MOSCOW, October 11 (Itar-Tass) — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is departing for the Swedish city of Kiruna where he will hold bilateral talks on Tuesday with his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt, and on Wednesday he will take part in a session of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council Region (BEAC).
The Russian and Swedish ministers are expected to discuss in detail issues related to the visa regime abolishment and the regional issues. The parties plant to sign at the meeting an intergovernmental agreement on the transit of arms, military equipment, hardware and personnel of Sweden through Russia in connection with the participation of the Swedish armed forces in the efforts aimed at stabilisation and restoration in Afghanistan,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said. According to him, the ministers will focus on the situation in North Africa.
Moscow hopes that Russia and Sweden will set new records in economic cooperation. More than 400 Swedish companies operating in the fields of engineering, agricultural and timber industry, pharmaceutical industry and trade sphere are already registered on the Russian market. Among the major investors are IKEA, ABB, SKF, SCA, Sandvik, Volvo, SCANIA, Tetra Pak, Alfa Laval. Over the first seven months of this year the countries’ bilateral trade volume increased by 30 percent and reached 4.7 billion US dollars.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry stressed that they intend to strengthen cooperation with Russia in international platforms and formats, in particular, within the Barents Euro-Arctic Council.
The Council was established in 1993. In addition to Russia and Sweden, its members are Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and the European Commission. This is the central structure of multilateral cooperation in the Barents region. The Council's activities are largely aimed at promoting comprehensive development of territories of Northern Europe, including the north-western regions of Russia, such as the Republic of Karelia, Komi, Arkhangelsk and Murmansk and Nenets Autonomous Area.
The primary goal of BEAC is to promote sustainable economic and social development in the Barents Region and thus contribute to peaceful development in the northernmost part of Europe, according to the BEAC website. During the Soviet era, regional and cross-border contacts were restricted. With the political changes in the beginning of the 1990’s cooperation increased rapidly between neighbouring countries. On 11 January 1993, the intergovernmental cooperation in the Barents Region was formalised when the Foreign Ministers of the Nordic countries, the Russian Federation and a representative of the European Commission signed a Declaration that created the BEAC at a Foreign Ministers Conference in Kirkenes, Norway. The Barents Euro-Arctic Council was established as a forum for intergovernmental cooperation in the Barents Region.
Also on 11 January 1993, representatives of the Barents Region county governors and their equivalents, together with a representative of the indigenous peoples, signed a cooperation protocol that established the Barents Regional Council, with similar objectives as the BEAC: to work together to promote the development of the Barents Region.
On 11 January 2003, the Prime Ministers of the BEAC member countries, the EU Presidency and the European Commission met in Kirkenes to celebrate the 10 Year Anniversary of the Barents cooperation. The Prime Ministers agreed on a Summit Declaration giving support and guidance to the continued cooperation in the Barents Region. Cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region was launched in 1993 on two levels: intergovernmental (Barents Euro-Arctic Council, BEAC), and interregional (Barents Regional Council, BRC), with sustainable development as the overall objective. The region was an area of military confrontation during the Cold War. The underlying premise was that close cooperation would secure long-term stability in political and other relations and reduce 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.
The participants in the ministerial meeting in Kiruna will discuss ways to strengthen interaction, taking into account the opportunities opened by the signing by Russia and Norway of the Treaty on Maritime Delimitation and cooperation in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean and the Agreement on the facilitation of mutual travel of residents of border areas.
The Russian diplomatic community expects that the meeting's final communique will reflect such priorities as modernisation, facilitating of the regime of mutual travel of citizens, improving coordination between the northern regional councils.
“We hope that the document will also place emphasis on promoting cooperation in such spheres as energy efficiency, formation of conditions for sustainable and dynamic development of the region, protection of the environment, minimisation of the negative effects of climate change, modernisation of transport infrastructure, assistance to socio-economic development of indigenous peoples,” the RF Foreign Ministry stressed.