Northern Governance or Frozen Relations? The European Union's Political Activism in the Arctic, and with Arctic States

Mechthild Herzog, Amelia Hadfield, Silviu Piros

The growing economic and geopolitical importance of the Arctic over the past decade has echoed all over the international community. The 'natural' Arctic countries have witnessed an unprecedented interest from non-arctic states, regional organizations and NGOs, all pursuing the multiple opportunities of the Arctic opening following the inexorable melting of the ice. Amongst them, the European Union (EU) emerged as a distinctive player seeking to implement its own Arctic policy.This paper aims to shed light on an area in which the EU has a rather unclear mandate: Arctic policy is neither entirely foreign nor domestic policy for the EU, considering that three member states have a share of Arctic territory. The far North is important for the EU in terms of trade, climate policy and the protection of indigenous people. It also has an important multilateral dimension: the Arctic Council, a rather loose intergovernmental forum, arose especially the Commission's interest in becoming a player in the Arctic multilateral governance system - not least because the Council brings together several states with currently rather icy relations, among them Russia, the US and Canada. Yet the EU has not been cordially incorporated into the circle: its long-standing endeavour to reach observer status at the Council failed repeatedly.The paper will show how the EU's political activism in the Arctic shapes bilateral relations both with Arctic and non-Arctic states, with specific focus on Canada, including a retrospective of the government under Stephen Harper and foregrounded potential changes under the new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It will offer an insight into the EU's struggle for recognition as autonomous actor among the governments of the Arctic Council's member states. Finally, it will give an overview over the wide range of political dimensions addressed in the EU's Arctic agenda, and its impact.

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