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International perspectives on the High North

On 25 November the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS) hosted a seminar on the Norwegian government’s White Paper on the High North. Read the report here.


The seminar was held as part of Geopolitics in the High North. Speakers included Director Rolf Tamnes (IFS), Ambassador Janos Herman (Delegation of the European Union to Norway), Ambassador Barry White (US Embassy to Norway), Research Director Geir Hønneland (Fridtjof Nansen Institute) and Associate Professor Kristine Offerdal (IFS). Senior Researcher Geir Flikke(NUPI) moderated the discussion.





The White Paper outlines the Norwegian government’s strategic goals for the High North. Seminar participants described the paper as solid and as a document that follows up on previous Norwegian policy statements. One comment to the paper revealed that although its magnitude is impressive, it does not go deeply into the contents of each issue, and its style is influenced by the fact that it is created through an interdepartmental process. An accurate understanding of the government’s High North policy may be found by reading the White Paper together with other policy statements and documents on different issue areas in the north, such as energy and defence. Furthermore, it was remarked that around 2003/2004, Norwegian High North policy largely referred to foreign policy in the northern near abroad, while today, the High North policy reflects the government’s ambitions both domestically, in the Norwegian north, as well as internationally, in promoting Arctic cooperation on a bilateral and multilateral basis.


The seminar confirmed that other actors, including the United States and the European Union, support seeing the region as an area for international cooperation, although they prefer to use the term Arctic. Comments described protection of the environment and sustainable development of Arctic resources as regional priorities of the EU, as well as the contribution to research and increasing knowledge. The EU wishes to contribute to cooperation, which would be facilitated by becoming a permanent observer to the Arctic Council, as previously applied for. Also the United States, being an Arctic nation, emphasizes the importance of the Arctic Council as a forum for cooperation in the north. US policy was described along the lines of the 2009 document on Arctic region policy, outlining US national security, environmental, economic and other interests in the region. While cooperation was highlighted, there is disagreement among Arctic states on the status of the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route.  Although the US has not ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, this and previous administrations have supported US accession and the United States abides by its provisions. A new attempt at getting Senate ratification may be initiated next year.


The Institute for Defence Studies would like to thank all participants for contributing to a timely discussion of Arctic affairs in view of the recently released White Paper.


©2014-2017 Geopolitics in the High North. All rights reserved

Norwegian Institute for defence Studies CSIS Fritjof Nansen Institute Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik University of Tromsø Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the MFA of Russia University of Oslo Institute of general history Norwegian Defence Research Establishment Econ Pöyry
  The GeoPolitics in the High North research programme is now terminated, and the programme website will be preserved through 2016, but not updated.
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