The EU Arctic policy - a continuous search for identity

Lead Author Piotr, Kobza
Institution Contact Counsellor at the Embassy of Poland in the Hague (the opinions presented in the abstract are of the author and should not be attributed to the Polish MFA) Embassy of Poland in the Hague Alexanderstraat 25 2514JM Den Haag Netherlands
Theme Theme 2: Vulnerability of Arctic Societies
Session Name 2.5 Geopolitics and Security of the Arctic
Datetime Thu, Sep 15, 2016 01:50 PM - Fri, Sep 16, 2016 02:00 PM
Presentation Type Oral
Abstract text The last decade has been marked by an effort by the European Union to assert its position in the Arctic area. From the analytical perspective the Arctic region is one from the category of territories situated on the frontiers of the EU which have blurred affinities. Its governance is still dominated by the “local powers”: the Arctic Council members, and run, despite official statements, along traditional “Westphalian” sovereign states model. Recently, this state of affairs has been more and more subject to various sub-state and intra-state forces.
The European Union could in theory become one of the entities interested in transforming this model into more of a network nature. The very fact that the EU/EEA territory extends to the Arctic gives the EU a mandate to have a stake in loosening of the present model of the Arctic governance. To this end, it would need to develop a clear-cut Arctic policy. The attempts to date were quite ambiguous – an Arctic policy, like any EU policy, would have to be conceived and then promoted by an identifiable driving force, and this is apparently lacking. Neither the European Commission, nor the Nordic EU member states, nor, for that matter, the European Parliament, have been much interested, after some initial attempts, in allowing the EU go beyond a supplementary role in the Arctic governance.
Even though the European Union is presently in the course of finishing its third programmatic document on the Arctic, likely to be published in the spring 2016, for the reasons mentioned above, along with the current preoccupations of the EU in terms of its external action, it is likely that the EU institutions will prefer to keep the emerging EU Arctic policy as it is: a supplementary, technical programme with no ambitious funding and still programmed so as not to arouse any controversy inside the Arctic club.
However, the future EU role in the Arctic may in the future go far beyond the role of a financial donor. It has to be remembered that the EU is the standard setter for the internal market not only for its member states but to a big extent also the EEA member countries. If the economic development of the to date sparse Arctic economy accelerates, it would be not before long that a recourse to the European Commission will be needed for more developed and possibly more tailored approach to the needs of the Arctic territories of the member states in terms of application of the EU acquis, in terms of regional policy, but also competition, taxation and working standards, as well as environment, to name a few policies in which the EU has a say. The European Union role in the development of the Arctic may thus come from an unexpected angle and in the issues which are quite concrete and not much addressed in the European Commission documents to date.
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