Norway restores contacts with Russia at the political level

In April there will be a meeting of the Russian Minister of natural resources and ecology Sergey Donskoy and Minister of trade and industry Monica Mland. The meeting of the Government Commission on economic cooperation will be held for the first time in 2013. After the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, Norway has introduced sanctions that affect political cooperation.

In March the Minister of foreign Affairs børge Brende will go to Arkhangelsk to take part in the conference on the Arctic.

Facts: the Norwegian sanctions against Russia

Due to the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, Norway joined the EU sanctions against Russia:

A number of persons that contributed to the violation of international law, denied entry, their financial assets frozen, for them restrictions in movement.

The ban on the import of goods from Crimea and Sevastopol, a ban on the provision of loans or other credits for the development of infrastructure in transport, telecommunications and energy sectors, a ban on the provision of loans or other credits for use in oil, gas or mineral resources, as well as the prohibition of sale or export of key equipment and technology for these sectors in Crimea or Sevastopol.

The ban of the import and export of weapons and equipment (list 1) from Russia and to Russia and ban the export of dual-use items and technology (list 2), with the ultimate goal of military use in Russia.

The prohibition of trading in securities and money market instruments with validity more than 90 days issued by five listed Russian financial institutions.

The export of certain categories of goods for Russia’s oil industry requires special permission from the Norwegian authorities. If the supply is to be used for deep sea prospecting and production of oil prospecting and oil production in the Arctic or projects in Russia related to shale oil, the export is prohibited. The ban applies only to new contacts. For financing and services associated with these product categories, also introduced the requirement of obtaining a permit in advance.

The new line

From the Russian side and visit in April, and the upcoming trip Borge Brende at the conference on the Arctic in Arkhangelsk is seen as a positive sign.

When it became known that in March the Brand will take off in Russia, it was described by TASS, Interfax, and all the other major Russian media as welcome news. The Russian side perceives this as a new line on the Norwegian side.

“After the events in Ukraine in 2014 and until today, the government of Norway has suspended all political contact at the highest level with Russia,” recalls TASS.

“Norwegian foreign Minister will arrive in Russia for the first time in three years,” reported Interfax.

The opposition in Parliament like the new policy of the government.

Glad to easing the situation

“I have the impression that we are witnessing the slow progress in the improvement of political relations between Norway and Russia. I believe this is a positive thing, because I believe that we should be more active and closer dialogue with Russia even after the crisis in Ukraine”, — said the representative of the Socialist left party (SV) Bård Vegard sulell (Bård Vegar Solhjell) in an interview with Aftenposten.

As for sanctions, in his opinion, this is not to say that they are canceled.

The leader of the Committee of the Storting on foreign Affairs, the representative of the Labour party (A) Ms. Huitfeldt (Anikken Huitfeldt) says:

“I’ve always been a supporter of honest dialogue with Russia. We need to talk about the violation of international law, but all will benefit if we keep the North as a region with a low level of tension”.

“Are we witnessing a change of course from Norway, should say is the government itself. I note that now many countries are stepping up political contacts with Russia, although the policy of sanctions is maintained at 100%. Norway and Russia — neighbors. We need a political dialogue, even in difficult times,” she says.

The Ministry of foreign Affairs: important arena

“For Norway it is important to defend their own interests in practical cooperation with Russia, and to adhere to international law and to protect important principles of international communication”, — says the press-Secretary Frode O. Andersen in the email about these two events.

— Does this mean the easing of sanctions?

“We from the Norwegian side it was always clear that the economic activity that is not affected by measures of a restrictive nature, legal and can continue. The same applies to the cooperation of Norway with Russia in several important areas, particularly in the North”.

Russia does not want to look isolated

Is important for the Kremlin to show that Russia is not in isolation.

However, it is emphasized that there is no reason to expect any imminent easing in sanctions and kontrsanktsy.

“We need to attune ourselves that sanctions will last long,” — said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in an interview with Russian journalists last week.

Sources from the Norwegian side, knowing the situation, make it clear that the Norwegian authorities are looking for a way to improve relations with Russia, without engaging in direct conflict with the sanctions regime.

“The impression that the parties are looking for a way to live with the sanctions,” — said a source in business circles familiar with the situation.

The Norwegian side also drew attention to the fact that Russia holds an ambivalent position: it is, according to the security police and the intelligence Services are simultaneously increasing in Norway, intelligence and advocacy.

On 17 February, the Russian Ambassador in Oslo has criticized Norwegian foreign policy and described the relations with Norway as very bad.

Earlier this winter, Russia dismissed the two members of the Storting — Trine Skei Grande (Trine Skei Grande) from the Left party (V) and Bordo Vegar Solely (Bård Vegar Solhjell) from the Socialist left party (SV) entry visas, although they were invited to meet with Russian politicians.

Start planning

This week the Ministry of trade and industry appealed to a number of Norwegian organizations, such as ministries, commercial and industrial organizations and research centres, asking them to make suggestions about what should be discussed at a meeting between Ministers Sergei Donskoy and Monica Meland in April. A meeting to discuss the Norwegian proposals, will be held at the Ministry of trade and industry on March 8, according to the invitation, which became known Aftenposten.

The Norwegian economy is showing restraint

Officially the main representatives of the Norwegian economy is very cautious when it comes to sanctions against Russia.

Kværner provides advanced technological solutions for the oil industry, particularly deepwater drilling, which is affected by the sanctions.

The chief of Department of the information of this company Mr. thorbjørn Andersen (Torbjørn Andersen) stated that there are projects that are of interest to Kværner. But about prospects in the near future to say something difficult.

Statoil is actively involved in Russia in activities related to the oil. The sources which spoke to Aftenposten, said that the lack of contacts at the political level hinders the further development of the company’s activities.

Officially, the company is behaving cautiously.

The head of information, Statoil Erik Holland (Erik Haaland) told Aftenposten that while specific proposals to the Ministry of trade and industry not included.

— Do you perceive what is happening as the easing of sanctions?

“The case of the authorities. We adhere to the regime of sanctions and act within it,” said Holland.

Losses in the North?

But behind the scenes among those Norwegian companies who have interests in Russia, there is unrest. The note for official use of the Consulate General in Murmansk, dated January 6, presents the results of a survey among Norwegian companies in Russia over Team Norway, which aims to help Norwegian companies on the Russian market.

The note reads: “some respondents reported that they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the work of Team Norway. In the comments some stated that Norwegian policy towards Russia contributed to the creation of unsatisfactory conditions for Norwegian businesses, and that the continued existence of Team Norway for this reason does not make sense”.