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Piotr Graczyk is a Researcher at the University of Tromsø.
Poland and the Arctic: Between Science and Diplomacy
Piotr Graczyk
Poland has noticeably increased its activity in Arctic affairs in recent years. Although the first Polish research facilities
on Svalbard were established back in the 1950s (by virtue of being a party to the Treaty concerning Spitsbergen) and
the country has been involved in the Arctic environmental cooperation since its inception in the early 1990s, it was not
until 2006/2007 when a policy shift towards assumption of a more ambitious role could be observed. The current
Polish activity in the Arctic is motivated primarily by scientific interests, but nonetheless the region has been given a
renewed attention in the Poland's foreign policy. Taking advantage of its status as a “permanent” observer to the
Arctic Council (AC), Poland has keenly engaged in advancements at different international levels by introducing and
supporting various initiatives within the AC and bilateral relations with Arctic and non-Arctic states as well as the
European Union. This article attempts to explain the shift in Polish foreign policy towards the Arctic and how
Poland, as a country without significant economic and/or strategic interests in the Arctic, has become one of the most
active outside actors discussing their role in the region with the Arctic states. Furthermore, it assesses prospects for a
coherent Polish polar policy.
The dynamics of Arctic international relations, driven by a combination of climatic and geopolitical
forces, have had a substantial impact on policy objectives of both Arctic and outside entities, in many
cases leading to their (re)definition (Heininen, 2011: 5). The process of formulating new strategies
has become an additional and distinct factor in shaping Arctic international environment and
governance, thereby affecting the existing forms of non-Arctic engagement.
Under the
circumstances, various external actors, both newcomers and those who have been engaged in the
Arctic for decades, have intensified their efforts to respond to these developments. A shift in foreign
policies of these entities is induced primarily by economic and (geo)political interests (Major and