EU, Russia, and the Arctic Region

  • EU is holding consultations pertaining the Arctic policy.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed new document pertaining the Arctic strategy 2035.
  • EU is not a member of the Arctic Council.

The European Commission and the EU Diplomatic Service launched consultations pertaining to the EU policy in the Arctic Region. The main purpose of the consultation is to identify the strengths and shortcomings of the current strategy. The consultations are expected to be completed by November 2020.

The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that addresses issues faced by the Arctic governments and the indigenous people of the Arctic. The eight countries with sovereignty over the lands within the Arctic Circle constitute the members of the council: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.

According to the EU officials, it should lead to a “new understanding” about the bloc’s future strategy in the region, and take into account all EU interests in the framework of the “green deal” and security. The driving force of the policy review is the identified weaknesses of the 2020 program. One of the main concerns is lack of the ties with the Arctic states.

Moreover, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new order pertaining to the Russian policy in the Arctic, for the period up to 2035, on March 5. The decree, titled “Foundations Of State Policy In The Arctic To 2035,” states:

  1. Approve the attached Framework for the state policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic for the period up to 2035.
  2. Amend the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of may 2, 2014 N 296 “On the land territories of the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation”

Therefore, the EU decided it is time to update the policy, and start advancing the geopolitical interests in the Arctic Region. Nevertheless, the increased interest of the European Union in the Arctic region, in turn, raises many questions that generate disputes and disagreements on the part of the Arctic countries, some of which are also members of the Commonwealth.

Currently, many European countries are working on their own national Arctic strategies. “The Arctic is a rapidly developing territory in international relations,” said EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell. He added that climate change is rapidly transforming the region, increasing its geopolitical significance for the European Union, and opening up new opportunities for economic activity in the Arctic.

“We must ensure that the Arctic remains a zone of low tension and peaceful cooperation, where problems are resolved through constructive dialogue. The EU should be fully prepared to operate in the region in accordance with our interests and values,” Borrell said.

Josep Borrell is a Spanish politician, current High Representative of the European Union since 1 December 2019. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Government of Spain since 2018 until 2019.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. This concerns all of us, and the EU must be at the forefront with a clear and consistent Arctic policy to address the challenges in the coming years, ” said environment, oceans and fisheries Commissioner Virginius Sinkevicius.

It should be noted that Estonia, on the other hand, has started preparing an application for observer status in the Arctic Council, emphasizing the country’s interest in the Arctic in terms of science, economy and security. The members of the council are  Canada,  Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and United States. The council was established in the 1996.

It is also unclear what the EU’s purpose in the Arctic can be. It is clear that the Arctic needs to be protected and its habitat, instead of destroying that region with military appetites and profits. The EU still does not have any influence in the Arctic Council.

Russia blocked the EU’s bid to the Arctic Council over sanctions. The Arctic nations see the EU as a problem in the region. The EU does not have experience or knowledge of the region, and it should not be entering the Arctic.

It seems France is a driving force, and every time France enters a region it turns into problems.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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