It has become an annual tradition for the Nordic Council to invite Russian politicians to visit. The intention is to maintain dialogue between parliamentarians from the Nordic countries and Russia.
The meeting was hosted by Danish chair of the Presidium of the Nordic Council Bertel Haarder, and Swedish member of the Nordic Council Arman Teimouri. They both stressed the importance of dialogue as a way to strengthen relations.
“It’s important for us to maintain regular contact with the Russian Federation Council, the State Duma, and the regional parliaments of Northwest Russia. We all want a constructive and stable relationship with Russia,” said Bertel Haarder in a speech.
Haarder cited the importance of co-operation on the climate and environmental issues, especially in the Baltic Sea area. In addition, he raised the situation in Chechnya and pointed out that the Nordic Council is concerned about developments there.
“We are getting reports that innocent people are being imprisoned, persecuted, and subjected to torture. Although I am aware that the Nordic Region and Russia do not share the same views on the rights of homosexuals, I still believe that we all agree that no citizen should be subjected to torture, murder, and persecution,” Haarder said.
The status of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ offices
Haarder also asked his Russian colleagues to help bring about a change to the status of the offices of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Northwest Russia. Since 2015, the offices in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad have been classified as “foreign agents” by the Russian authorities, which has meant that the offices have been unable to participate in the implementation of projects or to play an active role in other ways.
“The current status is not justified in light of the fact that they are units which represent the intergovernmental co-operation between the five Nordic countries. I truly hope that you can bring about a change to this unacceptable status.”
Interest in continued co-operation
In his speech, Norwegian member of the Nordic Council and President of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference (BSPC) Jorodd Asphjell cited the good co-operation between the Nordic Region and Russia within the framework of the BSPC and the Arctic. Asphjell, a Norwegian parliamentarian, mentioned that this year Norway will mark the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of East Finnmark, and expressed thanks for the important role that Soviet forces played in this.
Russian parliamentarians also met the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers Paula Lehtomäki and discussed the co-operation projects that are currently underway between Nordic and Northwest Russian partners. Russian parliamentarians expressed their interest in continued co-operation.
The visit took place from 20 to 22 May. Some 15 Russian politicians and officials attended.