Belén Sánchez Ramos
The Arctic Council was created in 1996 as a high level intergovernmental forum to promote cooperation, coordination and interaction between the Arctic States. It has two primary objectives: i) to promote environmental protection; ii) sustainable development in the Arctic region. The Arctic Council is the primary forum for international cooperation in the region, and the Permanent Arctic Council Secretariat was created with the aim of responding to the different challenges it faces. According to its Terms of Reference "the Secretariat will enhance the work of the Arctic Council through the establishment of administrative capacity and by providing continuity, institutional memory, operational efficiency, enhanced communication and outreach, exchange of information with other relevant international organizations and to support activities of the Arctic Council". So while a Permanent Secretariat has been created, no changes have been made to the structure of this intergovernmental forum (i.e. working groups) and the way the decisions are taken. We believe that the main question to be explored is to what extent this change will be sufficient in order to reinforce the capacity of the Arctic Council, or if it would be desirable to go even further, with the creation of an international organization. It is also necessary to analyze the new criteria for admitting observers and their involvement in the Arctic Council. In this case, the European Union applied to become an observer to the Arctic Council on 1 December 2008.
Belén Sánchez Ramos is a Senior Lecturer in International Public Law at the University of Vigo, Spain.