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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Poland and the Arctic: Between Science and Diplomacy
When assessing Polish engagement in Arctic affairs, it is important to set it in a wider context of
general non-Arctic involvement in Arctic research and political institutions. Specifically, Poland’s
capabilities and resources need to be compared to other actors’ potential to act in different issue-
areas. Poland as the only state from the former Soviet bloc (excluding Russia) maintains its
permanent research stations in the Arctic (Svalbard) and has been involved in regional institutions
(AC and BEAC) from the outset. Moreover, the crucial and now also inherent dimension of Polish
interest in Arctic affairs is the EU Arctic policy that is currently under development. Poland’s
political engagement in the Arctic takes place at the following levels: 1) Arctic regional (within the
AC); 2) Arctic sub-regional (within the BEAC/BEAR); 3) European regional (within the EU); and 4)
bilateral (with Arctic and involved non-Arctic states), and includes various issue-areas ranging from
promotion of freedom of the scientific research to enhancement of stability and security in the
Although Poland’s activity is often constrained by limited capacity, the country seems to compensate
for that by an increased number of diplomatic actions and initiatives that allow for contributing to
the ongoing debates on some of the most salient issues. Poland starts to convert its traditional
research based activity to political gains. To certain extent it emerges from the necessity to protect its
scientific interests, but also aims at strengthening the position in regional and European affairs. In
this particular instance, a lack of any claims and interests related to shipping and exploitation of
natural resources may be considered as an advantage in the perception of Poland as an advocate for
closer cooperation between Arctic and outside actors that can contribute to regional stability,
especially by alleviating the highly politicized and vexed question of non-Arctic involvement. It does
not mean, however, that Poland postulates a complete opening of the Arctic for all the actors, who
may discern their own interests in the region. On the contrary, Poland emphasizes the importance of
understanding the rules that apply in the Arctic Council and the region, and its policy priorities seem
to be in line with the Arctic states’ stances in this regard.
Polish policy is focused on practical and actual problems of the Arctic and does not engage in
discussions on matters that are not within its range. This may be perceived as a good understanding
of the processes and phenomena occurring in the region, especially when it comes to concerns being
raised by the indigenous peoples organizations in reference to observer status in the AC (AAC, 2007;
ICC, 2010). Poland also seems to be considering these developments in relation to organizations to