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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Thawing Ice and French Foreign Policy: A Preliminary Assessment
While looking closer at Senate/National Assembly reactions to Arctic change over the years,
as well as the nomination of a polar ambassador, France appears to be fine-tuning its foreign
policy in an era
area where all actors who have interests in the Arctic need to prepare for
a ‘useable’ and ‘environmentally compatible’ circumpolar space. This means, for France and
others, establishing new rules and regulations as well as decision-making provisions to
govern Arctic activities and all their users. It also suggests that France will actively engage
itself in international bodies that deal with rules and regulations that govern the circumpolar
north (i.e. IMO; UNCLOS; NATO; AC). Therefore, France looks at the Arctic maritime
space as an international zone like any other where global actors coordinate and defend their
national interests through foreign policy and international institutions.
This assessment on France and its foreign policy objectives in the Arctic attempted, on the
one hand, to look at how the French are connected to the Arctic through regional
institutions, economic interests and military cooperation and national defense. On the other,
this analysis tried to focus on how changing perceptions of Arctic issues in France have
engaged policymakers and others in a reflection on how France is affected by these changes
and vice versa. While France has not produced an Arctic strategy or policy, it has certainly
been active on promoting its vision of the future of Arctic governance, and has used the EU
to influence the debate around these issues.
This preliminary assessment was produced as a way to expand the debate on non-Arctic
states, the Arctic and globalization. It tried to initiate a necessary discussion on France’s
relationship with the Arctic. While acknowledging that literature on French foreign policy
and the Arctic zone is scarce, we also encourage further research on French representations
of the Arctic; evolving perceptions of Arctic security since Gaudin’s report until now;
France’s role on the developing EU Arctic policy; French military cooperation with its
Nordic neighbors; France’s posture on the NATO-Arctic-Russia triangle; and most of all,
transatlantic Arctic relations.