The Barents Euro-Arctic Council was formed in 1993 to support and promote the regional cooperation in the northernmost parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Northwest Russia. Iceland and Denmark are also members.
Member States cooperate, inter alia, in rescue services area. The objective of the cooperation is to increase the possibilities to help each another across national borders in cases of accidents or natural disasters. The low population density in the northernmost past of Europe means that rescue service resources are limited and scattered across a very large area. Sometimes, the closest available resources may be located in a neighbouring country. In other words, the countries in the region benefit from cross-border cooperation in assisting each other.
In December of 2008, the governments of Finland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden signed an Agreement on Cooperation within the Field of Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response in the Barents Region. The agreement covers cross-border cooperation within the field of emergency prevention, preparedness, and response in the region.
The agreement includes the following:
- Rescue operations
The objective is to improve the countries’ capabilities of providing quick and effective assistance in rescue operations. Barents Rescue exercises are carried out on a regular basis on a rotating basis.
For Sweden, the agreement concerns resources from:
- Municipal rescue services
- National rescue services
Healthcare resources are not mentioned in the agreement, but not ruled out.
Local cross-border capabilities
One of the objectives of the agreement is for the parties to be able to use another Member State’s resources when these are available closer to the accident site. This also applies with respect to minor accidents. These types of accidents will primarily involve the municipal rescue service resources (primarily in Norrbotten and Västerbotten counties).
In case of extensive forest fires or major disasters, assistance may be required from:
- Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, MSB (oil and chemical decontamination)
- Swedish Coast Guard (maritime environmental rescue)
- Swedish Police and Swedish Maritime Administration (search and rescue).
Additional resources from other authorities may also be required. Another aim of the agreement is to facilitate border crossing in case of emergency operations.
The Barents Joint Committee with representatives from all Barents countries was appointed to execute and coordinate the implementation of the agreement.