Developments in Russia are of key importance to the Nordic Region. Norway and Finland share borders with Russia, while the Baltic Sea and the Barents Sea bind the Nordic Region to its largest neighbour. The Nordic governments would like to further develop relations with Russia in order to create growth and stability in Northern Europe. This co-operation is designed to promote democracy in Russia, and to facilitate Russia's participation as an active partner in regional co-operation.
The Nordic Council of Ministers attaches great importance to close co-operation with Russia, especially with the regions in North-West Russia. The purpose of the co-operation is to promote democracy; to initiate open, pluralistic relationships across borders; and to develop conditions for economic co-operation and trade.
The Nordic Council of Ministers wishes to strengthen the Baltic Sea Region as a dynamic region in Europe through co-operation with North-West Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The priorities in the co-operation with North-West Russia are laid down in the guidelines for co-operation with North-West Russia. The guidelines identify focus areas and priorities for all councils of ministers, as well as for the Nordic Council of Ministers’ institutions.
The Nordic Council of Ministers co-operates with, among others, regional and local authorities, organisations and universities in North-West Russia. Nordic projects are implemented via the Council of Ministers’ local information offices.
The Council of Ministers has two offices in North-West Russia: one in St. Petersburg and one in Kaliningrad. It also has three infopoints in the Barents Region: in Archangel, Murmansk and Petrozavodsk.
The information offices and infopoints play an important role in implementing co-operation at all levels.
The Nordic flagship in North-West Russia is the Nordic Council of Ministers' knowledge and networking programme. It aims to increase knowledge and promote networking within public administration, education and research, economic development and civic society.
The programme focuses on deriving the maximum benefit from knowledge, experience and skills. It is designed to create a network of partner organisations in the Nordic Region and North-West Russia. It can also serve as a tool to initiate new collaborative activities that are designed to enhance sustainable and long-term partnerships between Nordic and North-West Russian authorities, organisations, universities and others.
The programme provides civil servants, researchers, politicians, journalists and NGOs with the opportunity to participate in and benefit from joint Nordic–Russian activities.
NGOs play a prominent role in Nordic co-operation with the Baltic countries and North-West Russia. The Nordic Council of Ministers has therefore launched a
It supports so-called tripartite co-operation with at least one partner from the Nordic Region, at least one partner from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or Poland, and at least one partner from Belarus or Russia.
The purpose is to support and develop NGOs in North-West Russia and Belarus, and therefore strengthen civil society.
The Nordic Council of Ministers' co-operation with North-West Russia is closely linked to the EU's policies for co-operation with Russia – especially the so-called “Four Common Spaces”: joint economic space; space for freedom, security and justice; external security; and research, education and culture. Another important framework for co-operation is the Northern Dimension, in which Russia has participated as a partner since 2006.
The Nordic Council of Ministers also attaches great importance to co-ordinating its efforts in North-West Russia with other regional organisations, including the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Barents Council, the Arctic Council, Helcom and the EU.
The Nordic Council maintains close contacts with parliamentary colleagues in Moscow and North-West Russia. The Nordic Council's co-operation with Russian parliamentarians has two main objectives.
The first concerns cohesion in Northern Europe. The division between the countries in the EU/EEA and those that are not also reflects a major difference in welfare and living standards. The Nordic Council works with Russian parliamentarians in order to overcome this division. The ultimate aim is to close “the welfare gap” and combat its destructive social consequences.
The second objective relates to the major challenges faced by Northern Europe: the situation in the Baltic Sea; climate and living conditions in the Arctic and Barents regions; international crime; human trafficking; infrastructure development; health, social welfare and infectious diseases; developing democracy; and NGO co-operation. An important task for the Nordic Council is to enhance parliamentary contact with Russia and launch policy initiatives in these areas.
The Nordic Council maintains contact with the Russian Federal Council, the State Duma, the North-West Russia Parliamentary Assembly and the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The Nordic Council holds regular meetings with Russian parliamentarians at international meetings and conferences. The Council also organises an annual week-long fellowship programme that is primarily intended for parliamentarians from North-West Russia.