Oops, they did it again

EUs arctic policy - Opps they did it again
Don’t worry, this will not be a suggestion to join the #FreeBritney movement, nor a recommendation to watch the latest Britney documentary.

​​​​This will simply be an analysis on the most recent Arctic policy update by the European Union, the Joint Communication on A stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic, issued by the European Commission and the High Representative (HR) of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy on 13 October 2021.​

EU's larger political agendas​

Researcher Andreas Raspotnink of the High North Center and Adam Stępień​ of the Arctic Institute, have written a paper where they offer their thoughts on this recent development.​​ 

The European Union presents itself as a more self-confident actor in the Arctic, taking stock of its economic and environment impacts in the region, while retaining the previous definition of the scope of its Arctic engagement. 

This includes climate and environment, developmental issues in the European Arctic, as well as international cooperation within and relevant for the region. At the same time, howe​​ver, one of the key objectives of the new policy statement is to position the EU’s Arctic engagement within the landscape of the European Green Deal (EDG) and the newly found self-portrayal of the EU as a geopolitical actor (van der Leyen’s commission being framed as “geopolitical commission”, for instance). As the Arctic policy is primarily a compilation and manifestation of the EU’s larger policy agendas, it is them that largely determine the content of EU Arctic documents, including the 2021 communication. 

Controversial proposal​

The influence of Arctic concerns on these larger frameworks is minor at best. Among the consequences of the EU’s new overall policy setting is a strong focus on Arctic resource developments, discouraging those that contradict global climate objectives (opening new hydrocarbons exploitation) and encouraging those that support the transition (critical and important minerals). 

Especially the new proposal for a moratorium on hydrocarbons exploration is a controversial one, already resulting in negative reactions among many Arctic states, actors and stakeholders. The Commission’s and EEAS’ proposal appears to single out the Arctic as a resource region, even if the message could primarily refer to preventing all – or as many as possible – new hydrocarbon projects. There is also no distinction made between oil and gas, while the latter is still discussed, including in the European Union decision circles, as a transitional fuel. 

The presence of the no-new-hydrocarbons idea is the primarily manifestation of the new level of confidence that the EU officials chose to project. While problematic in many respects, there is certainly an intrinsic value in making a clear statement that addressing global climate change requires determined policy, possibly adversely affecting some international relationships, and abandoning certain developmental pathways, especially before the first steps are taken.​

Download the entire paper here​!


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