Welcomes Participants to the Kirkenes Conference: “Perhaps More Important than Ever”

Leder for Kirkeneskonferansen, Guro Brandshaug på konferansen i 2018. (Foto: Jonas Karlsbakk)
Leader of the Kirkenes Conference Guro Brandshaug welomes participants to an in-person conference in February. Here pictured at the Kirkenes Conference in 2018. (Photo: Jonas Karlsbakk, the Barents Secretariat)

Not only will there be a Kirkenes Conference 2022, it will even be an in-person conference in Kirkenes on 23-24 February.

“Given everything we all have been through, the Kirkenes Conference 2022 will perhaps be more important than ever”, says Conference Leader Guro Brandshaug in a press release.

On the conference’s web site, the conference board says it has discussed time and again whether or not the conference, just like Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø, should be postponed, in particular with the insecurity surrounding the on-going pandemic.

“We finally agreed in the end. We aim for it being possible to arrange the conference more or less like normal. Given the signals from the government’s press conference on 13 January, we feel safe this was the right decision”, Brandshaug says.

Geopolitics key theme

The conference leader says the whole event will take place withing whichever framework the infection situation allows for.

“But there are many who now want to look forward to a conference again after two years of pandemic. It will be a good thing to look forward to, in what appears to be a way out from the pandemic”, Brandshaug says.

She adds that the pieces of the puzzle are about to find their respective places, and the key theme for this year’s conference will be the geopolitical Barents region and the value of open borders.

“A most current issue these days, after the borders have been almost shut since 12 March 2020”, she says.

We believe it will be eased up even more by 23 February.  
Kirkenes Conference Leader Guro Brandshaug

Ministers meeting

The Green Shift receives some space in the program, with future energy solutions and green industrial development related to this. Other events include the marking of the 10th anniversary of the so-called ‘grenseboerbevis’, a document proving that someone lives on the border, the awarding of the Stoltenberg Award, as well as the opening of the Barents Sepktakel arts festival.

The conference also invites a debate between the foreign ministers of Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden.

“To the Kirkenes Conference, with its location in the borderland between Russia, Norway and Finland, the international frame will always be a key element”, Brandshaug says.

Hopes for more easing up

Conference Leader Guro Brandshaug hopes for better control over the pandemic by 23 February. Current regulations allow for 200 participants. They hope this figure may increase over the coming month.

Brandshaug believes it will be possible to arrange a good conference before a full audience room in which all infection control measures are taken and adhered to.

“The authorities have now eased up restrictions in line with the assessment of a more manageable phase of the pandemic. We believe it will ease up even more before 23 February”, says Brandshaug who looks forward to good debates.

She believes it is important to reclaim the important meeting places represented by both the Kirkenes Conference as well as other conferences in the North.

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This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.