The Arctic as European Periphery – Analysis


By Alyson JK Bailes
Could the Arctic play a central role in enhancing European power and security? As Alyson Bailes sees it, a renewed engagement with its ‘northern periphery’ could indeed help stem the continent’s relative political, economic and military decline.

I. Introduction

As international interest in the Arctic has grown in recent years, spurred by hopes of new economic development but also by concerns about competition between nations, it has become fashionable to look at maps that place the North Pole at the centre. Certainly, these can help us to grasp some important points about the pattern of national presence and involvement, and about what could become the shortest routes between continents. But is a pole-centric view equally meaningful for purposes of political, economic and social understanding? This paper starts from the premise that the Northern circumpolar region is not – or at least, not yet – a unitary space in terms of human engagement and dynamics. It has sub-zones that vary greatly in their physical geography, accessibility, climate and population, and also in terms of state-level and international governance. The nature of communication and interaction between the Arctic zone as such[2] and the regions lying to the south of it also differs from one nation-state and continent to another. As an illustration, we shall look more closely here at the case of Europe (including north-western Russia) and its Arctic neighbourhood; and it will be argued that the European High North[3] can also – or perhaps, principally – be understood as a European periphery.
To set the scene, it is useful first to distinguish the Arctic zone from its Antarctic counterpart. Most obviously, the former is centred on a sea with inconstant and now rapidly changing ice cover, while Antarctica is a landmass of 14 million square kilometres, about twice the size of Australia. Antarctica is also an exceptional space in governance terms, with no permanent population, governed by the Antarctic Treaty [4] which among other things forbids commercial exploitation. Moving northwards from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, itself nearly 2000 miles from the South Pole, it takes nearly another 620 miles to reach Tierra de Fuego (the southernmost point of South America) and a good deal further to the nearest large city. In the Arctic, by contrast, the nearest land (usually taken to be Kaffeklubben Island off northern Greenland) is just 430 miles away from the North Pole and there is a permanent settlement at Alert in Nunavut, Canada, just over 500 miles away. Aside from Canada and Greenland (part of the realm of Denmark), Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Russian Federation have substantial land territories above the Arctic Circle while Iceland hangs just under it. This means that their national jurisdictions also cover large parts of the area, including their 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) at sea[5] – one obvious reason why the idea of an Antarctic-style Treaty turning the Arctic into a de-nationalized space has never appealed to them. [6]
Within the Arctic, again, there is a clear contrast in settlement and development patterns between the European and Russian High North, and northernmost North America. The three largest cities north of the Arctic Circle are situated in Russia -Murmansk (population 307,257) andNorilsk (175,365) – and in Norway:Tromsø (with a population of 71,295). Rovaniemi in Finland, just south of the Arctic Circle, has a population of approximately 60,000, and Iceland’s national capital Reykjavik (with around 120,000 people) is found slightly above 64 degrees. By contrast, northernmost Canada is barely populated at all, and the US’s most northerly settlement of any note – Barrow in Alaska – has around 4,000 inhabitants. Anchorage, capital of Alaska, lies as far south as 61 degrees, barely a degree farther north than Helsinki in Finland. Greenland’s settlement pattern inclines more to the sparse North American model, with just 5,000 people in Sisimiut north of the Arctic Circle, and around 59,000 inhabitants altogether.
Another important point to emerge from these figures is that in Europe, to be an Arctic-dweller is not automatically to belong to an indigenous group. In the Arctic overall, the most reliable estimates of indigenous peoples put their numbers at around half a million (or 10% of the total population) within the Arctic Circle and 1.5 million (15%) under the wider definition of an Arctic zone.[7] Within these ethnically defined groups, a significant proportion are no longer living ‘natural’ lives as hunters and migrants. The great majority of Europeans and Russians based in the European High North are city-dwellers leading normal, hi-tech and wired-up lives – not particularly close to nature; and it would be hasty to suggest that this is due to a more or less artificial injection of population in modern times. Europeans reached Iceland and Greenland in the 9 th and 10th centuries respectively and even before then, were making regular trips around the northern coasts of Scandinavia and across to the White Sea for trading purposes. Even if Arctic settlements only started to reach the scale of cities in the late 19th and 20 th centuries, from the late Middle Ages onwards large numbers of human beings were already spending extended periods in the area for purposes of fishing, sealing and whaling. Mining above the Arctic Circle for precious minerals goes back at least to the early 17th century. [8]
The rest of this analysis will focus first on the prima facie ways in which Europe is and is likely to be involved in the changing face of Arctic activity, shaped as it now appears to be – though not exclusively – by global climate change. Next, the characteristic governance picture of the European Arctic will be traced and compared with international governance in Europe as a whole. Thirdly, the European Union’s (EU’s) specific role in and approach to the Arctic will be addressed. Finally, the text reverts to the broad issue of the Arctic as a European periphery, and asks how the related scenarios might intertwine with the fate of Europe as a whole.

II. Europe and the Changing Arctic

Europe’s most direct stake in the Arctic can be grasped by looking at a map. Large swathes of territory in north-west Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway lie above the Arctic Circle. The Arctic islands of Greenland and Svalbard (Spitsbergen) are under the sovereignty of Denmark and Norway respectively, though the latter has a special international status under the Spitsbergen Treaty of 1920.[9] As already noted, those states with Arctic coastlines – i.e., not Finland and Sweden – have also declared 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) stretching farther north at sea. This includes Iceland, which therefore rules a sizeable Arctic maritime zone even though its land territory just grazes the Arctic Circle. The remaining international waters immediately around the North Pole is quite limited in size, and Denmark, Norway and Russia are seeking to extend their sea-bed rights over large parts of it through a procedure foreseen under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). [10] It follows that the primary governance system for the inhabited lands of the European High North and for much of the surrounding seas – including the Atlantic gateway to the Arctic – is provided by national law and administration in just the same way as for European territories farther south. Further, none of the nations involved is a ‘weak state’ in the now-customary meaning of the phrase: each has a competent central authority, no current challenge (from rebels, pirates or others) to the control of its land- and sea-space, and all of them including Russia are in the top quartile of the world’s countries in terms of GDP per head. If any part of the Arctic can be seen as a wild, lawless frontier, it is certainly not the European and North Atlantic quadrant.
Naturally enough, the states with territory in the area have taken the lead in exploration and exploitation of the European Arctic, and in shaping its characteristic regional institutions (on which more in section III below). However, since the late Middle Ages the larger powers of Europe (including Germany, France, and the UK), and some medium-sized ones, have also been active economically in the High North and have taken part in wars fought on the Northern front. Today they manifest their interest not only through the Arctic policies developed by pan-European institutions, but by taking Observer positions in the main regional bodies, and many are also parties to the Spitsbergen Treaty as shown in the Table below. Since the European Arctic states also belong to Europe-wide organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe, bridges exist in both directions between the European High North and the mainstream of European politics.
Of all the relevant fields of activity, North Polar and Arctic exploration, scientific research, and monitoring may have attracted the greatest assortment of Europeans (and indeed, of non-Europeans) over time. The earliest instance of organized international cooperation for this purpose, the International Polar Year, was launched in the 1880s by citizens of Austria-Hungary (Karl Weyprecht) and Germany (Georg Neumayer). Today’s research networks, both within and outside the Arctic Council structure, draw experts from dozens of different states to the High North – mostly in summer – to work on the region’s geophysical, oceanic and climatological features, its fish, flora and fauna, and the characteristics and challenges of its human inhabitants. The Arctic Council’s six scientific working groups[15] attract cooperation from individuals with equally varied national backgrounds.
European involvement in the Arctic economy is intense and diverse in all phases: exploration, investment, production, transport and consumption. In the late Middle Ages, fishermen from Germany, the Netherlands, England and Scotland fought pitched naval battles over access to Icelandic cod; later, with French and Basque vessels, they explored even more northerly fishing grounds up the Greenland coast. The Dutch were especially active – competing with French, Danes and Brits – in Greenland whaling from the 17th century onwards, and the three UK/Iceland ‘cod wars’ of the Cold War period bring the story of often-contentious European involvement up to date.
Today, Norway and Russia are the only nations producing oil and gas above the Arctic Circle in the European quadrant, although Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland are all prospecting for similar resources. However, the major Europe-based companies in this sector – Shell, BP and Total – and some newer ones are, or are bidding to be, partners in Arctic exploration and production schemes. Equally to the point, European customers sustain this whole branch of activity: as much as 80% of Norway’s production of oil, and practically all its gas, is sold within Europe,[16] and only 8.8% of the oil is sold to other continents. [17] Similarly, 84% of Russia’s oil exports and 76% of its natural gas exports (not, of course, exclusively extracted in the High North) are destined for Europe.[18] Looking at it the other way, the EU relies on Norway for 31.4% of its total gas imports and on Russia for 30.9%; the equivalent figures for oil are 10.26% and 30.14%. [19] If Arctic output grows significantly it may allow for more diversity in the energy trade – as seen in a recent Russian-Chinese gas contract[20] – and events in 2014 have strengthened the EU’s motives for curbing its dependence on Russia; but it is hard to imagine that this strand of Arctic/European interaction will dwindle any time soon. [21]
The picture is comparable on fish. Despite high-profile arguments over EU countries’ rights to fish in Arctic nations’ EEZs, [22] it is the latter nations who take around 90% of the catch. Iceland and Norway alone accounted for 74% of all commercial fishing in European Arctic waters from 1990-2006.[23] However, Iceland sells around 80% of its catch, and Norway 60% of its catch, to EU customers, including a sizeable proportion of raw products that are further processed in Europe. Since the EU also imports fish from Canada, Russia and the USA, around one third of fish caught in the whole circumpolar Arctic is estimated to be consumed by Europeans; and if fish stocks increase overall through ocean warming, Europe is capable of importing even more. [24]
Given the lively speculation over a potential boom in Arctic shipping – which at the moment takes place almost exclusively by the Northern Sea Route over Russia and thus enters the Atlantic by way of northern Scandinavia – it is worth noting that Europe provides by far the largest single share of maritime insurance services world-wide. London alone does nearly 20% of all such business, ahead of centres in Germany and France. [25] Figures on the number of cargo and cruise ships active in the Arctic that have their operating base in and/or are flagged in European countries are hard to find, and current openings for Europe are modest since many current cargo transits are Russian internal ones;[26] but it is fair to assume that a European stake exists, and may be set to increase, in this sector too.
Insurance is not the only mode in which European financing and investment, company expertise and consultancy are and may be increasingly relevant to the Arctic. The EU includes several well-known hubs for investment (including venture capital) and other financial transactions, which are not only used by Europeans themselves. A recent and somewhat controversial recent example of Europeans acting as middle-men for an Arctic venture was the bid by a company called London Mining to open a new iron-ore mine in Greenland. At the time, Chinese industrial and financial partners had a significant share in the project, giving rise to much speculation about China’s motives and the risks arising from its involvement. Although London Mining did receive a licence, its main Chinese backer has now withdrawn;[27] but this may be far from the last time that EU-based actors find themselves channelling both Europe-wide and extra-European economic interventions in the Arctic market.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of Europeans are gaining individual experience of the High North through tourism and transit travel. Iceland alone, with just 320,000 inhabitants, attracted 807,000 visitors – an all-time record – in 2013 of whom 95,000 arrived on cruise ships. [28] The total number passing through Iceland’s Keflavik international airport that year, however, was over 3 million,[29] underlining that Arctic routes often offer the fastest way to fly between Europe and North America, When the latest Icelandic volcanic eruption started at Barðabunga in August 2014, no Icelandic flights were affected but a score of foreign airlines overflying the country were advised to adjust their routes.
Last but in a sense first, everyone living in Europe affects and is affected by the Arctic in the context of climate change. Past emissions from industry, agriculture and households in Europe have been among the drivers of temperature rises that have heated the Arctic twice as fast as the global average in the last two decades (although, interestingly, less so in the parts of the Atlantic gateway). [30] While Europe’s share of global black carbon (soot) and methane emissions – now seen as crucial short-term climate ‘forcers’ – is relatively low, the proximity of European sources to the Arctic means that their local impact is high, and it is estimated that the Arctic states themselves could achieve up to 30% of the feasible mitigation in this field. [31] In return, the rapid Arctic warming is not only opening new economic vistas for Europe, but threatening to disrupt the lives of people across the continent through its ability to destabilize weather systems and ocean currents and, eventually, cause dangerous sea level rises. If, as some experts believe, a reduced temperature gradient in the Atlantic could weaken and eventually stop the Gulf Stream that brings warmer surface waters to Europe’s north-western coasts, the latter areas could be plunged into a mini-ice age instead of enjoying balmier times.[32]
Europe, and more specifically the EU, has a fair claim to have been a world leader in exploring responsible climate policies, especially when it comes to efforts to mitigate climate change. It has not been slow to advertise the fact, notably in the series of documents designed to shape a collective EU Arctic policy (on which more in Section IV).[33] It is worth also noting here, however, that Europe is a stronghold of NGO and civil society activity aimed at raising consciousness of climate change and, more specifically, at protecting Arctic nature. Brigitte Bardot was the figurehead of one of the earliest campaigns making use of a consumer boycott, in this case against natural furs, which had a real impact on Arctic livelihoods at the time. Today, the famous or notorious pro-nature organization Greenpeace has its headquarters in Amsterdam, where it runs a specific ‘Save the Arctic’ programme.[34] In September 2013 when the Greenpeace ship ‘Arctic Sunrise’ took action against a new Russian drilling station in the polar sea, 16 out of the 30 on board who were arrested by the Russians were European citizens (including two from Russia itself and one from Ukraine).[35]

III. Governance in the European High North: a Periphery Model?

Turning now from practical issues and interactions to the governance structures for handling them: Europe has developed an idiosyncratic international architecture and institutional culture that no other continent can fully match. When comparing Europe with the other two land-masses bordering the Arctic – North America and Russia – the former’s multiplicity of nation-states stands out as the basic difference, with NATO and the European Union (EU) now having nearly 30 members apiece. Coexistence and cooperation among so many actors clearly demands more institutionalization, or a different kind of institutionalization, than a space belonging to a single state or just two neighbours. Many factors have been at work, however, in producing the extraordinary density and variety of European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. They coexist both horizontally – groups with similar sets of members but different tasks, like the EU and NATO – and vertically, like sets of Chinese boxes of different sizes. The largest, like the OSCE, extend from North America to Central Asia; then come NATO and the EU which have grown from a Western base, with some of the world’s most binding and advanced [36] models of multilateral cooperation; then there are neighbourhood groups covering geographical sub-regions of Europe; and finally some small special partnerships like the Benelux union of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. [37]
To an unusual degree, Europeans have also had to consider the inter-relationship of these different fora, which have not always found it easy to coexist, especially where their competences and ambitions overlap. Explicit codes have been worked out, for instance, on EU-NATO and OSCE-Council of Europe cooperation, while the EU has developed a doctrine of ‘subsidiarity’ – the desirability of settling an issue in the lowest/smallest framework of governance that can cope with it – which offers a logical place for sub-regional and local groupings as well as national competences. The most comprehensive approach is the notion of ‘mutually reinforcing institutions’, developed by the OSCE and enshrined in the 1999 Platform of Cooperative Security. [38] It recognizes the need to use differently constituted organizations for different purposes, and calls for them to show mutual respect (including respect for nations’ rights to join their preferred groupings) and to work together for maximum transparency and coherence. Europeans’ familiarity with, and acquired skills in handling, such a multi-institutional, multi-level system may provide another reason why many of them find the idea of a single omnicompetent Arctic Treaty strange.
It is natural that the interwoven fabric of these institutions should, as it were, fray at the margins: either because the ‘core’ institutions have not (yet) reached out to (all) of Europe’s peripheries; or because the countries in the outer zone do not fully share – for geo-strategic, economic, historical or cultural reasons – the same imperatives felt by more centrally-placed countries to integrate as fully as possible. To Europe’s south-east, the former is the case since the Western Balkan states and Turkey have shown much greater keenness to join the EU than the Union has shown to absorb them. The Northern periphery fits the latter explanation, since no-one could doubt that Norway and Iceland would be welcome in the EU if they were determined to join, [39] and the same should be true of Sweden and Finland in NATO. As it is, the five Nordic states with their autonomous territories provide a uniquely large zone in Europe of semi-integration or ‘integration lite’, since only Denmark is in both NATO and the EU [40] and even Denmark has four major opt-outs from features of European integration developed since the 1990s.[41] This important difference from the politics of other European frontiers does not, however, prevent the Nordic states from acting as transmitters of the ‘European way’ towards the High North and Atlantic/Arctic gateway. It will be argued here that the governance pattern special to these areas more fully mirrors European practice than it does any other political or institutional influence; and, conversely, that the things many observers find problematic and opaque about High Northern governance may best be explained by the region’s ‘peripheral’ nature.
The first of these points is relatively easy to prove since there are, realistically, no rival models of multilateral governance being offered from the North American or the Russian side. No European Arctic player has seriously thought about joining NAFTA, though the option might be aired in the event of Greenland’s independence. Russia has not managed, or even tried, to draw any neighbour north of Belarus into its own economic (EurAsEC [42]) or military (CSTO[43]) cooperation structures. The Pacific/Arctic gateway through the Bering Strait lacks high-level inter-governmental organizations, although cooperation networks exist for local coastguards and for fisheries. The one non–European institutional factor that plays a key role in European Arctic governance [44] is, in fact, the United Nations through its Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and its agency competent for shipping matters, the International Maritime Organization (IMO).[45] To a degree highly untypical of Europe as a whole,[46] UNCLOS sets the basic international-legal framework for Arctic coexistence and conflict avoidance, including the EEZ system that defines ownership of sea-bed/marine resources and the procedures for defining and mediating new territorial claims. In the absence of a specific shipping organization for the Arctic, the IMO has taken on the task of developing a polar shipping code, designed to set universal standards for safety and responsible environmental practice. Working from proposals first developed in the Arctic Council, the IMO was in autumn 2014 approaching the point of being able to issue a legally binding draft for signature. [47]
In at least two other ways, however, Europe’s Northern frontier does fit into the broader pattern of presence and activity by home-grown European institutions in peripheral zones. The first is the role of NATO, about which confusingly different statements are sometimes heard. Russia’s position is simply that ‘there is no place for NATO’ anywhere in the Arctic.[48] In recent years Canada has stood against the creation of a formal or explicit Arctic policy for NATO, arguing that the Arctic powers can manage the area well, and peacefully, on their own. Even the smaller members of NATO in the area, such as Iceland and Norway, have taken pains since they joined the Alliance to restrict the more visible forms of NATO presence and action in their neighbourhood: they, and Denmark, do not accept any stationing of or visits by nuclear objects in peacetime, while Denmark and Norway also refuse permanent basing by foreign forces.[49] Yet at the same time, these Nordic nations attach great importance to NATO’s collective guarantees (including the promise of US aid and reinforcement) for their entire territories and territorial waters, including the most northerly ones. NATO’s founding Treaty[50] defines no northern cut-off point for NATO’s responsibility and actions, as it does in the south. In fact, the US nuclear arsenal has flight-paths across the top of the globe and US, British and French nuclear submarines have felt free to patrol anywhere under the polar ice. Since 2010 when NATO’s new Strategic Concept placed a renewed emphasis on ‘core tasks’ including territorial defence for vulnerable Allies,[51] a new round of discussion has begun on contingency plans for traditional war scenarios in the North, as in other parts of Europe – and has gained further impetus from the events of 2014 in Ukraine.
The key to these seeming contradictions is to recognize that in most parts of its periphery (earlier often called its ‘flanks’), NATO chooses to work through ‘over-the-horizon’ deterrence combined with rapid reaction options, rather than by permanent troop stationing or multilaterally-manned frontier defences. Even during the Cold War, the defence needs of Portugal and Turkey as well as Norway were covered by an ‘ACE Mobile Force’ concept, occasional reinforcement exercises, and a light-basing pattern providing hubs for US and other air forces (but no ground combat forces or permanent naval stationing). The hub for the northern region was at Keflavik in Iceland and was unilaterally closed by the US in 2006 when the need for it was no longer deemed pressing, though similar bases remain at Lajes in the (Portuguese) Azores and Inçirlik in Turkey. Strikingly, when Central European states joined NATO in 1997 and 2004, it was agreed not to station any multilateral forces (or place nuclear objects) in peace-time on their territory either, though some of them had strategically sensitive borders with or close to Russia. NATO’s Cardiff Summit in September 2014[52] decided to arrange a ‘rolling’ troop presence and more frequent exercises along this Eastern periphery, for reassurance to the Baltic States and others, but the Alliance is still not contemplating anything remotely like the permanent force concentrations along the inner-German border in the Cold War.
In short, NATO has gambled from the start on being able to provide deterrent cover, and effective ad hoc protection, for its peripheries without the ostentatious and possibly provocative ‘flag-waving’ of a permanent presence and constant exercises. Such solutions have often been welcomed by local states – certainly in the north – as well as by larger Allies who would have paid the price. The point here is not whether NATO’s calculations are reliable or not, which could certainly be questioned, or whether the whole Alliance would actually back up one of its Arctic members who came under fire. [53] The argument is simply that the defence cover of the European High North conforms, in institutional terms, to a model shared with other European peripheries, and one in which the Euro-Atlantic institution of NATO – rather than some custom-made ‘Arctic defence’ regime – holds a central place.
Along other frontiers where the typically European institutional complex comes up against less organized or differently organized regions, ‘sub-regional’ groupings have played a significant, growing, and generally positive role since the late Cold War period. [54] Their motivation is precisely to reach out across borders to states that are not yet, or may never be, integrated; that may have different political values, and even opposing security interests; but with whom some common, practical, ‘neighbourhood’ interests can still be identified. The visible work of these groups commonly focuses on economic (especially transport and infrastructure) development, environment protection, health and education, and ‘softer’ types of security cooperation such as border control including anti-smuggling, anti- human trafficking and anti-crime work, radiation safety, and the handling of civil emergencies. They bypass ‘hard’ military and strategic issues, and also ‘hard’ economics in the sense that they do not attempt to manage private business, currencies or trade relations, but – at most – to work on security- or norm-related aspects of the regulatory environment. These limitations on their scope, together with the fact that they are commonly under-institutionalized with limited funds and weak or absent secretariats, make it easy to view them as ‘weak’ institutions, and that is fair enough when they are compared with either NATO or the EU. But it is equally possible to argue that NATO and the EU would have a much harder time without these groups: not just because they share the burden of some lower-level tasks in ‘subsidiarity’ fashion, but because their secondary ‘process effects’ ease and stabilize local relationships, making formal dividing lines less sharp and frontier conflicts less likely.[55]
Europe’s Northern frontier is the home of one of Europe’s longer-standing neighbourhood groups, the Nordic Cooperation of the five Nordic states, which dates back to the 1950s and has a parliamentary Nordic Council and a Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) as its main vehicles. [56] While hardly needing to pre-empt conflict within the group, Nordic inter-governmental cooperation does help to soften distinctions between the North’s EU and non-EU, NATO and non-NATO states. It now includes many activities with explicit security goals, both inward-looking – such as the ‘Haga’ cooperation on handling civil emergencies[57] – and outward-looking, such as the NORDEFCO defence cooperation network which includes collaboration on peace missions abroad.[58] In recent years both the Nordic Council and NCM have regularly addressed Arctic issues, often producing a common Nordic line on matters discussed in larger groups, and a series of joint Nordic programmes have been funded for Arctic-related research.[59] Further, Iceland and the two non-sovereign nations of Greenland and the Faroe Islands have intensified their local ‘West Nordic’ cooperation, raising it to the level of concerted government action as well as parliamentary dialogue, and agreeing to prepare a joint Arctic strategy. [60]
Thanks partly to Nordic initiatives and mutual support, the Northern periphery also became one of the earliest post-Cold War laboratories for creating more diverse and ‘inclusive’ sub-regional groupings. The Council of Baltic Sea States, including Russia, Poland and Germany as well as the Nordic and Baltic states, was launched in 1992 and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) – basically a Norwegian-Russian invention – in 1993. The latter covers the provinces of Norway, Russia, Sweden and Finland that lie wholly or partly above the Arctic Circle, and has mechanisms for developing common policies and projects at ministerial, official, and provincial level (the leaders of provinces meet in the Barents Regional Council), as well as further specialized sub-groups. It is generally seen as a successful venture which over its first 20 years[61] has not only improved the living conditions of High North dwellers and eased cross-border cooperation between them, but also helped to ensure a calm and peaceful atmosphere along Russia’s border with NATO in Norway. Although the Barents cooperation does not extend to matters at sea, it is thought to have helped create the atmosphere in which Russia and Norway were finally able to agree on a disputed stretch of their maritime border in 2007. [62]
When the Arctic Council (AC) took its present institutional form in 1996, led by an inter-governmental Council of Canada, the USA, Russia and the five Nordic states (with six indigenous peoples’ groups also at the table), it could most straightforwardly be seen as a continuation of the pan-Arctic cooperation for environmental and scientific goals that had brought the same players together since the mid-Cold War period. From that heritage the AC drew its six scientific working groups, which still provide its main substructure alongside shorter-term working parties. [63] This feature sets the AC aside from Europe-based sub-regional structures, as do its much larger geographical purview and non-European members. In all other respects, however – and above all in the features that observers most often find ‘weak’ and confusing – the neighbourhood grouping for the Arctic closely resembles those overlapping with it in the northern segment of Europe. [64] Like them it is very lightly institutionalized, with a small (recently created) central secretariat; few funds to cover anything more than its own staff; and much reliance on a rotating chairmanship. Like them it avoids discussing ‘hard’ defence – aside from military support for civil tasks like search and rescue – and thereby seeks to compartmentalize, ‘de-securitize’ [65] and work around the toughest issues dividing its members. Like them it lacks ownership or control over the main economic dynamics of its region, working instead on developing regulatory norms that it transmits to member nations or other institutions for enactment – such as the IMO has supplied for the polar shipping code – for want of any legislative competence of its own.
Such typical features of sub-regional governance may well be described as weaknesses when compared with the way the EU and NATO operate. On the other hand, not only would the multi-institutional complex be the poorer (and probably less stable) without them – as argued above – but any attempt to ‘strengthen’ the AC and other neighbourhood groupings in ways that ran counter to their peculiar governance styles would almost certainly be counter-productive. They could too easily lose the trust of their members, and whatever good will they enjoy abroad, by failing in the face of essentially insoluble problems. Higher stakes and higher drama would increase the risk of political disruption, whereas up to now one of the core merits of these groups has been their ability to quietly maintain dialogue with Russia during periods of crisis and sanctions. It is far from clear that NATO and the EU – which both have stronger de facto roles in the Arctic than meet the eye (see also next section) – would welcome such competition in any case.
As things stand, the governance system of Europe’s High North and the Atlantic gateway carries up into the Arctic a typically European web of parallel and concentric institutions, even more complex when specialized groups like fisheries commissions[66] are included. There are of course gaps and overlaps, leaving some essential issues to be managed – for good or ill – by national jurisdictions and old-fashioned diplomacy. It is a messy system, but one that has so far allowed a smoother, more consistent build-up of cooperation across strategic frontiers than would easily be found at any other European periphery, or in other segments of the Arctic. Messiness also has the merit of leaving room for evolution and adaptation in several different directions, as the still unpredictable course of Arctic development unfolds. It is time now to add the final element to the mix by looking at the role of the European Union.

IV. The European Union and the Arctic

The EU’s Arctic role has attracted almost as much confusion and criticism as NATO’s, partly because it is tempting to consider it from the polar regions downwards and through the eyes of local actors, rather than as an extension of Europe-wide processes and habits. The fact that the EU has so far failed in its requests to be recognized as an AC observer – being invited only ad hoc – also attracts disproportionate attention. [67] In reality, the EU’s main Arctic tools and assets are no more dependent on the AC than are the military, and major commercial, dynamics of the circumpolar region.
To start with, three member states in the AC are full EU members (though see above for limitations on the Danish kingdom’s involvement), and two more, Iceland and Norway, belong to the European Economic Area which obliges them to apply tens of thousands of pages of EU internal legislation. These two nations also take part in the EU’s Schengen system for border and migration control, and in some further aspects of law-and-justice-related work. They systematically align themselves with EU foreign policy statements issued through the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), join in many security-related initiatives (in the fields of arms control and counter-terrorism, for instance), and contribute assets to the EU’s peacekeeping missions both military and civilian. Actual entry to the EU by either Norway or Iceland currently seems a remote contingency, given that the Norwegian people have twice rejected it by referendum and that an incoming Icelandic government blocked that country’s accession talks in 2013. [68] Even without it, however, the relatively deep involvement of all five Nordic states in the European construction process means that the footprint of EU legislation, including norms and standards, and guidelines for dealing with the outside world, extends far up into the European and Atlantic High North.[69]
This is all the more so since the EU is an active partner of all remaining nations in the Arctic. The US is its single closest economic – and often political – ally, currently negotiating a trans-Atlantic trade agreement that would move the US/Europe complex a long way towards a single market space.[70] There is also a far-reaching partnership with Canada. [71] Since the end of the Cold War, EU-Russia relations have become a matter of high policy and have generated elaborate, multi-dimensional cooperation frameworks, currently focussed on the notion of four ‘common spaces’ that in principle embrace the whole Russian territory.[72] The interruption of progress in 2014 by the Ukrainian crisis, EU-imposed sanctions, and Russian counter-sanctions merely underlines that the relationship now has strong strategic and security-related dimensions: responsibility more and more clearly resides with the EU to protect its territory against non-military threats and the non-military spillover of conflicts involving Russia, even if ‘hard’ defence and deterrence remain in NATO’s hands. Further, the EU in recent years has re-framed and strengthened its bilateral relations with Greenland.[73] It has a lively, sometimes conflictual relationship with the Faroe Islands, focused on fisheries but now broadening to other issues and forms of interaction.[74]
This web of bilateral relationships alone would make the EU the best-connected and most ‘present’ mainstream European institution in the High North; [75] but it has built additional entry points through multilateral neighbourhood schemes. It was a founding member of the BEAC and still plays an active part there as a co-funder of development projects. In 1999 the current Finnish EU Presidency launched a ‘Northern Dimension’ (ND) initiative,[76] creating a forum where EU states meet with Iceland, Norway and Russia to consider cooperation in areas from the Baltic Sea northwards. After facing some criticism for focusing too much initially on the Finland-Russia border zone, the ND was re-launched in 2006 in a form giving the three non-EU states clearer co-ownership. While there is no northerly limit on the ND´s activities, since its early days it has had an explicit ‘Arctic window’ designed, inter alia, to encourage contact with Iceland and Greenland. The ND is a predominantly practical programme for channelling EU grant money and promoting cross-border projects, rather than a significant forum for policy discussion. Conscious efforts are made today for dialogue and voluntary coordination between it and the AC, BEAC and Council of Baltic Sea States, to guard against confusion and duplication.[77]
On top of all this, the EU has since 2008 been developing explicit Arctic policies designed to draw together the different facets of its involvement. The initiative lay first with the European Parliament (EP), which published its first assessment in October 2008,[78] and the European Commission which produced its first ideas for an EU strategy later that year. [79] The Directorate-General for maritime affairs (DG MARE) had a hand in the drafting under the leadership of DG RELEX (external relations),, reflecting a perception that the practical core of EU involvement lies in fisheries, shipping and environmental work. These issues have continued to dominate in subsequent updates of the Commission approach[80] and in two sets of interim policy guidelines issued by the EU Council of Ministers, in December 2009 and 2014 respectively[81] — albeit with a growing emphasis also on science, research and monitoring where the EU claims to be a major funder. As examples of the current EU agenda, the 2012 paper from the Commission and CFSP High Representative[82] defines the priorities as fighting climate change; acquiring and using ‘knowledge’; a sustainable approach to economic development notably in shipping and fisheries; consulting local stakeholders; and institutional ‘engagement’ via the AC, BEAC, ND and bilateral relations with Greenland. The Council in its 2014 conclusions slightly rearranged the order to focus on: support for the Arctic Council, protecting the environment, talking to local peoples, research and monitoring, promotion of international rules for safe and environment-friendly shipping (but respecting the right of international free passage for EU vessels), ‘safe and sustainable’ resource management, and ‘engagement’ through the same channels identified by the Commission. These priorities and positions place the EU very much in the mainstream of Arctic ‘strategies’ issued by interested nations, including its own Northern members. [83]
There has never been any disagreement among the EU institutions that the Union should promote a peaceful, law-based approach to Arctic governance, in cooperation with all parties and with respect for the views of indigenous peoples. Some differences of emphasis can however be seen on diplomatic and institutional aspects, where the EP has at times been attracted by the idea of an Arctic Treaty and at least initially took a tougher stand against sealing and whaling. The Council’s position has generally been prudent, casting the EU approach as a ‘policy’ rather than a ‘strategy’ and stressing recognition for the existing national rights and international practices in the region. This is likely to reflect both the relatively low strategic priority that the Arctic still holds for the EU as a whole, and the varying levels of EU states’ enthusiasm for the issue itself and for the idea of EU involvement. [84]
The existence of these diverse national approaches, the sometimes confusing signals sent by different EU bodies, and misunderstandings about the latters’ inter-relationship – for instance, outside observers can overestimate the EP’s power – have contributed to many critical and sceptical depictions of the EU’s role.[85] Negative feelings in Canada and among indigenous peoples on the issue of the EU in the AC may in part also reflect such factors, although real disagreements about the handling of Arctic fauna lie beneath. A more dispassionate approach that cuts through discourse to the kind of facts presented in this paper might help dispose of several points that analysts have puzzled over.
Is the EU an actor in the Arctic? – plainly, yes: through its membership, regulatory outreach, national and institutional relationships and concrete impact in key economic sectors. Has the development of EU policy up to now been hesitant and sometimes sent mistaken signals, causing unnecessary friction with at least some other Arctic actors? – certainly, but a clear learning process and improved diplomatic tone are evident from 2009 onwards and have been rewarded, notably with some détente on the Greenland and Canada fronts. (In any case, it would be hard to claim that anyone else’s Arctic strategy is yet perfect either, and the EU is clearly ahead of NATO where overt strategy formation has so far been suppressed, as explained earlier.) Is the EU seriously handicapped by not yet having been accepted as an AC observer? – only to a limited degree and in limited aspects of its Arctic-related activity, although the way this has been built up into an issue of prestige cannot be denied or reversed. Is there anything seriously wrong with EU Arctic policy? – it would be hard to say so on the basis of the Union’s current published priorities, which reflect well both the institution’s interests and the fields in which it can most productively engage. Is the promotion and execution of the relevant policies still poorly coordinated? – certainly, like everything else in the EU system.[86] Are national attitudes sometimes unhelpful? – this is probably more true of the variation in EU members’ attitudes, and perhaps particularly of Nordic members,[87] than it is of the way the EU has built connections with the important outside players. In any event, it might be said with some confidence that with each partner state (except maybe Canada), EU dealings on the Arctic are more harmonious than those on many other issues of mutual concern.

V. In Conclusion: Frontiers and Destiny

Every frontier is both a barrier and a bridge. It marks the dividing line, but also the most obvious point for starting to interact, with the Other on the farther side. In addition to the Northern frontier that leads through the Arctic to the North Pole, Europe has several other such lines of division and transition. While definitions might differ, they include at a minimum the Eastern frontier towards Russia and other former Soviet republics; the Middle Eastern frontier leading through to West Asia and ultimately (via the old Silk Road) to the Far East; and the Southern frontier running through the Mediterranean Sea to Africa. If compared with these others, Europe’s Arctic frontier stands out clearly as the most stable and relaxed, and the one where the latest strategic trends contain some positive as well as disruptive potential.
Even so, important European interests – arguably, even existential ones – are bound up with how the Arctic will develop. Precisely because the Arctic population is largest and the Arctic economy most developed in the North Atlantic/Scandinavian/ NW Russian quadrant, Europe would be hit immediately and hard by any hostilities breaking out in the Arctic. The Arctic would also be an important front in any Russia-West conflict originating elsewhere. For the same reasons, the potential impact (at least in quantitative terms) of damage due to ice and permafrost melting, violent weather, and human accidents looms larger in these territories than anywhere, except perhaps north-central Siberia. Some of the consequences, such as the impact on sea levels and currents, on the security of supplies (especially of energy and fish), and on the European financial and insurance system would affect many more Europeans than those who live in or near the Arctic zone. There is therefore a correspondingly important, collective European stake in ensuring that development remains peaceful; that military assets in the Arctic contribute to positive causes like Search and Rescue; that serious efforts and, if needed, sacrifices are made to slow down the warming process; and that economic openings are exploited with due regard both to environmental sustainability and societal consequences. Full success in these respects could in principle bring substantial gains in terms of economic growth, greater diversity of supply for all of Europe, and more diversity of occupations for its colder regions. To the extent that such interests are shared and recognized by Russia, they should help to balance Europe-Russia divergences and tensions on other fronts. At best, they might even do something to mitigate Europe’s relative political and economic decline in the world, opening up new profitable interactions, for instance, with China and other interested Asian powers. [88]
All this depends, of course, on the still-opaque future course of change in Arctic natural systems and human responses. This author’s own best guess is that commercial development will proceed more slowly and patchily than much of the current hype would have us believe and that the activities generating early profit could be more specialized ones, on or near to land rather than in the open sea – such as mining or fish farming. Conversely, major and costly damage from natural causes, and riskier conditions for existing human activities – let alone new tourist routes – might leave the European Arctic region facing an economic deficit rather than a bonanza, at least in the short-to-medium term. At least, the odds are that Arctic nations will not try to aggravate each others’ headaches by military attack or economic sabotage, and that no serious symptoms of internal strife and state collapse will spread to the region. A plausible assumption, on the evidence so far, is that tensions generated elsewhere – notably between the West and Russia over Ukraine – will slow down the progress of local and pan-Arctic cooperative processes in all fields, rather than undermining what has been built so far.
If any of this is correct, the larger question posed for Europe by its Northern periphery is not one of survival but, perhaps, more of internal balance and solidarity. Up to now, because of – among other things – hesitant Arctic policy formation in the EU and its absence in NATO, the Arctic agenda has done more to stimulate concerted policy action, improved understanding and common action among the northern-dwelling nations than among Europeans as a whole. Aside from the impact of the Nordic caucus at the AC itself, the effects can be traced at the Nordic and West Nordic levels and among a wider range of neighbours in the BEAC. Given that the northernmost states in Europe are incompletely and differentially integrated into the dominant European institutions of NATO and the EU, this effect will not necessarily translate directly into European community-building and, to some degree, even provides an alternative and rival to the pan-European approach. Put crudely, and at least in the short term, the growing Arctic focus seems to be doing more to help Iceland and Norway stay outside the Union than to push them in. And if it proves ultimately to have accelerated Greenlandic (and Faroese?) independence, [89] both these new nations are highly unlikely to have EU entry among their plans.
Things do not have to stay this way, but, if they do, they point to two scenarios that would raise questions about Europe’s solidarity, unity and coherence in the medium-to-long term. On the one hand, if Arctic development brings more losses than gains in the short run – for reasons resembling those sketched above – the rest of Europe, still plagued by economic worries and fear of Russia, might be disinclined to do anything to help its northern brethren. That would do nothing to change, and might even intensify, the currents of Euro-scepticism running through the region. On the other, when and as the Arctic starts yielding gains, these could be largely absorbed by the nations already within the Arctic club, making them less interested than ever in wider European economic support and tempted perhaps to develop new political and diplomatic alignments of their own.
This reasoning is, of course, artificial insofar as there are other, and often stronger, influences on attitudes in the different parts of Europe than anything the Arctic is likely to generate. Northern European states are closely linked to mainland actors in other important respects such as the importance they attach to relations with the US, the prominence of Russia within their local concerns, and generic trans-national challenges like cyber-security. Nevertheless, this analysis suggests a double message for the wider group of European states, including the relevant parts of Russia. At present, the European segment of the Arctic is both more developed and more fully, and cooperatively, institutionalized than any other. If, however, Europe at large attaches value to this most trouble-free of its various peripheries, and wants to maintain or increase the current level of Arctic ‘Europeanization’, more Arctic awareness and greater Arctic engagement seems called for: both from individual states outside the Northern frontier, and from some – at least – of the European institutions.
[1] The author wishes to thank the Institute of European Studies at the Free University of Brussels and the Egmont Institute, for co-hosting the public lecture duringwhich this article/paper was conceived; and Tómas Joensen for valuable research assistance.
[2] There are several ways to define this zone, the simplest being to equate it with the 4% or so of Earth’s surface lying above the Arctic Circle. This author favours the delineation in the Arctic Human Development Report (Chapter 1, page 18 of the ADHR 2004, available at, which includes areas below that latitude that are strongly connected climatically and in their natural and social features.
[3] ‘Arctic’ and ‘High North’ are used more or less interchangeably in this text, although some sources distinguish between them.
[4] Text available at
[5] The concept of and rules for EEZs are set out in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982, see
[6] For an introduction to the Arctic Treaty proposal and its supporters see Ed Struzik, As the Far North melts, call grow for an Arctic Treaty, Environment 360 website, 14 June 2010, at .
[7] Definitions and measures of ‘indigenous’ status can be controversial, but these figures are taken from indigenous peoples’ own publications: the first from a 2009 factsheet at (referring to an Arctic zone with a population of 4-5 million) and the second from a leaflet of the Arctic Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat ( There is map with full details of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Ch. 1, p. 19 of the ADHR 2004 (as note 2 above).
[8] The reference is to silver mines in northern Sweden and Norway.
[9] Text at
[10] States can make such a claim if their continental shelf can be shown to extend continuously beyond the normal 200-nm limit. For the text of UNCLOS see note 5 above.
[11] Other members of the Arctic Council are Canada, the Russian Federation and the USA, and the ‘Permanent Participants’ (indigenous peoples’ groups).
[12] Other members of the BEAC are the Russian Federation and the European Union.
[13] West Norwegian provinces take part in West Nordic cooperation for social and cultural purposes only.
[14] A French Arctic strategy is under preparation as of autumn 2014.
[15] See
[16] Main oil customers are Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, Denmark and the UK. Florentina Harbo, the Euripean Oil and Gas Market: The Role of Norway, IFRI (Paris) 2008, available at
[17] Statistics Norway,
[18] BBC News Europe, Russia’s trade ties with Europe, 4 March 2014, at
[19] Figures from Eurostat,
[20] Details in Erica Downs, In China-Russia Gas Deal, why China wins more, Fortune magazine website, 20 June 21014, at
[21] It may also be noted that 88% of the iron ore extracted in Europe comes from above the Arctic Circle, largely from the massive mines at Kiruna in Sweden. European Commission and High Representative, Developing a European Union Policy towards the Arctic Region: progress since 2008 and next steps,
26 June 2012, available at, p.4
[22] The latest example concerns quotas for a migrating mackerel stock, see Ministry of Industry and Innovation of Iceland, Mackerel Fishing Dispute Questions and Answers, at
[23] Bettina Rudloff, The EU as Fishing Actor in the Arctic, SWP (Berlin) Working Paper July 2010, available at .
[24] European Commission and High Representative, op.cit. in note 21 above, p. 10.
[25] ‘Maritime London’ Information sheet at, using statistics from the International Union of Maritime Insurers.
[26] Malte Humpert, Arctic Shipping: An Analysis of the 2013 Northern Sea Route Season, Arctic Yearbook 2014, at
[27] Adam Lajeunesse and C Whitney Lackenbauer, China’s Mining Interests in the Arctic, Université Laval (Quebec), n.d., available at,%20P.%20Whitney%20Lackenbauer%29.pdf.
[28] Figures from . (sic: the spelling mistakes are in the original URL.)
[29] . This figure counts both arrivals and departures.
[30] See for example the maps on the ‘Arctic Change’ website:
[31] Report of the Arctic Council Task Force on Short-lived Climate Forcers, 2013, available at
[32] See Impacts of Climate Change: Gulf Stream, WWF International (n.d.), at ; and for a dissenting view, Richard Seager, Climate mythology: The Gulf Stream, European climate and Abrupt Change, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (University of Columbia), n.d., at
[33] European Commission and High Representative, op.cit. in note 21 above, p.13.
[34] See
[35] Greenpeace, Meet the Arctic 30, at
[36] ‘Advanced’ here is shorthand for the analysis that sees Europe’s governance innovations – especially the deep-reaching, sovereignty-modifying integration of the European Union – as ‘post-modern’, compared with the ‘modern’ idea of the free-standing nation-state. See e.g. Michael Smith,
‘The framing of European foreign and security policy: towards a post-modern policy framework?’, Journal of European Public Policy, Vol.10(4) 2003, pp 556-575.
[37] Details at
[38] Text at
[39] Norway had been judged to meet the EU’s entry criteria when its people decided by a referendum in 1995 not to join. Iceland’s accession proceedings, launched in 2009 and frozen by an incoming government in 2013, had resolved most issues during that time except for agriculture, fisheries and some financial questions.
[40] Denmark’s autonomous territories of Greenland and the Faroe Islands have both opted out of its EU membership, and are covered only by NATO (see below on their bilateral relations with the EU).
[41] The reference is to Denmark’s opt-outs from the Treaty of Maastricht, see Folketinget (Danish Parliament), Danish Opt-outs (n.d.) at
[42] Eurasian Economic Community, see
[43] Collective Security Treaty organization, see
[44] The reason why the Arctic Council is not mentioned here will emerge from the argument later in this section.
[45] See
[46] Since UNPROFOR failed to master the Balkan wars of the early 1990s, Cyprus has become the only European location where the UN takes the lead in attempts at conflict containment and resolution. In the civil sphere, given the unique breadth and depth of EU/EEA legislation, the only UN agency that can be argued to play a front-line role in tackling human problems in Europe is the World Health Organization (WHO).
[47] International Maritime Organization, Shipping in polar waters, at
[48] Barents Observer, 22 October 2014, Russia says no need for NATO in Arctic, expands own military presence, at
[49] Further, Spitsbergen is de-militarized by Treaty and Iceland has no armed fores of its own.
[50] Text at, see esp. Article 6(1).
[51] The text of the Strategic Concept is at
[52] Details at
[53] This is further discussed in Alyson JK Bailes, ‘Turning European security upside down? The future significance of the Arctic’ in Dis-politika (Turkish Foreign Policy Institute, Ankara), vol. XXXVII/3-4, February 2013.
[54] Andrew Cottey (ed.), Subregional Cooperation in the New Europe. Building Security, Prosperity and Solidarity from the Barents to the Black Sea, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998..
[55] Andrew Cottey, op.cit in note 54. For similar points on the Northern institutions see also Ingmar Oldberg, Ingmar Oldberg, The Role of Russia in Regional Councils, Reykjavik: Centre for Arctic Policy Studies, 2014, at
[56] Details at
[57] Alyson JK Bailes and Carolina Sandö, Nordic Cooperation on Civil Security: The Haga Process 2009-14, Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) 2014, at—3944—SE%20G5%20HA%2017%20okt_med%20omslag.pdf.
[58] See
[59] For more on this (and also on Arctic roles of the BEAC and EU Northern Dimension, discussed below) see Alyson JK Bailes and Kristmundur Þ. Ólafsson, ‘Northern Europe and the Arctic Agenda: Roles of Nordic and other Sub-regional Organizations’ in The Yearbook of Polar Law vol. 5, 2013, Leiden and Boston: Brill/Nijhoff, pp. 45-74.
[60] This last decision was taken in 2014 and will be pursued with a drafting meeting in 2015. See Egill Þór Níelsson, The West Nordic Council in the Global Arctic, Centre for Arctic Policy Studies (Reykjavik) 2014, at
[61] For the BAEC aniversary declaration adopted at Inari, Finland in December 2013 see
[62] Norwegian Government, Agreement signed between Norway and Russia on maritime delimitation in the Varangerfjord area, 11 July 2007, at
[63] Details at
[64] This is argued more fully in Alyson JK Bailes, ‘Understanding the Arctic Council: A ‘Sub-regional’ Perspective’ in Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Vol.15 No 2 (2013).
[65] For Northern regional cooperation as an example of de-securitization see Pertti Joenniemi, ‘The Barents Euro-Arctic Council’ in Andrew Cottey (ed.), Subregional Cooperation in the New Europe, as note 54 above.
[66] The North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission covers some areas beyond the Arctic Circle, see
[67] The AC Ministerial meeting at Kiruna in May 2013 foresaw the EU being admitted subject to solving a dispute with Canada, which Canada has now declared settled. Since such decisions require unanimity within the AC, however, it is not a foregone conclusion that the matter will be concluded at the 2015 Ministerial.
[68] Iceland applied to the EU under a Left-leaning government in 2009, but public support for entry (according to opinion polls) has mostly hovered around 30%. A Right-leaning government taking office in May 2013 halted the accession process but has not (as of winter 2014) formally withdrawn the application.
[69] Timo Koivurova et al, The present and future competence of the European Union in the Arctic, European Parliament background report, 2011, CJO 2011 doi:10.1017/S0032247411000295.
[70] European External Action Service (EEAS), The United States of America, at
[71] European External Action Service (EEAS), Canada, at
[72] European External Action Service (EEAS), EU Relations with Russia, at
[73] By virtue of its status in the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland is one (and by far the largest) of the 25 Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) associated with the European Union. The EU makes targeted cash grants for purposes seen as crucial for Greenland’s development and quality of governance. See European External Action Service (EEAS), Further EU support for sustainable development of Greenland, at
[74] Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen (Faroese PM), The Faroe Islands and the EU – time for a new partnmenship, August 2014,
[75] This also reflects the fact that the OSCE and Council of Europe have given very sparse attention to Arctic issues, partly because of Canada’s wish to avoid discussion.
[76] See
[77] Bailes and Ólafsson, as note 59 above.
[78] Text at
[79] Text at
[80] See the June 2012 document at note 21 above.
[81] Texts at , and , respectively.
[82] See note 79.
[83] On Arctic strategies see Lassi Heininen, Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study, Northern Research Forum (NRF) and University of Lapland Press April 2012, at . The EU countries having so far published strategies are Denmark ,Finland, Sweden, the UK and Germany in that order.
[84] Andreas Maurer, The Arctic Region – Perspectives from Member States and Institutions of
the EU , Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (Berlin) Working Paper No. 4 of 2010, at
[85] The EU Arctic Forum, part of the Arctic Forum Foundation, has worked in recent years to promote better understanding both within and outside EU circles – see Some good materials are also available at the ‘Arctic Institute’ online think-tank, see
[86] Recent years have seen a particularly tricky adaptation process in fields covered both the Commission and by the new EU External Action Service created by the Lisbon Treaty. Overall Arctic policy falls into this category.
[87] Finland is the most enthusiastic of these about an EU role, followed by Sweden. Denmark’s attitude is complex because – aside from its own EU opt-outs – it has reason to want to minimize EU interference in the sensitive issue of relations with Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
[88] China became an observer at the AC in 2013 as did Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Recent Chinese overtures to and activities in Iceland and Greenland have aroused much speculation about Beijing’s ambitions in the Arctic. For a considered analysis see Marc Lanteigne, China’s Emerging Arctic Strategies: Economics and Institutions, Centre for Arctic Policy Studies (Reykjavik) 2014, at
[89] The point is that neither territory is self-financing at present, but profits from (eg) local oil/gas extraction, mining, fishing and shipping activities might one day give them the option of cutting free from Denmark at least in economic terms. The politics of the affairs are, naturally, more complicated.


IDN-InDepthNews offers news analyses and viewpoints on topics that impact the world and its peoples. IDN-InDepthNews serves as the flagship of the International Press Syndicate Group

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *