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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Commentary: EU’s New Arctic Communication - Towards Understanding of a Greater Role
and indigenous peoples. Noteworthy, the EU proposes to boost funding for the Arctic research,
already an important contribution, within the proposed Horizon 2020 research and innovation
platform (€80 billion).
As the European External Action Service strengthens its capacity, the EU pushes forward an idea of
an effective raw materials diplomacy and enhanced bilateral dialogues with Canada, Norway, Russia,
US and Iceland on Arctic matters. Another noticeable change is the prominent place given to Arctic
monitoring through space technology, for which a specific document ‘Space and the Arctic” is added
to the Communication. Having a shared space competence through the Lisbon Treaty, the EU is
putting forward the considerable contribution it can make to the monitoring of the region,
inter alia
maritime safety, through its innovative technology.
Indeed, a major change in the new Communication lies in the recurring reference to the concept of
“cooperation” which appears as a key message. The Communication aims at convincing that the EU
has a significant - and improvable - understanding of the region, and wants to cooperate in meeting
the challenges faced in the region.
The High Representative Catherine Ashton pointed out the
necessity “to show the world that the EU is serious about its commitment towards the Arctic
region”, while Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, insisted on the
determination “to listen and to learn from those who live and work [in the Arctic]. We are
committed to making the European Union’s contribution in the Arctic constructive and
What Vision for the Arctic?
Although the EU kept its main objectives in the Arctic region largely untouched, the form in which
the new document communicates them to the outside world significantly differs. Overall the
documents give a very balanced report of EU engagement and interests, but lack some more
concrete actions and vision. Given the Arctic states criticism of the EU’s assertive rhetoric in the
past, the new document follows the tone of the European Parliament resolution and highlights more
receptive ideas of knowledge, responsibility and engagement as underlying principles of EU’s
approach. The reference to enhanced multilateral governance, which proved to be another source of
friction, is replaced by a neutral heading of international cooperation. In a recent speech, Maria
Damanaki explained that “We want to ensure that what we do in the Arctic aligns with what others
are doing”. A statement that questions the vision the EU might develop regarding the Arctic region.