A Balanced Arctic Policy for the EU

In-Depth Analysis 20-07-2020

The EU is currently working towards updating its Arctic policy. It needs to respond to two major changes that affect the region and pose challenges to the role of the EU in the Arctic; accelerated climate change and increased geoeconomic and geopolitical competition. The EU finds itself in a rather unique position. As a supranational institution with competences in parts of the Arctic, and with Member States having territories in the region, as well as institutionalised linkages with Arctic countries Iceland and Norway — with whom the EU shares the European Economic Area (EEA) — it needs to balance sectoral policies, priority areas and addressing different Arctics. The EU should therefore create ‘more EU in the Arctic’ by broadening the scope of its existing Arctic policy, as well as incorporating ‘more Arctic in the EU’ by stipulating that the Arctic becomes a cross-cutting consideration in other relevant EU policies. In addition, the EU will need to address hard and soft security issues within existing functional, regional and global frameworks and continue engaging in dialogue and confidence-building measures with Russia. Finally, a revised EU Arctic policy needs to be proactive and ambitious, based on existing strengths and expertise within the EU. At the same time, in an Arctic that witnesses the return of geopolitics, the ‘civilian power’ EU will encounter challenges assuming its role in the region. How it narrates its future position in the Arctic will play a tangible role in negotiating this position politically.