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Arctic Yearbook 2012
to exploit energy resources in the High North and to profit from these investments. French
Ambassador to Russia, Jean de Gliniasty, suggests that the Shtokman project (despite its
recent delays) will form a key element of energy security for France since Russian total
hydrocarbons represent 92% of Russia’s exports to France.
France’s economic relationship with the Arctic expanded in 2011 when Total acquired 20%
of the Russian Yamal LNG field in Russia’s High North. This 4 billion US dollar transaction
gave the French TNC a total capital share of 12.08% in Russia’s Novatek. The Yamal LNG
project is owned by Russian companies Novatek (80%) and Gazprom (20%).
Continued economic relations between France and Russia are often considered as a way to
build stronger political ties and bilateral diplomacy. Such a regional
tends to
draw French companies towards northern Russia, like in the Murmansk Oblast where
economic activities continue to grow (Ambassade de France en Russie, 2009). And as
France’s demand for gas continues to increase, Total ventures in the High North will
possibly continue to progress in Russia and in Norway for the years to come.
Moreover, as
underlined by Major and Steinicke (2011: 6), a French White Paper on Defense and National
Security published in 2008 makes energy security one of four priority areas for the protection
of European citizens. Although the Arctic is not cited, France is moving forward in
“securing energy and strategic raw material supply” (ibid).
Norway is Total’s top country when it comes to hydrocarbon production: it is France’s first
natural gas supplier, receiving about 30% of Norwegian gas exports, and second when it
comes to oil, behind Russia. In fact, former Prime Minister François Fillon made an official
state visit to Norway in June 2010, the first of its kind in 25 years (accompanied amongst
others by Pierre Lellouche, French State Secretary for European Affairs who represented
France with Michel Rocard at the 2010 Arctic Council meeting). Both states have maintained
a strategic dialogue during recent years as a way to advance talks, namely on the High North
and energy related issues in the region. Norway is considered as the most technologically
advanced and prosperous hydrocarbon nation of the Arctic Circle. In Norway, the French
TNC has activities in the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea. Total and Gaz
de France/Suez are among the principal clients and partners of the Snøvhit gas field in