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16.02.2011
Barents Observer

Thorvald Stoltenberg: «Ja — Pomor»

Award ceremony for Honorary Doctor Thorvald Stoltenberg

ARKHANGELSK: Thorvald Stoltenberg, the founding-father of the Barents Cooperation, was yesterday appointed Honorary Doctor of the Arctic University in Arkhangelsk.

«Ja — Pomor» (I am Pomor), said Thorvald Stoltenberg on the ceremony of handling the mantle of the Honorary Doctor.

The award ceremony took place at a solemn meeting of the university’s Scientific Council.

In his speech, Stoltenberg said he was honoured to become the first Honorary Doctor at the University in Arkhangelsk, a town with long historical bonds to Norway.

The Pomor trade was a genuine example of people-to people relations across the border, he stated, and said that his idea to establish the Barents cooperation in 1992 was a result of his wish to re-establish those relations.

— As Minister of Defense during the cold war I had experienced distrust and lack of contact across the border. This was actually one of the most closed borders at that time. As Foreign Minister in 1992 I saw the possibilities of making this into a border of cooperation — to make a barrier into a bridge, to go from confrontation to cooperation, Stoltenberg said.

Thorvald Stoltenberg served as Minister of Defense (1979–81) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1987–1989 and 1990–1993) in two Labour governments.

Stoltenberg believes the key to the Barents cooperation’s success lies in its foundation to the regional level. This has given dynamics to the cooperation and opened for relations on a people-to-people level. The Barents cooperation today is characterized by a strong popular engagement, he underlined.

Stoltenberg announced that the Norwegian Government will give ten travel grants to students from the Arctic University in course of the two years Norway holds chairmanship in the Barents Council. This surprise was very well accepted by the President of the university Elena Kudryashova, who could announce that the Russian Ministry of Education has decided to reserve ten student places at the Arctic University for students from Norway.

— We feel that we are approaching a new quality of cooperation in the university sector of the Barents Region, says Elena Kudryashova to BarentsOberver.

— This means that we will have much more possibilities for students mobility, teachers exchange, joint research activity especially in the issues connected to the Arctic development, says Kudryashova.

Stoltenberg is the first person to be appointed Honorary Doctor at the Northern (Arctic) Federal University of Arkhangelsk, which was established in 2010 when the two biggest state universities in Arkhangelsk — The Technical University and the Pomor University were merged into one structure with a high level of autonomy and lavish federal financing.

During his visit to Arkhangelsk Thorvald Stoltenberg was followed by a big delegation of representatives of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, the General Consulate of Norway, Troms county Council, the University of Tromso and Vardo commune which is a sister city of Arkhangelsk. The delegation had a warm meeting with the Governor of Arkhangelsk oblast Ilia Mikhalchuk and also a number of meetings with the Pomors Association, cultural institutions and business companies.

Combined report: Andrey Shalyov and Trude Pettersen

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