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KIRKENES /Norway/, February 4. /TASS/. Norway’s government has increased funding for projects with Russia in the next three years designed to promote bilateral cooperation, said Pia Svensgaard, head of state-run Norwegian Barents Secretariat.
Svensgaard said in an interview with TASS that the Barents Secretariat, a public organization responsible for regional cooperation, had received an extra $18 million of funding, $2.4 million more than in the previous three years.
"Given the current difficult political situation, our task of developing bilateral cooperation between the northern regions of Norway and Russia is more important than ever before," Svensgaard said. "Our cooperation at the regional level continues as usual. We don't see any obstacles to further activities."
Russia and Norway have been developing cooperation in the north for more than 20 years. Formally, regional cooperation in the Barents Euro-Arctic Region was launched in 1993, not long after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The region now consists of thirteen counties or similar subregional entities in Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden. On behalf of Russia, it includes Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions, republics of Karelia and Komi, and Nenets autonomous district. Norway’s territories comprise Finnmark, Troms and Nordland.
The Barents Secretariat in Kirkenes coordinates development in the area. It has provided funding for nearly 5,000 Russian-Norwegian projects.
"Our people have lived here side by side for many years," Svensgaard said, noting that Norway’s regional ties with Russia had only grown stronger after establishing the Barents Euro-Arctic Region.
"Those who have new and interesting projects appeal to our organization for funding. A major part of our funds is now being spent on Russian-Norwegian initiatives in culture, particularly music, film and theatre," she said, adding that Norway was interested in developing public diplomacy and regional cooperation between the two countries.