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KIRKENES, June 4 (Itar-Tass) - Full abolishment of the visa regime with Russia is a long-term objective of Norway’s foreign policy, Norway’s Deputy Foreign Minister Torgeir Larsen said on Monday in an interview with Itar-Tass.
“A visa-free regime with Russia is a part of Norway’s view on the long-term relations between our countries,” he said. “In order to achieve it, there should be practical, detailed work; we should step by step make easier the movement towards the final goal. The 20-year experience of cooperation demonstrates that we are able to achieve results, and not it is not the time to stop with what we have achieved.”
“A major principle in the basis of the Kirkenes declaration of 1993 and the cooperation in the Barents Sea/Euro-Arctic region is the focus on people’s diplomacy, expanding of contacts between the peoples of our countries at all levels - in culture, business,” the deputy foreign minister said. “While in the early 1990s the number of crossings of the border did not exceed 8,000 a year, in 2013 the figure should grow to 300,000. It is much easier for Russian citizens nowadays to obtain a visa; last year, we introduced a visa-free regime for residents of the 30-kilometre border area. The process is moving - step by step.”
The new declaration, which the two countries are expected to adopt on Tuesday during the meeting of prime ministers, in which Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will be participating, a special focus will be made on necessary cooperation in the sphere, Larsen said.
The Norwegian side initiates changing the borders of the visa-free zone, he added. For example, he explained, they will suggest including in it the entire Neiden settlement, where as presently only half of it is included in the 30-kilometre zone. “This bureaucratic moment is especially unpleasant, as the zone does not include the burial of the Soviet soldiers in Neiden, and the residents of the Murmansk region, who would like to visit it, cannot do so without applying for visas,” the diplomat explained.
“When we were discussing the draft of the visa-free zone, many people were pessimistic and they would not believe all necessary formalities could be settled, but anyway in May of 2012 the agreement did come into force. We believe, the territory, where residents have to present a certificate of a resident living in a bordering area in order to cross the border, will be expanded, no matter what the sceptics are saying,” Larsen said.
He stressed also the importance of the agreement on delimitation of the borders in the Barents Sea, which was achieved during Medvedev’s earlier visit to Norway in 2010.
“This agreement has demonstrated that two Arctic states can settle peacefully the 40-years’ disputes using the provisions of the international law,” Larsen said. “Many countries have been studying the experience. The development of the Barents Sea’s oil and gas deposits, in their turn, also requires wider cooperation between our countries.”
The deputy foreign minister pointed to the importance of cooperation between the two countries at the level of the Arctic Council / the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) /, where the work of the council during the current year has resulted in signing of two legally binding agreements on preventions of oil leaks in the Arctic, an on search and rescue at sea. Besides, Norway’s foreign ministry highlights the future, which the two countries have in the transport and logistics areas in the Northern Sea Route.
The Barents Euro-Arctic Council /BEAC/ is the forum for intergovernmental and interregional cooperation in the Barents Region. BEAC was established in 1993 in order to "provide impetus to existing cooperation and consider new initiatives and proposals". Its participants are Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and the European Commission.