Group of Indigenous Peoples in the Barents Region halts all activities

Lars-Anders Baer (to the right) joined the “family photo” after the Barents Summit

The Working Group of Indigenous Peoples in the Barents Region halts all activities due to lack of funding. The decision was taken one day after the Prime Ministers praised the Indigenous Peoples work at the Barents Summit.

Dmitri Medvedev, Jens Stoltenberg, Jyrki Katainen and Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, the Prime Ministers of Russia, Norway, Finland and Iceland, all underlined the importance of Indigenous Peoples participation in the Barents Cooperation in their official speeches at the Barents Summit on Tuesday. So did also Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal and the European Commission’s Vice President Siim Kallas.

Lars-Anders Baer, chair of the Working Groups of Indigenous Peoples (WGIP) was among the ministers at the podium.

“It’s a long way from the fine words of the Prime Ministers at the 20th anniversary of the Barents Cooperation, to the real world for us Indigenous Peoples,” says Lars-Anders Baer today after the ministers have taken off from Kirkenes with their private jets.

The Working Group has since 1995 had an advisory role for both the Barents Council and the Barents Regional Council.

Members of the WGIP represent the Sámi in Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden as well as the Nenets and Vepsian peoples in Russia.

It is the lack of economic support that now forces WGIP to suspend its activities. Russia does not grant any funding, and funding from Sweden and Finland are sporadic. Norway is the only providing economic support on a regular basis.

“Russia is with its zero-funding hindering its own Indigenous Peoples participation. One can say that Russia’s contribution to WGIP today is only fine words. Also Russia’s new law on NGOs that need to register as “foreign agents” create problems for the Indigenous Peoples cooperation, “says Baer.

During the Barents Summit, Lars-Anders Baer, was sitting on the stage discussing the further of the Barents Cooperation together with the Ministers. Afterwards he told BarentsObserver “We are on stage, but we’re the cheap ones.

“It’s not a question of big money,” he says, adding that annual funding of even NOK 400,000 (€52,000) would be sufficient for indigenous people to have adequate involvement in the Council’s activities and decisions. It’s peanuts in the governmental structure.”

On Wednesday, the Working Group made the decision to suspend activities. Lars-Anders Baer says that also Finland and Sweden mainly have contributed with nice words at conferances and festivities. (Barents Observer)


Iceland election: Ruling bloc facing defeat

Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir

Voters in Iceland are going to the polls in elections expected to oust the governing centre-left coalition. Analysts predict that two centre-right parties will be able to form a new cabinet, pledging to soften unpopular austerity policies.

This would mark a dramatic comeback for the centre-right, which was widely blamed for Iceland’s near-economic collapse in 2008. Their victory could also halt the island nation’s EU membership talks.

Polls opened at 09:00 GMT and are due to close at 22:00 GMT, with more than 230,000 voters eligible to cast their ballots. The conservative Independence Party and their traditional coalition partners the Progressives are expected to secure a majority in the 63-strong parliament.

The parties’ leaders, Bjarni Benediktsson and Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, are then predicted to compete in a race to succeed the Social Democrat Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, who is retiring from politics.

Opinion polls suggest the main governing Social Democratic Alliance will suffer a heavy defeat. Many Icelanders are frustrated with the current government, saying that its austerity policies are too painful. This is despite the fact that Iceland has seen steady growth in recent years amid falling unemployment rates.

“We are seeing a record swing in Iceland politics and actually the polls are showing that the two government parties will be losing half of their following from 2009,” Prof Olafur Hardarson of the University of Iceland told BBC News.

The centre-right camp is promising debt relief and a cut in taxes. The two parties are also seen as Eurosceptic, and their poll success could slow down Iceland’s efforts to become a member of the EU. The Eurosceptics argue that Iceland already gets most of the benefits of full membership through existing free trade arrangements with the EU and by being part the Schengen visa-free travel zone.

First election results are expected shortly after the polls close. (BBC)

*** Islanda vota per rinnovare il Parlamento ***

Islandesi al voto oggi per le elezioni legislative. Favorita, secondo i sondaggi, l’opposizione di centrodestra contraria all’adesione all’Ue. Ma al di la’ di quale scenario politico verra’ fuori dalle urne l’isola avra’ in ogni caso un nuovo primo ministro visto che il premier uscente, la socialdemocratica Johanna Sigurdardottir, 70 anni, ha annunciato di ritirarsi dalla vita politica. Il suo programma ha permesso all’Islanda di uscire dalla recessione ma non e’ piaciuto agli islandesi.