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Arctic Yearbook 2012
which is a member of the regional forum for intergovernmental and interregional
Several years later, France requested and was granted Observer status at the
Arctic Council (AC) in 2000, another move into the political dynamics of Arctic governance.
Indeed, France’s integration to both organizations reflected an interest to enhance French
standing on northern (polar) related research, which was considered (and still is) deficient
compared to the Antarctic (Gaudin, 2007). Furthermore, it underlined the importance of
post-Cold War regional security and stability building through northern institutions, and
thus, considering their mandates, emphasizing the relevance of pursuing cooperation
through environmental security in the Arctic. Thus, since the end of the Cold War, France’s
interest for these institutions and regional governance seems to be growing, especially since
the implications of climate change in the Arctic and for the planet are widely diffused and
discussed (see part 2).
Energy & Economic Security
Looking to the north, French officials and stakeholders are particularly interested in
maintaining a stable and accessible Arctic neighborhood to pursue economic opportunities.
Indeed, behind French involvement in circumpolar cooperation and institutions over the last
twenty years, also lie economic interests in the High North that have potential impacts on
French foreign policy making, arguably because they are connected with strategic neighbors
– such as Russia and Norway – and a potentially rich and usable maritime zone. Therefore
maintaining the Arctic as a “zone of peace” reflects the economic interests of France and
French industry.
Proximity to northern resources in Russia and Norway is a strategic factor that needs to be
considered and looked into further when exploring French interests in the Arctic, a space
that is often referred to “as one of the last regions worldwide where large oil fields are still
untapped” (Major and Steinicke, 2011: 6). Total, a multinational French oil and gas group,
made record profits of 12 billion euros in 2011, with tax transfers of 1.2 billion euros to
government treasuries in Paris.
Total has been present in the Arctic for over thirty years and
is a ‘versatile’ and valuable actor in the BEAR: it has cold weather hydrocarbon extraction
expertise and exports technologies for that very lucrative industry. Most of Total’s current
Arctic operations are located in Russian and Norwegian offshore and onshore projects.
While Total pursued its gas ventures in the Arctic throughout 2012, its chief executive,