Finland and Norway plan to unfreeze trade and economic relations with Russia despite the sanctions imposed on it because of Crimea. Both countries are increasingly less willing to comply with the sanctions that are actually affecting their economic interests. Financial Times notes that these are signs of warming up of relations. Last week, Norwegian officials met with Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology, Sergei Donskoy. The two sides agreed on the exchange of seismic data for exploration of oil and gas deposits on the Arctic shelf along their common border. The Press Service of the Government of Norway reported that the two sides also discussed the possible resumption of the dialogue on trade and the economy.
“We are positive about resumption of political dialogue on trade and economic cooperation with Russia, which is already done by some countries in the EU”, the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Fisheries in Norway, Monica Meland, said. She added that Norway seeks “good neighborly relations with Russia, particularly in the north, where we have a common border and common interests”.
Also last week, for the first time since 2013, there was a meeting of the Finnish-Russian Trade Commission co-chaired by Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Kozak, and the Minister of Foreign Trade of Finland, Kai Myukkanen. Both Finnish and Norwegian ministers agreed to follow up on negotiations with Russia. Next week, the Prime Minister of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, will hold a meeting with his Finnish colleague, Juha Sipilya. Monica Meland is scheduled to visit Moscow in April.
Norway and Finland actually insist that the restoration of relations with Russia is not contrary to European sanctions introduced against the Russian Federation, particularly on energy issues.
“We have a common border with Russia of 1 300 km, which is why we have many common issues that we must work on. It is in our interest that the West preserves unity in terms of violations of international law. These two issues are not contradictory”, Myukkanen said.
Finland and Norway are trying to emphasize that during the meetings there have been no comments on the issue of sanctions but many experts do not believe this. They believe that the small gesture on the part of some Western countries signals a change of attitude towards Russia. For example, Indra Overland of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs said that this is clearly a sign of devaluing the meaning of the sanctions. “It is a hard-enough-and-a-broad-scale start. It does not directly affect the very sanctions, but it is a signal that the desire to continue the sanctions is weakened”, Indra said.
A Norwegian of the state apparatus reported to Financial Times that business is what prompted the countries for a political dialogue with Moscow. “Russia is the fifth country in the world by volume of Finnish exports, so it is important to keep the work of Finnish companies in Russia”, the Minister of Foreign Trade of Finland, Kai Myukkanen, said.