Arctic Europe Between National Interests and Arctic Governance

Arctic Europe Between National Interests and Arctic Governance

Igor Kochev (Tomsk State University, Russia) and Wim Heijman (Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6954-1.ch006


From an economic point of view, melting ice is making the Arctic ocean increasingly important for a number of countries – Arctic states as well as non-Arctic states. Also, the EU has clear interests in the area. This chapter provides a brief description of those interests and its implications on the EU's relationship with the Arctic partners. This note takes seven aspects of the EU-relations with the Arctic states into consideration (i.e., the institutional framework, the EU Arctic interests and policies, shipping, fishing, marine mammals, offshore oil and gas operations, and the EU's Arctic partners).
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The general intent of this chapter is to give an overview of the current state of political affairs in and around the Arctic providing a reader with reliable reference information gathered from authentic sources on both the Arctic states policies and the existing institutions of international cooperation proceeding with an analysis of the reasons behind the collaboration efforts and conflicts between the major stakeholders in the Arctic in the 21st century.

The political landscape of the Arctic is drawn giving special attention to the Nordic countries of Europe. Particularly, the chapter deals with the EU Arctic interests and national interests as well as policies of Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland addressing both the economic development of internal Arctic territories and political ambitions in the broader Arctic region. In each case, the Arctic relative importance for national economy, environmental and political security is analyzed. Next, official strategies for pursuing national interests in the Arctic are epitomized with special attention being paid to international cooperation as an instrument of national Arctic policy. In conclusion, the discovered similarities and principal divergences between national Arctic strategies are stated.

The main contradictions and conflict lines among the Nordic states are set forth including conflicting views on the legal status of the Arctic, the international regime, prospects of common use of natural resources and free trade, the mutual accusations and territorial claims. At the same time, the authors show how the awareness of common interests and common challenges a single nation state is not capable to meet leads to a partial paradigm change resulting in the reciprocal cooperation efforts made by the Nordic states (even if not in the same degree) and the establishment of international institutions fostering joint research and sustainable development in the Arctic. At once, a reader is provided with an explanation why not all the Arctic states are equally enthusiastic about the international cooperation, and why only little progress is made in the long road to the genuine Arctic governance.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Arctic Countries: The eight countries which divide among themselves the land within the Arctic Circle (i.e., Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the USA [Alaska], Canada, Denmark [Greenland], and Iceland).

Nordic Countries: A group of countries in Northern Europe, including Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and the territories of the Aland Islands and the Faroe Islands.

Northern Sea Route: The formerly ice-blocked shipping route in the context of Northeast Passage between Asia and Europe running along the Russian Arctic coast within its exclusive economic zone.

Marine Mammals: The aquatic mammals (seals, whales, polar bears, among others) that rely on marine ecosystems in the seas of the Arctic Ocean for their existence.

Sami: An indigenous group of people of Finno-Ugric origin inhabiting the Arctic Europe (large parts of Norway, Northern Sweden, Lapland, and Kola Peninsula) and self-organized in one of the oldest indigenous people’s NGOs – the Saami Council (founded in 1956).

Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM): The official body for Nordic intergovernmental cooperation, which has the overall responsibility for Nordic countries cooperation.

Shipping: A transportation of cargoes in the polar waters by ice-strengthened transport vessels of various types, including with an icebreaker assistance.

Arctic Council (AC): The leading intergovernmental forum coordinating international cooperation in the Arctic region consisting of member states that are actually fully or partly located in the region, permanent participants represented by indigenous peoples associations, and observers.

Safety of Offshore Oil and Gas Operations Directive (OSD): A set of rules imposed by the EU in 2013 on extractive companies and individual countries operating in European waters in order to prevent environmental damages caused by offshore drilling.

Inuit: Indigenous population of Alaska, the Aleut Islands, Northern Canada (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Québec, and Labrador) and Greenland.

Arctic Five: The five Arctic littoral states (Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the USA) claiming the leadership in the Arctic Council.

Fishing: A process of catching wild fish and other aquatic species from the waters of the Arctic Ocean and Northern Atlantic.

Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): In terms of UNCLOS, a zone stretching 200 nautical miles from the shore, where a coastal state has exclusive right to explore and exploit natural resources of the sea as well as the seabed and its subsoil, and any other economic exploitation.

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