After 30 years of successful cooperation, Russia has officially withdrawn from the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) a collaboration platform in the Arctic Region functioning in many ways similar to the Arctic Council. The Council activities have been on hold since spring 2022. In a formal statement sent to all the foreign ministers of the member countries of the BEAC on September 18, 2023, the Foreign Ministry of Russia declared Russia's official withdrawal from the council.
The official statement by the MFA of Russia:
"Through the fault of the Western members (Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, the EU), the Council’s activities have been effectively paralysed since March 2022. The Finnish presidency failed to confirm the transfer of the BEAC presidency to Russia, scheduled for October 2023, in violation of the principle of rotation thus disrupting the necessary preparations.
Under these circumstances, we are compelled to announce the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. The relevant statement from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, dated September 18, 2023, has been sent to the foreign ministries of the member countries of the organisation, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as well as to the International Barents Secretariat in Kirkenes, Norway.
We are convinced that the fleeting political situation, which our northern European neighbours are guided by, does not correspond to the long-term interests of the people of the Arctic region. The responsibility for breaking down the architecture of Barents cooperation rests entirely with our “partners.”
Russia will continue to pursue its national objectives in the north. We remain open to cooperation with anyone who is committed to constructive engagement, and is prepared for equal dialogue and mutually beneficial collaborative work."
About the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC)
Established in 1993, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) stands as the official platform for intergovernmental collaboration within the Barents Region. It embodies a vision where nations achieve more through joint efforts than in isolation. This cooperative spirit operates on two levels: the intergovernmental BEAC and the interregional Barents Regional Council (BRC), with a shared mission of advancing sustainable development.
In 2008, the International Barents Secretariat was inaugurated in Kirkenes, playing a pivotal role in supporting multilateral initiatives within the BEAC and BRC. This institution maintains vital archives and serves as an information hub for these councils.
Furthermore, the BEAC coordinates activities with relevant counterparts such as the Nordic Council of Ministers, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Arctic Council, and the Northern Dimension. Historically, the Barents region was a focal point of military confrontation during the Cold War. The emphasis on cooperation has successfully nurtured long-term political stability and reduced tensions, fostering a newfound unity among the region's inhabitants.
The BEAC's inception in 1993, following the Kirkenes Declaration, saw participation from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the European Communities. Notably, observers from the United States of America, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, and the United Kingdom were also present. This marked the Council's birth, driven by the goal of enhancing existing cooperation and exploring novel initiatives. Central to the BEAC's mission is promoting sustainable development in the Barents region, in alignment with the principles and recommendations outlined in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 of UNCED.
Simultaneously, representatives from the region and indigenous peoples signed a cooperation protocol, establishing the Barents Regional Council (BRC). The BRC operates at the regional level, mirroring the objectives set forth in the Kirkenes Declaration, further enhancing collaboration within the Barents region.
This enduring commitment to cooperation, sustainability, and unity defines the essence of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and its invaluable contributions to the region's growth and prosperity.
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