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Experiences from Cooperation in the European Arctic Skriv ut E-post
søndag 17. april 2011 10:56

“The European Union will have clear benefits of participating and engaging in the development of the Barents region.” This was stated by Mrs. Pia Svendsgaard, Chair of the Barents Regional Council, in a seminar in the European Parliament this week arranged by the North Norway European Office together with the EU-Arctic Forum and the Barents Regional Council.

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Continued investment in the high north crucial for Europe Skriv ut E-post
fredag 04. februar 2011 11:24

On the 2nd of February political representatives from the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas in Finland, Sweden and Norway met with the European Commission to highlight the importance of continued investment in the regions.

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Norwegian explorer highlights ice-free Arctic Skriv ut E-post
mandag 27. september 2010 16:59

For the first time in history a sailing vessel has completed both the Northwest and the Northeast Arctic passages in one season, using less than 3 months. The Norwegian explorer Børge Ousland stated that the purpose of the voyage was to highlight how climate changes have reduced the amount of ice in the Arctic.  




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Multi Level Governance in the Arctic Skriv ut E-post
torsdag 24. juni 2010 17:19
On Thursday June 24th North Norway European Office arranged its fourth workshop on Arctic issues: Multi Level Governance in the Arctic.
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News Skriv ut E-post
torsdag 08. mars 2007 12:10


Response from North Norway to the EU on Maritime Green Paper

 The County Governments of Nordland and Troms have transmitted their views from North Norway on the Green Paper on an EU Maritime Policy.  The County Governments of Nordland and Troms have already submitted their views on the EU Maritime Policy to the national level in Norway. We fully agree with and support the national document from Norway, which was sent to the Commission before Easter. This additional response is to emphasise that there are some very important aspects of an EU Maritime Policy concerning issues along the coast of northern Norway that need special attention.

  • The illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is our greatest concern. The IUU fishing affects all European coastal regions depending their livelihood on fishing. The forthcoming action plan should find measures to combat IUU fishing.
  • We support the principle of subsidiarity. Regarding planning matters relevant to maritime policies, it is important to ensure that local and regional authorities are strengthened within the framework of a new maritime policy.
  • There should be a separate window for marine related research. We would like to draw special attention to the MAREANO research programme.
  • The safety of the transport corridors along our coastline is of vital importance due to the expected increase in both oil transport and container and general cargo.
  The active participation by the county governments during the consultation phase of the Green Paper is strongly supported by the county Parliaments in Troms and Nordland. Nordland has participated in the CPMR-project, “Europe of the Sea”, and both counties have put their views forward in the North Sea and Baltic Sea Commissions.



North Norwegian participation at the conference "European regional young ambassadors"

The European Youth Ambassador and County Council deputy chairman Ane-Marthe Aasen from Troms participated at the conference "European regional young ambassadors" in Brussels the 26th February this year. The main attraction was the meeting with the EU Commissioner Margot Wallström. The main message at the conference was that motivated young people should be heard in a European context. In addition to the conference Ane-Marthe Aasen met with us at the NorthNorway European Office and informed about the conference as well as other activities at home, while the office informed about our agenda for the spring.

"The European Youth Ambassador Scheme" is supported by the AER and its main task is to improve young peoples EU knowledge in their respective regions. A "European Youth Ambassador" achieves its title once a year while participating at a Youth Summer School organized by AER. Aasen was one out of two participants from Troms County Council at the AER Youth Summer School 2006. The next Youth Summer School will take place in Devon from 26. August to 1. September 2007.

You can find more information about AER Youth Summer School here
Read more about AER here


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torsdag 23. oktober 2014 01:35

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  • LISTEN: Who really burned Kirkenes down?

    Kirkenes, Norway, is strangely uniform for a 150-year-old town. The architecture of the buildings downtown and the houses of its 3500 inhabitants suggest that the whole town was built at once – which, of course, it was, following its complete destruction in the Second World War.

    Opinions differ on how the town was destroyed, though, so we decided to investigate. Listen below to our journey to learn what really happened in Kirkenes as the war drew to a close.


  • Finnmark's 'children of shame'

    Thousands of people in Norway have lived with a secret for almost 70 years. German war children in the High North are an important voice in remembering the liberation of Finnmark and a poignant lesson in history about misdirected anger and the damage it can cause.

    Helmut Olsen has thirteen siblings. But he’s never met half of them.

    Helmut, the oldest of the bunch, was born in the spring of 1945 in a town just outside of Pasvik, Norway. His parents met around the wartime hospital where his 20-year-old mother worked as a cleaner.

    His father was a driver in the SS army, which had been occupying Norway for over four years. “He had a lot of free time, which is what you need for making babies,” Helmut says with a wry smile.

    Helmut is one of the estimated 10 000 to 12 000 children in Norway who have German – though more specifically, Nazi – fathers. The Nazi regime deemed Norwegians racially pure enough for soldiers to father children with. There are supposedly 200 ‘war children’ in Sør-Varanger alone, though Helmut believes the actual number to be far higher.

    “I counted for myself how many people I know that have German fathers and I came to some 25 to 26 people,” says Helmut. But with history moving further away from WWII and with many still unwilling to speak about their pasts, the people who can tell the stories of Norway’s ‘children of shame’ are dying out.

    “Nazi” is a forever-tainted moniker and it doesn’t come as a surprise that hundreds, maybe thousands, of Norwegians have hidden their true heritage – some for over 70 years.

    “Today when you hear ‘SS’ you think about the concentration camps and the horrific stories from the eastern front and everything,” says Rune Rautio, senior advisor for Akvaplan Niva and WWII historian. But he says the word didn’t have that connotation in Norway during the war. “At that time nobody had any kind of idea about that and the ‘SS’ troops.”

    Helmut, for one, understands why the children or their mothers or their families buried the truth. Some, he said, made a pact not to ever talk about the oldest child having a German father.

    “The idea of the Germans was that [Norwegians] should be included in the Third Reich because we were the same Nordic race,” says Rautio.

    German soldiers stationed in Norway were encouraged to fraternize with the local women who were often more curious than wary of the occupiers.

    “You’re sitting here in the middle of nowhere and suddenly you have nice looking guys – 18, 19, 20 years old – coming all the way from Germany,” says Rautio. “It was a confusing period.”

    In addition to the influx of soldiers it was also made clear by the Nazis that any woman who carried a German-fathered child would be compensated well. Better food, shelter in special maternity homes and generous financial support was offered to the mothers of the “Lebensborn” children.

    At the height of the war these children were given preferential treatment and regarded as the symbols of the new Aryan race. When the war ended, so too did their revered status.

    Many German-fathered children were taunted relentlessly and became one of the most discriminated-against groups in Norway. A half-German child brought “shame on the family name,” says Helmut. Many of the women who had coupled with a German soldier were ostracized from their communities, had their hair publicly shorn to humiliate them and mark them as traitors or were followed by whispers of “tyskerhore” - German whore.

    The 'Mother's Monument' is a statue that pays tribute to the contributions and suffering of mothers during the war. It was erected in 1994 during the 50th anniversary of the liberation.
    The ‘Mother’s Monument’ is a statue that pays tribute to the contributions and suffering of mothers during the war. It was erected in 1994 during the 50th anniversary of the liberation. (Photo: James Thomson)

    Helmut and his mother were lucky to escape much of the community’s wrath.

    “Svanvik was a small place [and] there were not so many people living there. The nearest neighbors knew what was going on, but people did not talk about it,” says Helmut of his mother’s affair and subsequent pregnancy. “There were some who did not like it, but the neighbors took care of each other. But of course it varied. Down here, in Kirkenes, people [were] more alert, paying more attention to what other people were doing.”

    As far as Helmut knows his mother, Haldis, escaped much of the anti-Nazi fury that swept through Norway after liberation, insulted in the small community where she raised her son.

    As life would turn out Haldis married a Norwegian man and had six more children. And upon his return to Germany Helmut Sr married as well and also had a brood of six.

    Helmut Sr also knew of the son he had fathered in Norway. “When my mother lived, she would help me write letters,” says Helmut. “She knew German well.” But Helmut would never get to meet his father.

    When he was 13 his aunt got a message that his father had died in an accident and suddenly Helmut’s primary German link was gone.

    “I have never met anyone from my family in Germany,” Helmut says. “It never came to that. It is a shame to say that today, but…I talk to my brother on the phone sometimes and we send each other Christmas cards.”

    Some of Norway’s wartime mothers tried to start fresh in Germany away from the local disapproval. Many returned in disgrace a few years later to a less-than-welcoming community with a German-speaking child in tow. These women and children had it the worst.

    “Especially the kids who came back from Germany had a hard time,” recalls Helmut. “Some of them had kept their father’s family name, which made it even more difficult for them. Bullying started in school; in many cases the teachers were the ones bullying.”

    Human rights tribunals and various lawsuits have shed some light on the plight of the German-Norwegian children. Some have told stories alleging mental and physical abuse: years in orphanages or locked in mental institutions and of being used as live subjects for medical tests – all sanctioned, they claim, by the Norwegian government.

    Many of the children developed substance abuse problems, according to their lawyers, and some committed suicide.

    Some settlements have been made over the years and a formal apology was secured in 2000. But for the most part the truth of the German-Norwegian children continues to be hidden and many still prefer to look away than acknowledge what was done.

    “We still need to be reminded about what happened then,” says Helmut.

    “If you try to push history aside, you risk that it will come right back at you and hit you in the head. We forget too much of history. Experiences come from history, and we have to try to learn something.”


    Special thanks to Trude Pettersen for translations.


  • Scorching and liberation of Finnmark, a short introduction

    The autumn of 1944 large parts of Finnmark and northern Troms were burnt and destroyed by Nazi German forces retreating from onrushing Soviet troops. The civilian population was forced to evacuate or hide.

    German stronghold and allied bombing
    The Eastern parts of Finnmark played a vital role as the staging area for Nazi Germany’s front line to Russia and had more Wehrmacht soldiers than any other county in Norway.  Kirkenes was the main base for supplies to the Murmansk front.

    German troops parading in Storgata in Kirkenes 1942. (Photo: Sør-Varanger Museum)

    The towns of Vardø, Vadsø and Kirkenes and several other villages suffered heavy bombing from allied forces during the occupation. Especially Kirkenes, with its important harbor, airport and German troops and units, was a natural target. Reportedly, Kirkenes is second after Malta on a list of European places experiencing air-raid alarms and attacks, with more than 1,000 alarms and 320 air attacks. The worst attack of all took place on July 4th 1944, when 140 houses were left in flames following a comprehensive Soviet assault. 

    During the heaviest bombings people had been hiding in bomb shelters in Kirkenes and in the mining shafts of Sydvaranger mining company in Bjørnevatn. In mid-October large masses of people started moving into the shafts. More than 3500 people were living in the tunnels when the first Red Army soldiers arrived.

    Liberation of Kirkenes
    The Petsamo-Kirkenes offensive started October 7th 1944, when Soviet forces started a counter-offensive against the German strongpoint line just 70 kilometers northwest of Murmansk. The German forces were driven back from Petsamo (Pechenga today) into Norway, and the first Red Army troops crossed the border to Norway on October 18th. On October 25th 1944, Kirkenes became the first town in Norway to be liberated from German occupation, more than six months before the end of the war in Europe. 

    Soviet troops in Musta-Tunturi during the approach to Kirkenes. (Photo:

    The Soviet forces continued driving the German troops westwards to Tana. The Red Army stopped their advance in the settlement of Rustefjelbma on November 8th, after order from Moscow.

    Forced evacuation of local population
    On October 28th Adolf Hitler ordered that the local population in Finnmark and the northern parts of Troms county should be evacuated southwards.

    50,000 people from Finnmark and North-Troms were sent away on boats, buses and trucks. 25,000 people denied to follow the order to evacuate and spent the autumn of 1944 hiding in huts and caves in the hills.

    It is uncertain how many people lost their lives during the forced evacuation. The official number after the war was 33, but some historians believe the number is ten times higher. Only on the transport vessel “Karl Arp”, which transported more than 1800 people from Porsanger in Finnmark to Narvik in Nordland, more than 20 people died of exhaustion and diseases.

    People in Kirkenes suffered hard during the 1000 air-raid alarms and 320 air attacks. (Photo: Sør-Varanger Museum)

    Scorched earth
    At the same time as the local population was forced to evacuate, Hitler ordered that the troops should effectuate a scorched earth tactics. In the period October 1944 to May 1945 the troops ruined practically everything that the onrushing Red Army could make use of, from Eastern Finnmark to Lyngen in Troms. 11,000 private homes, 4700 farm buildings, 106 schools, 230 buildings for industry and trade, 420 shops, 27 churches, 350 bridges and most other infrastructure were burnt or demolished. 

    The last Soviet troops left Norway in September 1945. (Photo: Sør-Varanger Museum)

    Soviet troops leave Norway
    The Norwegian exile Government in London sent some 300 troops from London via Murmansk to Kirkenes a few weeks after the Soviet liberation. They gathered volunteers and by the time of the German capitulation there were nearly 3000 Norwegian soldiers in Finnmark.

    The last Red Army troops left Finnmark on September 25th 1945. 

  • People in Västerbotten has Sweden’s best mental health

    This is based on a mental health index compiled by the organization Mind, using statistics from the Swedish Public Health Agency and Statistics Sweden.

    Among the factors included are the numbers of suicides per 100,000 inhabitants, as well as personal health evaluations.

    The organization’s Secretary General, Carol von Essen, tells Swedish Radio News that the better showing in Västerbotten may be because the local health authorities there offer frequent medical examinations, and because of the area’s strong tradition of membership in clubs and other organizations.

    But the study also reveals a strong link between mental health and unemployment. Solveig Landquist of the adult psychiatry unit in Västmanland county says there is connection between the area’s high incidence of suicide last year and the perceived risk of lay-offs, unemployment, or loss of unemployment benefits.

    This story is posted on BarentsObserver as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.