EU regional policy in the Arctic

21-11-2016

Local communities in the Arctic face a unique set of challenges including remoteness, depopulation and a severe climate and topography. EU regional policy can support development in the European Arctic via investments under the European Structural and Investment Funds delivered through regional development and European territorial cooperation programmes, with further support also available in the form of a special aid allocation for northern sparsely populated regions. Structural funds represent an important source of funding for regional development in the European Arctic and have helped regenerate the regional economy and create jobs through the development of new activities such as high-tech innovation and tourism. Numerous challenges remain, however, with critics pointing to a limited focus on transport infrastructure, weak complementarity between EU funds in the region and problems in terms of participation, with small organisations often lacking the necessary know-how or resources. Taken together with the region's growing strategic importance and the continued need to tackle climate change, this has led to increased efforts to formulate a policy outlining the EU's approach towards the Arctic. The 2016 joint communication on an integrated EU policy for the Arctic focuses on climate change and international cooperation, with a special emphasis on sustainable development, a move that has been welcomed by Arctic communities. Academic circles, however, stress that the communication demonstrates an overly cautious approach that lacks specificity, highlighting also the marginal importance of Arctic issues for the EU and raising questions as to the likelihood of rapid progress being made. This briefing has been produced at the request of a member of the Committee of the Regions, in the framework of the Cooperation Agreement between the Parliament and the Committee.

Local communities in the Arctic face a unique set of challenges including remoteness, depopulation and a severe climate and topography. EU regional policy can support development in the European Arctic via investments under the European Structural and Investment Funds delivered through regional development and European territorial cooperation programmes, with further support also available in the form of a special aid allocation for northern sparsely populated regions. Structural funds represent an important source of funding for regional development in the European Arctic and have helped regenerate the regional economy and create jobs through the development of new activities such as high-tech innovation and tourism. Numerous challenges remain, however, with critics pointing to a limited focus on transport infrastructure, weak complementarity between EU funds in the region and problems in terms of participation, with small organisations often lacking the necessary know-how or resources. Taken together with the region's growing strategic importance and the continued need to tackle climate change, this has led to increased efforts to formulate a policy outlining the EU's approach towards the Arctic. The 2016 joint communication on an integrated EU policy for the Arctic focuses on climate change and international cooperation, with a special emphasis on sustainable development, a move that has been welcomed by Arctic communities. Academic circles, however, stress that the communication demonstrates an overly cautious approach that lacks specificity, highlighting also the marginal importance of Arctic issues for the EU and raising questions as to the likelihood of rapid progress being made. This briefing has been produced at the request of a member of the Committee of the Regions, in the framework of the Cooperation Agreement between the Parliament and the Committee.