Transborder Café
The Essentials: what shall we live off (in the north)?

18:00 - 20:00
Digital / Kirkenes / Murmansk
Hybrid (Local and Digital)

Limited number of tickets will be released on ticketco Thursday 11.02. All Transborder Cafés will be streamed live from

Transborder Café
The Essentials: what shall we live off (in the north)?

Moderator: Anki Gerhardsen

Host in Murmansk: Maria Matveeva


Aili Keskitalo, President of the Sami Parliament

Keskitalo has a masters degree in Public Administration from Copenhagen Business School. She is a politician from Kautokeino who has been the leader of the Norwegian Sami National Association  from 2003-2005 and 2008-2013. Aili Keskitalo has been the president of the Sami Parliament from 2005-2007, 2013-2016 and 2017-today. 

Geir Hønneland

is a norwegian political scientist from Harstad and the general secretary of the democracy and human rights organisation Den norske Helsingforskomite. He has a russian course from the armed forces, a PhD in Political Science from the University of Oslo as well as a L.L.M degree in Marine Law from UiT Norges Arktiske Universitet. He has been a professor at numerous norwegian universities since 2004. He was the leader of Fridtjof Nansens Institutt (FNI) between 2015-2019. As a scientist Hønneland has worked with a number of questions regarding international marine management, russian politics and norwegian/russian relations. 

Geir Torbjørnsen

is the CEO of the technology company Barel, a niche company with 20 employees in Kirkenes og 45 internationally across Murmansk, Rio de Janeiro and South-Korea. The company specializes in electronics for demanding and dangerous environments. Untraditional working methods and good relations with the norwegian and russian government has led the company to great success over the past years. They produce interior lighting for Airbus passenger airplanes (since 2011) and in 2020 they signed a contract with Aker BP for the development of LED-lighting with prolonged life for explosive areas in the oil- and gas industry. Founder Geir Torbjørnsen is passionate about electronics and lives by the motto: “Not taking a risk, could be the biggest risk you take”

Rune Rafaelsen

is a norwegian politician (Ap) who became the mayor of Sør-Varanger municipality in 2015. Rafaelsen grew up in Sør-Varanger and got his education at the University of Bergen. He worked as a teacher at Neiden School (78-82), was both a teacher and principal in Bjørnevatn (82-91), leader of the rural development project Prosjekt Neiden (91-93), leader of the tourism company Grenseland AS, Kirkenes (93-97), responsible for ‘ballongfestivaken’ Arctic Sky Balloon Fiesta (91-95), project manager at Barentssekretariatet from 1997 and Head of Secretary from 2003-2015. Rafaelsen is engaged in the possibilities that lies in international cooperation with Russia and Asia based of the northern sea route. 

Yevgeny Nikora
graduated from the Ural Polytechnic Institute (Ural State Technical University) with a degree on economy and management in fuel and energy complex. He has worked in the Murmansk region since 1994. Since 2000 member of Poljarnye Zori Municipal Council. Nikora has been The Deputy Governor of the Murmansk Region and he is now Mayor of Murmansk,- a popular head of administration who spends a lot of time attending public events and visiting citizens in Murmansk.

Andrey Fomenko
is the director of Petchenga-districts Senter for social projects, Second School. He is also a member of the Regional Duma in Murmansk.

Vladimir Komyagin 
built the first snow village in Kirovsk in 2008 at the foot of the mountain Vudjavrchorr and it opened for the 13th time this season. It has been acknowledged as the largest snow construction in Russia.  He is also the founder of snow and ice sculpture festival SNEGOLED and CRAZY SAW international sculpting competition. 

Cultural contributions: Irina Volkova


The Transborder Café returns during Barents Spektakel 2021 to bring the most important cross-border debate and discussion to the eyes and ears of the Barents Region and beyond. Using digital solutions, Friday’s edition tackles the central question of the festival, ‘What is Essential?, What are we going to live off”. This truly international topic has both a wide reach as well as a Northern cross-border context. 

Kirkenes stood next to the Iron Curtain at the collapse of the Soviet Union. After Perestroika and the establishment of the Barents Cooperation in 1993, open borders have led to new opportunities, business, and stable processes of movement, settlement, and cultural exchange between the many border communities in the Barents region. 

An increase in population had been forecast in light of development based on mining, tourism, oil activities, and the opening of the Northern Sea Route – all of which promised further opportunities and prosperity. In a short time however, this vision has been turned upside down. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014,  as well as increased and complex international political tension have all led to less traffic across the border. In addition, recent national policy has cooled the tone of the dialogue with our neighbour to the east. 

The current situation generated by the Coronavirus pandemic, when the border with Russia has once again closed, and when tourism has all but stopped in the region, the narrative has been complicated even further. Conversations of ‘the green shift’ as a target and a solution for the future – away from local extractive practices and the jobs and infrastructure they create – beg several questions for the communities here in the North. What is it that we should live off now? What is essential in a post-pandemic world? And what is essential here in the North?