Barents cooperation adds a regional and practical perspective to the broader Arctic cooperation.
The Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) was established at Norway’s initiative by the Kirkenes Declaration in 1993. BEAC aims to promote stability and sustainable development in the Barents region, which covers the northern parts of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Russia.
Security policy matters and marine cooperation are not dealt with under Barents cooperation.
The Members of BEAC are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Denmark, Iceland and the European Union. The following countries have observer status: Netherlands, United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Canada, Poland, France, Germany and the United States of America.
The Council’s two-year Chairmanship rotates between the states of the Barents region, that is, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russian Federation. Finland held the Chairmanship of BEAC in 2013–2015.
In between the BEAC foreign ministers’ sessions, held every two years, the Council’s work is coordinated by the Committee of Senior Officials (CSO), which meets three to four times a year.
The Barents Regional Council (BRC) was established simultaneously with BEAC. The BRC brings regional expertise to the Barents cooperation.
Its membership is made up of the Finnish counties of Lapland, North Ostrobothnia, Kainuu and North Karelia; Swedish counties of Västerbotten and Norrbotten; Norwegian counties of Finnmark, Tromsø, and Nordland; and the Karelia and Komi Republics, Murmansk and Arkhangelsk and Nenets Autonomous Okrug representing Russia.
Practical cooperation in working groups
Practical Barents cooperation focuses on various sectors and work is conducted in intergovernmental and regional working groups and joint working groups representing governments and regions. The sectors of cooperation are environment, climate change, health and social issues, culture, youth, transport and logistics, economy, energy, forests, tourism, education and research, and customs.
The following three entities operate independently from the other Barents Working Groups. The Joint Committee on Rescue Cooperation (JCRC) is based on the Agreement between the Governments in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region on Cooperation within the Field of Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response, signed in 2008.
The Working Group of Indigenous Peoples in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region (WGIP) consists or members representing the Saami, Nenets and Veps people, and the group has an advisory role in the other Working Groups’ meetings.
The International Barents Secretariat (IBS), based in Kirkenes, Norway, started its work in January 2008. The IBS serves both intergovernmental and regional Barents cooperation.