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Arctic strategy documents




An EU Arctic Policy?  
An account of the EU’s Arctic policy in recent years by Professor Clive Archer.

The European Union’s involvement in the Arctic  


The European Parliament’s involvement  

  • European Commission's October 2007 Communication on Integrated Maritime Policy - will deal with Arctic by the end of 2008
  • European Parliament October 2008: Questions and debate led by Diana Wallis (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, ALDE)
  • Resolution on Arctic governance adopted 9 October 2008:
    • Referred to Russian flag incident (Aug 2007); UNCLOS; oil & gas; global warming
    • Effect on Inuit & wild-life of warming
    • 3 EU member states (Denmark, Finland & Sweden) and 2 European Economic Area states (Iceland & Norway) in Arctic Council
    • Arctic not governed by specific norms and regulations, never expected to be navigable or for commercial exploitation
    • Concern about environment, traffic; energy & security policy in Arctic
    • Wants special mention of Arctic at Copenhagen 2009 Climate Change conference
    • Suggests observer status for European Commission in AC;
    • Outlines basis for European Commission Communication on the Arctic
    • Suggests international treaty for protection of Arctic based on Antarctic Treaty 


The European Commission’s Arctic Paper 2008  

  • Objectives:
    • Implement existing obligations rather than new instruments (answer to EP)
    • But develop some frameworks and adapt to Arctic conditions
    • Arctic EU members should not be excluded from any discussions (Ilulissat Declaration)
    • Arctic to be integrated into EU policies & negotiations. 
  • Proposals:
    • Closely follow negotiations (especially UNCLOS)
    • EU should have permanent observer status of AC
    • Further Northern Dimension projects especially on environment & energy should be encouraged
    • New framework for ecosystem management possible?Cross-border cooperation & programmes
    • Integrate Maritime Strategy Framework directive into EEA
    • Explore idea of European Arctic Information centre
    • i.e. many small steps 

Why an EU policy?  

  • External reasons:
    • Growing economic importance of Arctic
    • Increased environmental importance
    • Russia’s activism in region
    • US, Norway & Canada developing Arctic policies, later Russia
    • Greenland moving to independence 
  • Internal reasons
    • Need for EU presence in all parts of world
    • Inter-agency rivalry: EP, Commission, High Representative
    • What to do after last enlargement?
    • Geographic balance within EU
    • Failure of ND’s Arctic window Where to next?
    • Institutional battles over Arctic: EU, AC, BEAC, NATO, UN
    • The Russian question: what does Russia want in the region?
    • The Greenland question: what can Greenland manage?
    • Norway in between: EEA, Svalbard, Barents. Has the “High North” succeeded as a policy?
    • The next European Commission: who gets what? 


See also the web site of the EU on the Arctic region

by Clive Archer, emeritus professor, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK and associated individual researcher of the Geopolitics in the High North programme. Outline of a talk given at The Norwegian Atlantic Committee, September 2009



Council conclusions on Arctic issues
Introduction by Ida Holdhus, Master Research Fellow, Norwegian Instiute for Defence Studies, 3 February 2010

Council conclusions on Arctic issues  

  • Adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting 8 December 2009.
  • Builds on the 2008 Commission’s Communication on the European Union and the Arctic 
  • Is meant to constitute a next step towards what the Council considers “the gradual formulation of a policy on Arctic issues to address EU interests and responsibilities, while recognising Member States’ legitimate interests and rights in the Arctic” (emphasis added).
  • Supports three main policy objectives proposed by the Commission:
    • Protecting and preserving the Arctic
    • Promoting sustainable use of natural resources
    • Contributing to enhanced governance
  • 23 points are presented - some of a general nature, others reiterate earlier positions but the document also includes specific proposals for action.
  • Provides the Commission with guidelines as to the formulation of an Arctic policy.
  • The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1st December 2009 gives increased legislative powers to the Parliament, but it is too early to draw conclusions as to the relative influence of the EU institutions in the formulation of an EU Arctic policy. 
  • The Council requests the Commission to present a report on progress made in these areas by the end of June 2011.


Some substantial points include:

Protecting and preserving the Arctic

  • The Council invites Member States and the Commission to support efforts to protect Arctic ecosystems, encouraging Arctic states to develop marine protected areas (Point 5).
  • The Commission is invited to present a work plan for monitoring, research, restriction of use and destruction of hazardous chemicals released into and inside the Arctic (Point 9).
  • The Council underlines the importance of supporting sustainable development for indigenous peoples, including on the basis of their traditional means of livelihood (point 3)


Sustainable use of resources

  • The Council underlines that in the implementation of the Integrated Maritime Policy harvesting of Arctic marine living resources should be managed on the basis of scientific advice as part of an ecosystem perspective (point 10).
  • The Council favours a temporary ban on new fisheries in those Arctic waters not yet covered by an international conservation system (point 10).
  • The Commission and Member States are invited to examine the possibilities to endorse the revised Arctic Council Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines of 2009 (point 4)



  • The Council supports the applications by Italy and the Commission to become permanent observers in the Arctic Council (point 17). 
  • The Council welcomes the IMO’s amendment of the existing guidelines for ships operating in polar waters and the agreement to develop a new mandatory instrument for ships operating in polar waters (point 12).
  • It reiterates the rights and obligations for flag, port and coastal states provided for in international law in relation to freedom of navigation, the right of innocent passage and transit passage, and will monitor their observance (point 16).

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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
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