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Arctic Yearbook 2012
2007. It gives a sense of how French policy makers see Arctic change and seek to influence
the evolving governance structures in the region,
a non-Arctic point of view but also
a potential user of the Arctic.
Over the last years, Michel Rocard has, in some way, embodied French Polar Policy. He has
been the dominant voice for France on all Arctic issues since 2009. Highly mediatized and
well networked with foreign (Arctic) heads of states and diplomats,
Rocard has tried to
make the case for users of the Arctic – the globalization dimension of Arctic geopolitics
today that is often overlooked by analysts of Arctic change. Rocard has a well-known
background on polar diplomacy and governance going back to 1989. As Prime Minister and
in collaboration with Australia – especially Prime Minister Bob Hawke – Rocard engaged the
international negotiation process leading to the Madrid Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty of
1991. While the ‘Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty’ was
established essentially to protect the Antarctic from commercial (mining) activities for a
period extending to 50 years, Rocard recognizes that issues at both poles are diametrically
different today. Although he does underscore the urgency to act now for the Arctic is much
greater than it was in the 1980s.
Hence, Rocard counts on his past experiences and polar
savoir faire
(as PM and MEP) to guide him in his mission as French polar
diplomat. Indeed, Rocard considers that as an informed ambassador-at-large, “the
experience and the knowledge I gained from [the Madrid Protocol on the Antarctic Treaty]
are still with me” (ibid).
Over the past few years, Rocard has been trying to persuade Arctic states to pay additional
attention to governance gaps in the Arctic. Three recurring questions seem to have emerged
from Rocard’s speeches and testimonies on Arctic governance: do corresponding rules and
regulations sufficiently cover all economic activities in the Arctic?; can and should the five
Arctic coastal states (A5) tackle alone (as a bloc) over the next twenty to thirty years, the
growing list of issues in the area that will potentially have implications on French and EU
national interests?; and how can France support the efforts of Arctic states in protecting the
High North from emerging global relevant security challenges? On the latter question,
Michel Rocard stated in an August 2011 media interview that the
status quo
by Arctic states
on Arctic/world governance issues could no longer be tolerated: improved frameworks that
deal with the obvious regulatory gaps would need to be considered seriously with the