during the Chairmanship?
Large distances between settlements due to a lack of proper infrastructure, as well as difficult environmental conditions, limit the access of small settlements and nomadic populations to goods and services. This imposes high costs for people's livelihoods and limits the socio-economic development of these territories. In the Barents Euro-Arctic Region, remote areas and communities of Indigenous Peoples should therefore be given special attention. Exchange of experiences and implementation of practical initiatives regarding the possibilities of remote communication, especially in the social sphere, are important. It is also essential to promote innovative technologies and solutions in construction, agriculture, power generation, and waste management. We need to increase the competitiveness of small and medium-sized businesses and facilitate the entry of local producers' products into interregional and international sales markets and develop social entrepreneurship.
Russia is currently chairing the Arctic Council (AC), prioritizing Arctic inhabitants and Indigenous Peoples, environmental protection and climate change, and socioeconomic development. How do you plan to benefit from the Russian AC Chairmanship during the Nenets BRC Chairmanship period?
Prospects for cooperation with the Arctic Council are associated with the formats of international interregional interaction, in which our district takes an active part. In particular, the Nenets Autonomous Okrug is a member of the Northern Forum, an international organization dealing with the Northern Regions. We were the presiding region of this organization during the previous period of 2018–2021. The Northern Forum, having observer status in the Arctic Council, can also promote issues relevant to the regional agenda and joint initiatives of the regions at a higher level, such as by using the financial instruments of the Arctic Council.
The Nenets Autonomous Okrug is also a participant in cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region. On October 25 this year, the okrug assumed the chairmanship of the Barents Regional Council for the period until 2023. The Barents Cooperation has a long history and many examples of successful practical interaction aimed at the social and economic development of the territories. The rich experience of the Barents Cooperation can be useful to the Arctic Council and its working groups in solving the problems facing the organization.
What do you expect from launching the Barents Financial Mechanism?
The Barents Financial Mechanism is a grant competition. Its launch will revive the Barents Cooperation, giving people additional opportunities to pursue joint projects. This will undoubtedly enhance the strength of the Barents Cooperation.