• Ministers and officials talk up cross-border business and cooperation, but figures show that Norwegian-Russian trade goes down.
    By Thomas Nilsen,

    For the second year in a row, turnover of goods between Russia and Norway shrinks. Last year, down 462 million Norwegian kroner (€55 million).

    The turnover of trade between the two neighbors was last year 17,68 billion NOK (€2,11 billion), down from 18,79 billion (€225 billion) in 2012, reads that latest figures fromStatistic Norway. Norway’s export to Russia had a value of 9 billion NOK (€1,08 billion), while Russia’s export to Norway had a value of 8,61 billion NOK (€1,02 billion).

    Boosting business ties have for more than two decades been included in some of the first paragraphs in most manuscripts the two countries’ ministers have presented during bilateral talks and in multilateral fora like the Barents cooperation.

    On Monday, Foreign Minister Børge Brende met with his colleague Sergey Lavrov in...

  • Regional budget with a surplus of one billion rubles so far this year makes the tiny populated northeastern corner of the Barents Region one of the wealthiest in entire Russia.
    By Thomas Nilsen,

    Nenets Autonomous Okrug has posted impressive economic statistics for years. Already five years ago,BarentsObserver could tell that officials in the region were ranked as the ones with highest salaries among all officials in Russia.

    Today, the same officials in the local administration can smile all the way to the bank. The regional balance account for the first nine months 2012 shows a surplus of a billion rubles (€24,5 million), the regional administration announced this week.

    If divided on the tiny population of 42,000 people in the Okrug, each can cash in nearly 24,000 rubles (€600) – nearly the average salary for an employee in the state administration in Murmansk region. 

    Andrey Vokuev is heading the Norwegian Barents Secretariat’s office in Naryan-Mar. He has followed the economic boom in the region for years...

  • NiinaKörkkö welcomes tourists from around the world for a ride in Rudolph’s sleigh. Winter tourism in Lapland could soon have a turnover of €1,5 billion.
    By Thomas Nilsen,

    “That will be €100,” says booking clerk NiinaKörkkö to the couple from Russia that together with their two children want the 1000 meter reindeer sleigh ride. The man cashes out the €100 without blinking. Santa Claus and Rudolf is big business in Lapland.

    Some 500,000 overnights will visit Rovaniemi this year. Santa Claus’ home cavern is just north of the city, strategically placed on the Arctic Circle. A glossy Santa Park is nearest neighbor.  

    “The season started earlier this year,” tells Niina. She notes that more tourists are lining up for a ride with Rudolph this winter. “Especially from Italy, Japan, England and even from Australia. Some Russians also, but the majority of Russians will come in early January when they celebrate Christmas”

    CEO TimoRautajoki in Lapland Chamber of Commerce believes tourism will grow...

  • Production in northern Norwegian waters saw a significant decline in 2013. Still, energy companies like never before rush into the area.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Figures assembled by BarentsObserver show that both oil and gas production in northern Norwegian fields dropped significantly in the course of 2013. The Snøhvit field, so far the only operating project in the Barents Sea, produced a total of 3,76 million sm3 of gas, a decline of 24 percent compared with 2012. Likewise, practically all of the fields located in the Norwegian Sea off the coast of the Nordland County had falling production figures.

    In total, the north Norwegian oil production in 2013 dropped 16 percent to a total of 5,13 million SM3, while the regional gas production fell 16 percent to 6,06 million SM3, figures from the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate show. The figures include production at the fields of Snøhvit, Heidrun, Morvin, Norne, Urd and Yttergryta.

    The trend is in line with figures from the rest of the...

  • 01/16/2014
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Regions with powerful universities and research centers are the only population growth areas in the Barents Region, data from the last 20 years show. On top of the list are the regions of Oulu, Västerbotten and Tromsø.

    It is only the regions with powerful academic environments and technology-driven economies, which manage to boost their populations. Data assembled by BarentsObserver show that the Finnish region of Northern Ostrobotnia is the winner in regional demographic development with a population growth of 14,2 percent in the period 1990-2012. The region is followed by the Norwegian County of Troms, which in the same period grew by 8,2 percent and the Swedish region of Västerbotten (3,3%).

    All the three regions have successful universities and quickly developing technology industries. The city of Oulu, the...

  • Ports in northern Norway are increasingly putting on weight.For the first time, ports in northern Norway in 2012 handled more goods that ports in Barents Russia.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    For decades, Murmansk was the by far biggest port hub in the Arctic, serving a powerful fishery industry and the major mining and metallurgy enterprises of the Kola Peninsula. Today, the ports of Murmansk remain key Arctic infrastructure objects of major strategic importance to the regional economy. However, they are increasingly challenged by ports in neighboring Norway.

    Data obtained by BarentsObserver show that northern Norwegian ports in 2012 handled a total of 41,4 million tons, while Russian Arctic ports the same year had a turnover of 36,6 million. The Norwegian side includes ports in the three northernmost counties of Nordland, Troms and Finnmark, while the Russian side includes ports in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Oblasts, as well as the Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

    For the first time, it is now the county of...

  • Several years of weak industrial output are bringing down the economies of Russian Arctic regions. In 2013, all the federal subjects in the Russian Barents Region saw a significant decline in their respective key industries.
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    Despite the number of government measures taken to get the country back on track after the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the economy continues to falter. Figures from 2013 show that the Russian GDP grew only 1,4 percent in the course of the year. Industrial production was on the verge of going negative with a growth of only 0,3 percent, data from the Russian Statistical Service show.

    With the exeption of the crisis year 2009, the figures are among the worst in the country over the last 15 years.

    The situation in the regions is no more cheerful. Figures assembled by BarentsObserver show that all the five federal subjects in the Russian part of the Barents Region saw their industrial productions decline in 2013. In two of the regions, the industry even went negative, in the Republic of Karelia with as much as 8,7 percent. In...

  • 12/30/2013
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    While neighboring Norwegian and Russian regions put their faith in Arctic oil and gas, the northern Swedish region of Norrbotten is becoming on of Europe’s bigger producers of wind energy.

    When in full swing around year 2020, the Markbygden wind park will generate enough energy to cover up to eight percent of the total Swedish demands. The 450 square kilometer area outside Piteå in northern Sweden will be turned into a major regional center for power generation. A total of 1101 wind generators, some of them up to 200 meters high, will produce about 12 TWh. The companies Svevind and Enercom are investing up to 55 bilion SEK (€6,2 billion) in the project.

    The Markbygden project is unique in not only in the Arctic, but in all of Europe.

    Data collected by BarentsObserver show that wind energy up till...

  • 12/26/2013
    By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

    As energy companies step up extraction on the tundra, a number of local villages are getting paid in oil spills. Among the waterways badly hit is the Kolva River in the Timan-Pechora province.

    The Nenets Autonomous Okrug and the Komi Republic have over the last ten years seen a major growth in oil production. As data from the area show, production in the Nenets AO in few years more than tripled. While oil companies in the region in 2000 produced 4,5 million ton, they ten years later produced more than 18 million. In the neighboring Komi Republic, the production have increased steadily from 9 million tons in 2000 to 13,7 million in 2012. After 2010, production in the Nenets AO dropped significantly following Lukoil's failed production targets at ithe Yuzno-Khilchuyu field. But the figures are bound to bounce back soon.