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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Thawing Ice and French Foreign Policy: A Preliminary Assessment
involvement of all interested actors, thus not limiting Arctic governance to the geo-powers
of the Arctic Ocean (Shields, 2011: A3). Rocard’s criticism of the A5 structure is known by
the polar states. In 2009, he made clear that AC membership system reproduced a week “
” (“Arctic Club”) that failed to integrate any legally binding regulations within its
operating framework (République françiase, 2009: 76).
As polar ambassador for France, Rocard has been opposed to discussing Arctic governance
in a limited A5 setting. Commenting on the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration, he depicted this
document as being a statement that roughly says “the Arctic is full of problems: fisheries,
maritime security, strategic interests of world powers, economic exploitation etc. We [A5]
know this, trust us: these are issues of particular relevance to Arctic states so we will be
cautious. We will take care of these issues. Outsiders, just leave us alone (“
fichez-nous la paix
This is roughly the message from Ilulissat and the AC. We must respect this in an elegant
manner since we can understand their positions. But such behavior is also insufficient”
(Rocard, 2011). In addition, he has also been cited for calling the AC “a sleepy monster with
great uncertainty on how it manages in world affairs” (Rocard, 2011). In less controversial
words, Rocard considers that there is an “unspoken assumption [between Arctic states] that
whatever happens in the Arctic, it is sufficient for each coastal state to shoulder alone and
totally the responsibilities … I [Rocard] can certainly not adhere to that view” (Shields, 2011:
While these are not foreign affairs ministers’ comments (or official French positions on
international issues), Rocard’s remarks do reflect perceived opposition between non-Arctic
states and the current
modus operandi
of Arctic governance, at least from a French perspective
(Plouffe, 2010). Oran Young argues that third party states like France for example are not
“prepared to accept the role of the five coastal states as stewards who are deputized by the
international community to look after the Arctic issues in the interest of all” (Young, 2009:
180). Young anticipates world powers like France or associations of powers like the EU to
continue to express stronger disapproval of such Arctic arrangements. It would therefore be
a mistake, given the obvious links between the Arctic and the outside world, “to relegate
outsiders (for example Britain, China, France, Germany, the European Union) to the status
of observers who seldom even get to speak at council sessions” (Young, 2009: 180).