The Barents Secretariat receives far less funding for people-to-people cooperation with Russia. – A pity, says the Secretariat’s leader Lars Georg Fordal. - We have not yet concluded, says the MFA.
High North News has learned that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will dramatically reduce funding for people-to-people cooperation with Russia, a scheme administered by the Barents Secretariat in Kirkenes, Norway.
- We cannot comment on the still ongoing work with the application, says representatives for the Ministry.
Reduced by a third
Well informed sources tells High North News that the Barents Secretariat probably will receives 35 percent less funding for these activities over the next three-year period than what it has had available for previous years. During 2017, some NOK 42 million were granted in support for various people-to-people projects.
A 35 percent reduction for the next three-year period means that the Secretariat will have around NOK 40 million less to allocate to people-to-people projects over the next three years.
- We have not received the final numbers yet, however, it would be a pity of we have to reduce this kind of confidence-building work across borders, leader of the Barents Secretariat Lars Georg Fordal says to High North News.
Study trips from Norway and abroad
- We have very many visitors, from both Norway and abroad; people and organizations who want to look closer at how Norway and Russia cooperate about these projects.
Given the current situation, a reduction of cross-border confidence-building measures may not be ideal, however, we are now taking a closer look at how we can organise our future work, Fordal says.
- Support in the government
On 7 February this year, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide said that the Barents Secretariat has broad support in the government.
- New funding will be in place as soon as the Barents Secretariat has fulfilled the current agreement. While awaiting this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs works with the Barents Secretariat to facilitate a best possible transition between the old and the new agreement. The new arrangement means that the project grants and the funding for the operational activities of the Barents Secretariat are allocated in separate agreements, Søreide said.
- Most unfortunate
Tomas Norvoll (Labour), Nordland County Councilor, and through that position member of the Secretariat’s Supervisory Board, says to High North News that he conditions his comments on the figures being accurate.
- However, if HNN’s figures prove to be accurate, then that is most unfortunate, in particular now that the relationship between the Norwegian and the Russian governments is not the best.
In a situation like the current it is all the more pressing that regional projects and contacts are strengthened. It may appear as if the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is prioritizing the Barents Cooperation to a lesser extent than before, Norvoll says.
Not correct, says MFA
In an email, State Secretary Audun Halvorsen at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs underlines that the application from the Barents Secretariat still is being processed at the MFA.
"The numbers that High North News uses are not correct, and we do not regognize the description from the Barents Secretariat. The application for project support for the coming three years is still being processed in the MFA, and funding will be maintained on a high level. This has been signalled clearly to the Barents Secretariat. The Government priortizes close and dynamic people-to-people cooperation in the North", State Secretary Halvorsen writes in his email Friday afternoon.
HNN has stillnot received an official confirmation as to the amount the MFA will grant. Spokesperson at the MFA, Frode Overland Andersen, says that the Ministry regrets not being able to disclose numbers from an ongoing process at the Ministry.
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