PURPOSE: to present an integrated European Union policy for the Arctic.
BACKGROUND: the EU has a strategic interest in playing a key role in the Arctic region, which must remain a safe, stable, sustainable and prosperous not just for the region itself, but for the world.
Eight states have territories in the Arctic: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. Three EU Member States are therefore also Arctic states, while Iceland and Norway are members of the European Economic Area.
The Arctic needs a solid framework for sound stewardship: large parts of the high seas areas beyond national jurisdiction are currently not covered by specific arrangements for managing economic activities, nor is there sufficient scientific knowledge about the sea basin.
Against this background, several Member States have issued national Arctic policy frameworks in recent years. In 2014, the Council and European Parliament asked the Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to develop an integrated policy on Arctic matters, and to develop a more coherent framework for EU action and funding programmes.
In response, an integrated EU Arctic policy is proposed in this joint communication.
CONTENT: this joint communication proposes an integrated EU Arctic policy in three priority areas:
The fight against climate change and safeguarding the arctic environment: in recent years, the Arctic's role in climate change has become much more prominent. The Arctic is warming at almost twice the global average rate. It is essential to understand better the problems with which the region is faced.
Strategies must focus on fighting climate change, research and environmental protection. The EU should, in particular:
Sustainable development in and around the Arctic: the EU should also promote sustainable development in the Arctic, taking into account both the traditional livelihoods of those living in the region and the impact of economic development on the Arctic's fragile environment. It should contribute to enhancing the economic, social and environmental resilience of societies in the Arctic:
3) International cooperation on Arctic issues: the EU has a strong interest in seeing that the Arctic remains a zone of constructive international cooperation where complex issues are addressed through negotiated solutions, and where common platforms can be established in response to emerging risks
In particular, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides a framework for managing the Arctic Ocean including the peaceful settlement of disputes. The EU will continue its active participation in the Arctic Council and continue to support regional and sub-regional cooperation.
The EU will continue to engage with Arctic indigenous peoples and local communities to ensure that their views and rights are respected and promoted in the ongoing development of EU policies affecting the Arctic.
The EU needs to ensure that the necessary coordination structures are in place at EU level to meet the challenges ahead. The Council could consider establishing a Working Party on Arctic matters and northern cooperation and the European Parliament could similarly consider establishing a delegation on Arctic matters and northern cooperation.