Norway and Russia’s foreign ministers sign demarcation agreement in Murmansk

Photo: Anne Karin Saether/Bellona

Publish date: September 14, 2010

Written by: Anne Karin Sæther

Translated by: Charles Digges

Bellona is satisfied with the signing of the demarcation agreement between Norway and Russia that delineates the border between the two countries in Arctic waters and Bellona President Frederic Hauge said that Norway must use the momentum of the agreement to create a consensus on several major environmental problems the two countries must solve together.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and and his Norwegian counterpart, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, met today in Murmansk to sign the much discussed demarcation agreement.

With the new agreement, the ocean boundaries between Norwegian and Russian territory will be clearly defined. The new agreement will give both countries new and large ocean areas to dispose of.
“The signing of the demarcation agreement is encouraging because we now can create a stronger focus on other challenges and collaborative projects between Norway and Russia,” said Hauge.

Hauge singled out the critical need for nuclear waste remediation on Russia’s Northwest on the Kola Peninsula, and the serious pollution difficulties from the nickel plants in Nikel and Zapolyarny that are right on the Norwegian border. The demarcation agreement also represents an opportunity to focus on issues of democracy and human rights in Russia.

Oil Fears

In April, as it became known that the two countries had reached an agreement on the demarcation issue, the oil industry immediately stirred to life with a desire to prepare for the new areas each country will have at its disposal for oil exploration and drilling

It would be an opportunity squandered not to push for a positive impact on Russian environmental policy, said Hauge.  

“The new agreement should not be used as an opportunity to open new, vulnerable areas for oil exploration, but to lead Russia in the right direction in terms of environment and democracy,” he said.

Research required

Hauge said that the areas that will now officially fall under Norwegian sovereignty have not been sufficiently researched, and therefore Norway does not have enough knowledge about their environments.

“A thorough environmental survey of the waters must be our first priority now, “he said, referring to the Norwegian Oil and Energy Department, which, just hours after the agreement became known, immediately began to undertake efforts to map oil and gas reserves to be tapped, as reported by the website.

Hauge said that there are many examples of natural resources that may be hiding in the depths unless we learn about them.

He pointed out that there are many examples of natural resources that may be hiding in the depths of the oceans that have not yet been discovered. The Mareano research programme reported that it had found nine new species off the coast of northern Norway, as well as several previously unknown coral reefs.

Hauge emphasized that we already have enough knowledge of the far north to be sure that it is a vulnerable area with important natural values.

“Although the gaps in knowledge are large, we know for example that this is a very important area for cod and herring,” said Hauge.

“Norway gets with [the area] a heavy responsibility for the environment, and we must go ahead and demonstrate to Russia how important and sensitive nature should be managed” said Hauge.

Contacts for the press:

Anne Karin Sæther, Head of Bellona’s Information Department: +47 902 05 520,