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Arctic Yearbook 2012
by the publication of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) findings in 2004 and the
dramatic message it conveyed to the rest of the world (Hoel, 2007: 126; Koivurova, 2009). From the
Polish perspective this made the polar research even more relevant. An understanding of the
changing climate in the Arctic gives a better insight into climatic processes in temperate latitudes, and
thus has direct impact on responses at the national level. Having a research station in the Arctic – a
barometer for global climate change – has become a useful asset and important laboratory for
understanding climate processes in other regions (Jania, 2010).
Furthermore, a geopolitical debate concerning the Arctic has intensified after planting a Russian
national flag on the sea bottom at the North Pole by the expedition
Arktika 2007
. Under the
circumstances, many outside actors have expressed their interest in being involved in Arctic
governance structures. Since the only formal mode of involvement in discussions concerning the
region for external entities is to become an observer at the AC, the interest of players such as China,
Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and the European Union has centred on this forum (Graczyk,
2012: 278). However, after according the status to Spain in 2006, the process of admitting new
observers has been brought to a halt due to the growing anxiety of the Arctic states and AC
Permanent Participants (Graczyk, 2011: 606). Poland, as one of the current six state observers
, has
found itself in a fairly exclusive group of countries within a hotly debated political situation in the
Arctic. The reform of the Council being implemented by the Arctic states (Axworthy et al., 2012)
created an opportunity for Polish diplomacy to engage in the process and advance Poland’s scientific
interests. To enhance a dialogue between Arctic and non-Arctic actors, the Polish foreign service
undertook several initiatives, discussed below.
Since Poland has no direct economic or strategic interests in the Arctic (Osica, 2010: 7-8;
2011a: 128), it is important to identify main reasons for Polish increased diplomatic activity in the
Arctic. Some authors argue that developments in the region are relevant to Polish foreign and
security policy to the extent they affect its political and institutional environment (Osica, 2010: 8-10;
Tarnogórski, 2009: 2). This refers primarily to cooperation within CBSS, the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU), which all have expressed their interest in
processes above the Article Circle. Furthermore, Polish involvement should be seen through the
prism of the Baltic Sea region, to which the Arctic is “a natural extension” (Grzela, 2011: 205), that is
also politically interconnected (Osica, 2010: 9, 51).