Barents Council

The Barents Euro Arctic Council (BEAC) aims to ensure stability and prosperity in the Barents Region through intergovernmental cooperation. The formation of the council was stimulated in the late 1980s and early 1990s when contacts and cooperation between the people in the northern parts of Finland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden increased. Norway's foreign minister Thorvald Stoltenberg initiated the formalization of the cooperation in the Barents Region. The "Kirkenes Declaration," signed on January 11, 1993, describes the aims of the cooperation, which include security, stability, and prosperity in the area. The declaration also emphasizes the cooperation on environment, economic cooperation, scientific and technological cooperation, regional infrastructure, strengthening of communities of indigenous people, cultural exchange, and tourism. The cooperation also aims to support the reform process in Russia, which aims at strengthening democracy, market reforms, and the local institutions.

The member countries include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, and United States of America are observers. The European Union also participates in the BEAC. The BEAC consists of the six participating countries' foreign ministers. Ministerial meetings are held for other ministers on an ad hoc basis. The chairmanship rotates annually among the four geographically involved nations of Finland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. A secretariat is established to serve the chairperson. A CSO level prepares the tasks for the BEAC, the practical arrangements for the ministerial meeting, discusses relevant topics, and coordinates the work of seven working groups. The working groups under the CSO level are established when needed. The present working groups include the Economic Working Group, Task Force on Environment, Ad Hoc Working Group on Energy, and Steering Committee of the Barents Euro-Arctic Transport Area. Previous working groups have included The North East Sea Route.

The BEAC cooperates with the Barents Regional Council, bringing local and regional concerns and priorities up to an international level. The Regional Council, formed at the same time as BEAC, includes regional representatives, county governors, and their equivalents from Finland (Kainuu, Lapland, and Oulu), Norway (Finnmark, Nordland, and Troms), Russia (Arkhangel'sk Oblast', Karelia, Komi Republic, Murmanskaya Oblast', and Nenets Autonomous Okrug), and Sweden (Norrbotten and Vasterbotten).

The organization works in close connection with relevant bodies, especially the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Arctic Council (AC), and is one of the regional bodies mentioned in the European Commission's documents on the EC's Policies for a Northern Dimension.

The BEAC has contributed to a closer cooperation between the participating nations on interregional cooperation, and brought several items of regional importance on the international agenda.

Sylvi Jane Husebye

See also Barents Region; Barents Regional Council Further Reading

Barents Euro-Arctic Council, Joenniemi, Pertti, "The Barents Euro-Arctic Council." In Subregional Co-operation in the New Europe. Building Security, Prosperity and Solidarity from the Barents to the Black Sea, edited by Andrew Cottey, Hampshire: Macmillan Press, 1999

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