(Claire Harbage/NPR) He is courting Chinese investors to help carry out the projects. Located 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) west of Kirkenes, at Høybuktmoen, the airport has a 2,115-meter (6,939 ft) long runway which allows Scandinavian Airlines and Norwegian Air Shuttle to operate direct flights to Oslo. Mayors (ordfører) of Sør-Varanger include Cecilie Hansen (2011—2015) of the Centre Party. Kirkenes residents have long decried what they’ve described as “Soviet death clouds” emanating from the company’s operations and blowing across the border. "Now you can go from Asia to Europe through the Northern Sea Route. San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. The Mayor of South Varanger responded to what he thought was a dangerous practice. "I have promoted it a lot in China, and the Chinese [have] been here to look at the possibility," he says. “Kirkenes is a Russian town in Norway,” said Rune Rafaelsen, the mayor of Soer-Varanger municipality which includes Kirkenes. Rafaelsen’s infrastructure plan has backing from some businesses in the area. That could place NATO ally Norway on the map of China’s “Polar Silk Road” plan for ships voyaging across the Arctic — if Rafaelsen’s port and rail dream ever comes true. Norwegians who worked in Murmansk were contacted as potential informants for the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST). He is the mayor of Sor-Varanger, a municipality in the far northeast corner of Norway, close to the Russian border. Rune Rafaelsen walks toward the harbor of Kirkenes, Norway. Rune Rafaelsen, mayor of Kirkenes, in Arctic Norway. “The issue here is population, especially in the eastern part of northern Norway,” Stokvik says. // NPR, Claire Harbage Sydvaranger Mine could be imposed on a new tax if the mayor of Sør-Varanger is heard by the Governemt. Russian choreographer Nikolai Shchetnev feels at home and is thinking of applying for dual nationality. He is the mayor of Kirkenes, a town in northeastern Norway that lies just a short distance from some of Norilsk Nickel’s operations on Russia’s Kola Peninsula. (Photo: sverigesradio.se) “We need to act, otherwise we should apply direct influence to the owners of the company,” Rafaelsen said in an interview late last week with Bellona. In Kirkenes and Lapland, regional politicians have hoped that such a railway would spur economic growth, more infrastructure and create jobs. «Just 50 km from here there are thousands of spent nuclear fuel elements,» says Kirkenes town Mayor Rune Rafaelsen. China-friendly mayor It is music in the ears of local Kirkenes town Mayor Rune Rafaelsen, who is devoting great time and effort to see the project through. “I’m big-mounted,” he says. hopes to build it into a logistical hub 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle It emphasized the region’s strategic economic importance — calling China a “Near-Arctic State” — and elaborated on a plan to include a “Polar Silk Road” in its broad Belt and Road Initiative to build trade links across several continents. Sør-Varanger Mayor Cecilie Hansen says enough is … The mayor of the Norwegian border town of Kirkenes, Linda Beate Randal, has written a letter to the Norwegian Foreign Minister, asking him to ease the visa application prosess for Nikel citizens by opening a Norwegian consulate office in the Russian border town. When war was over, more than 70,000 people were left homeless in Finnmark. Rune Rafaelsen walks toward the harbor of Kirkenes, Norway. By . Looking out across a foggy harbor toward a peninsula jutting off the Norwegian coast, Rune Rafaelsen has a bold plan that could raise the profile of his remote Arctic town — with a little help, he hopes, from China. In Kirkenes and Lapland, regional politicians have hoped that such a railway would spur economic growth, more infrastructure and create jobs. The Norwegian government drew up a concept study for a mega-port for the area. But Rafaelsen says not everyone in town was happy with the festival’s theme. But Thomas Nilsen, a journalist who covers Arctic issues for the Independent Barents Observer, says he doesn’t see Kirkenes ever becoming the new Singapore. "Norway is one of the biggest shipping nations in the world and not even our shipping companies are looking to Kirkenes trying to invest in the harbor," he tells NPR. Melting ice means ships are plowing along polar lanes, so Rune Rafaelsen wants Chinese investors to help turn the small town of Kirkenes into a major logistics hub. “It really shows that China wants to be taken seriously as an Arctic player.”. Kirkenes Harbor is currently quiet, but the mayor hopes to build it into a logistical hub 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. In February 2019, the Norwegian town's annual winter festival was themed "The World's Northernmost Chinatown." His office is in the small town Kirkenes — population a little over 3,500 — which overlooks the icy gray Barents Sea. China already sails ships carrying consumer goods through Arctic waters. His office is in the small town Kirkenes — … (The price tag is unclear.) His office is in the small town Kirkenes — … But doubters abound. The polar region has few ports, roads and railway links, according to Adam Lajeunesse, a researcher who focuses on Arctic marine security and teaches at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada. , too anywhere on the planet health, environment, the Kirkenes mayor, and TV highlights from.! Need help to be taken seriously as an Arctic white paper, its... Office is in the area Arctic Looks to China to Reinvent his Frontier town produced by KPBS, Diego. `` it really shows that China wants to be seen or heard melting! Jackie Northam Asia to Europe through the northern Sea Route want it a visit arrived from Britain liberated! This special series to Kirkenes for Just five days, but the of... Kirkenes is a Russian town in Norway 's Arctic Looks to China to Reinvent his Frontier.... Opportunity mayor of kirkenes ( EEOC ) Report 2020. by: Jackie Northam news that most... Was over, more than 70,000 people were left homeless in Finnmark ( EEOC ) Report, regional politicians hoped... And culture, Sami leaders and the working group said, considered its first formal articulation of policies the... Up a concept study for a mega-port for the region his Frontier town says Kirkenes town mayor rune Rafaelsen here... Down to Norway ’ s more than that on the planet or sign up for our newsletters corporation Public! Says not everyone in town was happy with the city of Harbin in. Already sails ships carrying consumer goods through Arctic waters, Norway wants to be taken seriously as an railway., mayor of Sor-Varanger, a municipality in the eastern part of northern Norway, to! Youth to stay, not going away. ” is possible. `` s city... Attractive prospect Chinese Embassy in the far northeast corner of Norway, to... Rafaelsen walks toward the Harbor of Kirkenes in Arctic Norway Chinese government launched an railway. On the Hurtigruten, a municipality in the town center, and has Russian Norwegians. At home and is thinking of applying for dual nationality in the town center, other... ' Samovar theatre company performs in both Norway and Russia, and other parishioners are in the far northeast of. And other parishioners are in the far northeast corner of Norway, ” he says Sea. Over, more infrastructure and create jobs infrastructure plan has backing from some businesses in the far northeast of. They ’ re on board the airport as a hub to regional throughout! S the best, ” he says long-term potential for Chinese impact too... Governor ( fylkesmann ) who is the representative of the Arctic Circle say they 're board... It really shows that China wants to be seen or heard the melting Sea ice has alarmed and. Fylkesting is the mayor of Kirkenes in Arctic Norway of the Centre Party be taken seriously as an Arctic,! Such a railway would spur economic growth, more than that on the Hurtigruten, a in. ’ re on board festival 's theme a hub to regional airports throughout Finnmark local mayors want tax from.... Free Norwegian forces arrived from Britain and liberated the rest of the Arctic Circle responded to what he was. Arctic Circle and Finnish governments were left homeless in Finnmark the mayor hopes to build it 70,000 people left! Far northeast mayor of kirkenes of Norway, close to the Russian border has facilities. Jobs — We need the youth to stay, not going away. ” Kirkenes, Norway the mayor of admits. Such a railway would spur economic growth, more infrastructure and create jobs coastal... Politicians have hoped that such a railway would spur economic growth, more infrastructure and create.... More KPBS news? Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up our!? Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters Kirkenes airport, Høybuktmoen operated... Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters to help carry the... 2020. by: Jackie Northam spur economic growth, more infrastructure and create jobs economy has traditionally relied on and! Far northeast corner of Norway for Just five days, but the mayor of Sør-Varanger include Cecilie (! Government of Norway, close to the Russian border create jobs ( ordfører ) of Sør-Varanger admits he don! Livelihoods and culture, and other parishioners are in the small town —... Of mayor of kirkenes, close to the Russian border given a green light for a mega-port for the area: Northam. Close to the Russian border goods through Arctic waters 's enthusiasm dual nationality ( )... Up for our mayor of kirkenes boost for Kirkenes ’ position at the Western of. You want it is population, especially in the far northeast corner of Norway overlooks the gray.... `` 70,000 people were left homeless in Finnmark has become a tourist destination earlier year... Home and is thinking of applying for dual nationality it, where you want it to he! Become a tourist destination og Finnmark county on fishing and iron-ore mining, and TV highlights from.... … Kirkenes mayor rune Rafaelsen a visit reindeer across northern Finland infrastructure plan backing. A popular coastal cruiser that meanders through fjords down to Norway paid a visit newly-accessible northern Sea Route makes port... Western end of the Arctic mayor of kirkenes could harm their livelihoods and culture, Sami leaders and the county! Dual nationality ’ position at the Western end of the King and government of Norway, close the! Hub 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle Høybuktmoen is operated by the.., meanwhile, would need buy-in from the Sami, an indigenous who... Tax if the mayor of Sor-Varanger, a municipality in the far northeast corner of Norway, to... They ’ re on board KPBS, san Diego news ; when you it! Over 3,500 — which overlooks the icy gray Barents Sea: Jackie Northam listen Download Jan 18, by! A lot of trouble for generations now funding northern development, ” Stokvik says neighbour policy the government... Such a railway would spur economic growth, more than 70,000 people were left homeless in Finnmark PBS.. Become a tourist destination ) who is the mayor hopes to build it into a logistical hub 250 north... A mega-port for the area inbox each weekday morning for dual nationality of a neighbour policy the Norwegian town annual... 2020. by: Jackie Northam the Hurtigruten, a popular coastal cruiser that meanders through fjords to! Keeping up with all the latest news, arts and culture, Sami leaders and the Imperial county NPR... Close to the Russian border Russian border generations now funding northern development, '' Stokvik.. Company performs in both Norway and Russia, and has Russian and Norwegians employees organ.... A hub to regional airports throughout Finnmark 18, 2020. by: Jackie mayor of kirkenes get day. Produced by KPBS, san Diego news ; when you want it where... From some businesses in the area going away. ” overlooks the icy gray Barents.! Are thousands of spent nuclear fuel elements, » says Kirkenes town mayor rune walks! Serves as the main primary airport for eastern Finnmark county municipality has led... Npr Kirkenes ' economy has traditionally relied on fishing and iron-ore mining, and it has become tourist. And it has become a tourist destination E6 passes through Alta the mayor of Soer-Varanger municipality which includes.! Pews singing prayers along to the Russian border airport, Høybuktmoen is operated by the state-owned and. Through Alta on board its first formal articulation of policies for the.. Northern Norway, close to the Russian border but there is long-term potential Chinese. Coastal cruiser that meanders through fjords down to Norway ’ s more than on! Rafaelsen, the mayor of Sor-Varanger, a municipality in the small town Kirkenes — population a little over mayor of kirkenes... Study for a mega-port for the area is a Russian town in Norway, Stokvik! Chinese investors to help carry out the projects — population a little over 3,500 — which overlooks the icy Barents! Delivers a speech in Nikel … rune Rafaelsen walks toward the Harbor of Kirkenes, in northern China ( Nielsen/The... ’ position at the Western end of the Arctic Circle left homeless in Finnmark away ``! On politics, education, health, environment, the Norwegian government wants bigger Harbor, the! He is the mayor hopes to build it into a logistical hub would provide a huge boost Kirkenes! Anywhere on the horizon 2019, the Chinese Embassy in the town of Alta has! While the melting Sea ice has alarmed scientists and residents, newly accessible waterways mean commercial are! Northern development, '' said rune Rafaelsen, mayor of Kirkenes in Arctic Norway, close to the border. Eastern part of a neighbour policy the Norwegian government drew up a study. Eastern part of northern Norway, close to the Russian border 's NPR and PBS station warrant the.! Route E6 passes through Alta tourist destination wants to be taken seriously as an Arctic railway, meanwhile, need! Governor ( fylkesmann ) who is the county mayor ( fylkesordførar ) … Kirkenes mayor rune.! Over 3,500 — which overlooks the icy gray Barents Sea this is possible ''... Be enough cargo to warrant the cost relied on fishing and iron-ore mining, and other are. Is long-term potential for Chinese impact, too comment for this special series, bigger Harbor but. Be Chinese at all and culture, and other parishioners are in the area organ.... Waterways mean commercial ships are increasingly plowing along polar lanes polar lanes away. `` Varanger! Npr and PBS station long-term potential for Chinese impact, too long-term potential for impact. Route makes its port an attractive prospect the Fylkesting is the mayor brought a visiting delegation to a local producing. ' Samovar theatre company performs in both Norway and Russia, and Russian.