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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Thawing Ice and French Foreign Policy: A Preliminary Assessment
forward this priority. EU has an “arctic window” and even more… According
to me it’s an “arctic door” (NORDEN, 2008).
While France has yet to produce a national strategy for the Arctic, it thus appears that the
French are using the EU to push their unofficial foreign policy agenda for the Arctic. On
that point, Ida Holdus points out that states like France, Germany and the UK, for example,
are not only G8 powers but also maritime powers (military or commercial) that are “of
considerable weight in international relations and EU policy-making. They are also among
those states in the EU with a stated interest in the Arctic” (Holdus, 2011: 58). In this regard,
Holdus considers that if France and Germany “were to have strong positions regarding
Arctic issues, it is possible to believe that this could potentially influence the EU’s policy”
(ibid: 59). Indeed, France is said to have been “the most engaged of the three member
states”…“putting forward the initiative to make the Conclusions [for the Council of the
European Union in 2009 on Arctic Issues]” (ibid).
Moreover, foreign affairs minister Kouchner acknowledged the importance of enhanced
French-European cooperation on Arctic issues. He stated in 2009 that France was actively
engaged in Arctic issues within the EU
then MEP Michel Rocard “who created a
parliamentary group [
] devoted to Arctic affairs. From thereon, he co-wrote the
‘Arctic Governance’ resolution, approved the 9 October [2008]. This resolution made way to
the Commissions’ [November 2008] communication that established the first steps for a
European Arctic policy (…)” (Ministère des Affaires étrangères, 2009). Kouchner has also
reaffirmed his complete confidence in Rocard’s mission as polar ambassador who is
expected to offer France future recommendations on Arctic and Antarctic affairs, a task the
ambassador was familiar with given his previous experience ‘negotiating’ the Madrid
Protocol on the Antarctic treaty in the late 1980s.
Closing Governance Gaps
As we demonstrated earlier, the idea of a French polar ambassador, assigned to Michel
Rocard, emerged in a 2007 Senate report on “French polar research on the eve of the
international polar year” (Gaudin, 2007). The official title of Rocard’s position,
for International Negotiations on the Arctic and the Antarctic
, is telling since it corresponds with
French governmental and non-governmental actors’ actions in relation to the Arctic since