Nikel, Zapolyarny, Pechenga, Kirkenes, February 2008

One of the most remarkable proposals for joint Norwegian-Russian co-operation in the Barents region is a transnational industrial and economic zone, known as the Pomor zone. The Pomor zone was suggested in a report ordered by the Norwegian foreign minister in 2006. Within the zone that stretches from the Norwegian Jarfjorden across the border to the Pechenga fiord, land-based infrastructure for oil and gas development in the Barents Sea could be established. A new highway would link the Russian and Norwegian areas in the zone together. The concept, if realized, would be an unprecedented territorial creation, a total transformation of the border.

The Norwegian suggestion was followed up by the Russians initiative for a twin city agreement between Kirkenes and Nikel in 2008. This was seen as a first step in a Pomor zone development. The twin city agreement involves co-operation on city-level in various areas, such as education, health and business.

Says Sverre Jervell, a senior advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Norway, “The Pomor Zone is the second generation of the Barents co-operation, a physical realisation of the international ties.” The Pomor zone vision has been established on many levels, Moscow, Oslo and locally. Sceptics have called the plans naive, claiming the Russian military never will let go of the Pechenga fiord. But influential people also in Russia have advocated the plans.

The Russian border towns of Pechenga, Nikel, Zapolyarny and the Norwegian border town of Kirkenes form the urban basis for a future transnational development. These border towns are located within an area with a diameter of 50 km. Combined they have a population equivalent to the city of Tromsø

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