Demystifying The EU In The Arctic

The time has come for Arctic states to try to understand the European Union and acknowledge its investments in research, development and education in the region, and its contribution to Arctic governance. It should be formally accepted as an observer to the Arctic Council.

The European Union is enhancing its engagement in the Arctic. It is expected to issue a statement in the first half of 2016, based on a roadmap released earlier this year by the European Commission and the European External Action Service. This is a logical next step that builds upon the EU’s earlier policy documents in 2008 and 2012 that identified the broad contours of the EU’s policy and activities in the Arctic. By now, all the major institutions of the EU (Parliament, Council and the Commission) have taken a stance on the EU’s presence in the Arctic, a presence that extends far beyond the EU’s involvement in the work of the Arctic Council and the continuous lack of the EU’s formal observer status in this forum.

There are many common misunderstandings about the EU as an Arctic actor: what the EU is, what it can do and what it should do (or not do) in the region. It’s important to clarify these false impressions, so that they don’t hinder the constructive role of the EU with other players in the Arctic.

Myth #1: The European Union is not and should not be an Arctic actor

The idea here is that a state must have a geographical presence in the region – that is a coastline on the Arctic Ocean – to be an Arctic actor. Without an Arctic coastline, the argument goes, the EU has no influence in Arctic waters, therefore excluding it as a valid Arctic maritime actor.

This argument is true in the sense that —> Read More