Barents Regional Council

The aim of the Barents Regional Council (BRC) is to increase regional cooperation in a broad field of activities in the Barents Region. The council was established on January 11, 1993 as the regional pillar to the Barents Region, the Barents Euro Arctic Council being the central pillar. The founding members of the BRC included the regional leaders in the Barents Region (Lappland län, Finland, Nordland, Troms and Finnmark county, Norway, Arkhangel'sk and Murmansk Oblast', Russia, and Norrbotten län,

Sweden). A representative for the Saami Council was also present. Karelia Oblast' participated as an observer, and was adopted as a member in April 1993. Nenets Autonomous Okrug has its own representative in the council. In 1998, the BRC expanded to include Oulo lan (Finland) and Vesterbotten lan (Sweden).

The Barents Regional Council consists of the leaders of the participating counties, and meets four to six times a year. The new chairperson is elected biennially, rotating among the countries and counties. Under the BRC, the Regional Executive Committee (REC) prepares the tasks for the council, including preparation of an annual consensus-driven Barents Program. The REC works with and through regional coalitions of officials and specialists in the relevant field. The groups currently active involve industrial and commercial development, infrastructure, education, environment, health, welfare, culture, and indigenous peoples.

The consensus-driven working groups propose projects and evaluate external project proposals for the Barents Program. Some of these projects elaborated regional action plans that have been adopted by the BRC and forwarded to the Barents Euro Arctic Council. National secretariats assist the national members in the REC and the regional working groups. Regional Barents Information offices have been established in Arkhangel'sk, Naryan-Mar (Nenets Autonomous Okrug), and Petrozavodsk (Karelia).

Regional autonomy of the practical cooperation has been achieved on the Norwegian side, where the Norwegian members of the REC manage the Norwegian state funds granted to the regional cooperation projects.

The Barents Regional Council forwards local priorities and larger-scale projects to the BEAC. The BRC maintains operational cooperation with Eurasia Foundation (US) and the Nordic Council of Ministers. The BRC maintains close contacts with the regional level of the Baltic cooperation and the EU's regional cooperation program Barents Interreg.

Under the BRC, cross-border cooperation, emphasizing people-to-people contacts, has been established. The cross-border regional infrastructure has been developed from east to west in the region, especially within telecommunications. Extensive educational and competence transference programs have been conducted. Health cooperation has been established between professionals and institutions and public health programs conducted. Cultural exchange has increased. Cooperation between the indigenous peoples in the Barents Region has been established and develops into legal affairs, cultural and business cooperation, and development.

Sylvi Jane Husebye See also Barents Council; Barents Region

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