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Arctic Yearbook 2012
While AC states do agree on the need to reinforce existing governance structures for safety
and security purposes in the Arctic (e.g. SAR Agreement of 2011), observers like France and
even Germany have voiced their concern over how “self proclaimed” stewards tend to act
alone in the Arctic, thus limiting involvement of observers in matters such as SAR and oil
spill response treaties within the EPPR working group. With the notion of an “Arctic club”
inside the AC, which appeared as early as 2008 at the Ilulissat meeting in Greenland (not an
AC event), the French and many MEPs have looked at A5 arrangements with suspicious
eyes. In their view, it tends to prevent states or other actors outside the Arctic Circle to
legitimately engage on issues that are increasingly global, urgent and thus of interest to others
than the A5 or AC states. This essentially synthesizes four years of diplomatic messages
from Michel Rocard around the Arctic Circle.
In relation to French Arctic interests related to the governance gaps in the circumpolar
north, Rocard has been vocal on every issue explored in ‘part 1’ of this assessment, except
for national defense.
While the question of greater participation by non-Arctic states in working groups of the AC
has been addressed earlier in this analysis, this paper will now briefly focus on French
positions related to governance issues touching fisheries and environmental protection in the
Arctic. There are currently many debates over what exactly the legislative gaps are when
dealing with Arctic fishing regulatory frameworks and how to define the corresponding
quotas for commercial activities (Duyck, 2012). Other pressing questions identified by
analysts and stakeholders relate to the potentially destructive illicit activities such as poaching
and piracy that could appear (or increase) in years to come in northern waters.
Commercial fisheries in the Arctic – beyond Svalbard and the Bering Strait – are not
integrated in any management or conservation regime, thus differing very much from the
established fishing industry in the South. Experts believe that there are key differences in the
current dialogue on Arctic fisheries. First, compared to the fishing zones in the south,
“relatively little data, knowledge and insight required for science-based and ecosystem-based
fisheries management exists for the marine areas north of the Bering Strait and Svalbard”
(Bolton, 2009). Second, still in comparison with southern areas, “there are no commercial
fisheries of any significance in the more northerly areas and no fisheries at all in the high seas
portion of the Central Arctic Ocean” (ibid). Finally, “whereas the areas farther south are