Newsletter: Some Aim to Build Bridges - Others Do Their Best to Tear Them Down

From Bodø2024's bid book. (Photo: Dan Mariner/Bodø2024)

Dear HNN reader! 

Next week we will learn who is awarded the title of European Capital of Culture 2024. Bodø, Norway is amongst the three finalists. If Bodø should win, it will be the first time ever that an Arctic city is awarded this title, which will mean life, activity and a confidence boost for a people historically known for being left to the back seats.
Wants to build bridges

In this week’s long-read story, you can read that Bodø’s key competitive advantage in the competition with Banja Luka and Mostar in Bosnia is its attempt to be the anti-protectionist alternative; to open doors to Europe and build bridges between people.

In a time when more and more countries build walls to defend themselves. In a time where many are rather self-centered. In a time where protectionism, isolationism and nationalism are on the rise again.

Bodø’s application thus sharply contrasts the politics led by some of the parties of the Norwegian government.

In the lead-up to the recent local elections in Norway, deputy leader of the Progress Party Sylvi Listhaug published a (photoshopped) image on her Facebook profile of boat refugees sailing in the sunset on quiet waters in the Mediterranean with the words “Norway should not accept boat migrants. Agree?”


From the Norwegian Politician Sylvi Listhaug's Facebook-profile. The post says "Norway will not accept boat migrants. Agree?" 

Her stunt evoked strong reactions, included inside the government. This week, deputy leader of the Liberal Party, Abid Raja, has settled a series of scores with politics and persons from his own government.

“Stripped of commentators’ insisting on discussing motives rather than contents, Abid Raja remains as a worried defender of values about to slip out of the government’s hand. Not out of the hand of Erna Solberg as a Conservatives politician, but for the Solberg government as a whole – a government that uses the relationship to immigration, to refugees and to asylum seekers as a tool at every crossroad to build up polarization and labelling of people who for various reasons and with different motives knock on Norway’s door,” writes Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm in this week’s Friday op-ed.

Environmental pollution is big business

Last week, HNN wrote about how the use of chemicals will double by 2030 and of how the Arctic has become a storage for global chemical pollution.

This week, we looked at the mid-year accounts of the NorNickel corporation, which owns a series of very polluting factories on the Kola peninsula and in northern Siberia, emitting heavy metals and Sulphur dioxide destroying nature, environment, fauna and flora in the northern border areas.
Destroying nature has proven to be big business. The accounts show that a whopping € 210 million were paid out to the company’s owners – during only the first six months of 2019.

Mayor of the nearby Norwegian municipality of Sør-Varanger, Rune Rafaelsen, says the oligarchs’ behavior is unforgiveable. He argues that both Vladimir Potanin and Oleg Deripaska, company majority owners and two of Russia’s richest men, should be prosecuted.

- What they are doing is completely unforgiveable, Rafaelsen says to High North News.

Summit in Kirkenes

We do not yet know whether environmental emissions will be on the agenda when Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov meet in Kirkenes, Norway in October.

A series of serious issues are on the table, and the elephant in the room will be 63-year old Frode Berg, who has been imprisoned in Moscow for 21 months. In April, Berg was convicted to 14 years in prison for espionage. Back home in Kirkenes, the entire local community is waiting for Frode’s return.

However, it will also be important to exchange polite phrases about what actually works in the relationship between Norway and Russia, says senior researcher Jørn Holm-Hansen at the City and Regional Research Institute (NIBR) at Oslomet university.

Last time Lavrov visited Kirkenes, it was only a short period after Russia had annexed the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula. Five years is not a long time in international politics, and the situation between Russia and the West is still difficult.

Svalbard reindeer stuck in plastic

The picture of a Svalbard reindeer stuck in plastic waste has gone viral. Last Saturday, the Svalbard Governor’s office received notification from a boat that had seen two reindeer bucks entangled in plastic and stuck. The Governor’s people went out, only to find two reindeer stuck on the waterfront. One of them lay dead in the water. The other could not move. A third animal had managed to get loose.

The problem with reindeer getting stuck in waste stranded on the shores is particularly high at this time of year. The Governor’s office is particularly worried about wrapping ribbons, strong plastic ribbons used on prawn trawler factories. This only ends up in the sea when someone physically throws it overboard.

The gloves are off in Canada

We cannot escape elections this week either. The Canadian elections are coming up and the gloves of the various campaigns are definitely off. Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is already struggling with his image after having tried to exert political pressure on then-State Attorney Jody Wilson-Raybould, now has to respond to why he dressed out as Aladdin using a ‘brownface’ costume 18 years ago. This may have consequences for the man who has made fighting discrimination and racism his most important political cause.

In the USA, the race to become the next Democratic presidential candidate is also well underway. For the first time in American political history, climate changes are at the top of the political agenda.

However, despite renewed attention to the climate issue, there is an area that appears to be forgotten by the Democrats.

While Barack Obama became historic through being the first President in office to visit Alaska in 2015, it may appear as if the 49th state is ‘forgotten’ by the Democratic presidential candidates.

They have been quick to address threats of climate changes to ‘the lower 48’, however, they have neither recognized nor addressed the pressing needs of Alaska and the Arctic. The words “Alaska” and “Arctic” have only been mentioned in the passing, rather than becoming the important issues they deserve to be, argues Dr. Jeremi Suri, historian and author.

The biggest polar expedition through all history

On Friday, the German vessel “Polarstern” leaves Tromsø, Norway heading for northern Arctic waters, where the vessel is to freeze into the ice with its crew of 38 along with 63 researchers from various countries. The goal of the expedition is to further our understanding of global warming and to investigate the Arctic as the epicenter of this warming. Hundreds of scientists participate in the MOSAiC research project, which is to follow the route from Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen’s famous expedition in the late 1800s.

High North News visited the icebreaker prior to its setting sails on its historic journey. More about this next week.

All the best for the weekend!
Siri Gulliksen Tømmerbakke
News Editor, High North News