Arctic policy: EU opens consultation on the future approach

arctic circle

(Willian Justen de Vasconcellos, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the European Commission and the European External Action Service jointly launched a public consultation on the way forward for the European Union’s Arctic policy. The consultation will enable a broad reflection on the EU’s Arctic policy in the face of new challenges and opportunities, including the EU’s ambitions under the European Green Deal. The consultation seeks input on the strengths and shortfalls of the existing policy, with a view to possibly preparing an updated approach.

High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell said: “The Arctic is a rapidly evolving frontier in international relations. Climate change is dramatically transforming the region, and increasing its geopolitical importance, with a number of players seeing new strategic and economic opportunities in the High North. We must ensure that the Arctic remains a zone of low tension and peaceful cooperation, where issues are solved through constructive dialogue. The European Union must be fully equipped to manage the new dynamics effectively, in line with our interests and values.”

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries stated: “What happens in the Arctic, does not stay in the Arctic. It concerns us all. The EU must be at the forefront with a clear and coherent Arctic policy to tackle the challenges in the years ahead. Drawing on a wide spectrum of expertise and opinions through this consultation, will help us in preparing a strong strategy for the region.”

The consultation will help to:

i) re-examine the role of the EU in Arctic affairs;

ii) revise the three priorities of the current Joint Communication on An integrated European Union policy for the Arctic, and the actions thereunder; and

iii) identify possible new policy areas to be developed.

Fighting climate change and its impacts and protecting the environment are key objectives for the region. Promoting sustainable development in the Arctic to the benefit of those who live there, including indigenous peoples is another priority for the EU. To that end, continuously improving our knowledge of the changes happening in the Arctic region, as well as identifying sustainable responses, is essential. Science, innovation and strong support for multilateral cooperation underpin the EU’s approach to the Arctic.

Background

The EU’s Arctic policy has been updated regularly since it was first outlined in 2008. The EU’s current Arctic policy is set out in a Joint Communication from 2016. In December 2019, the Council has invited the Commission and the High Representative to continue implementation, whilst initiating a process in order to update the EU Arctic Policy. The current policy centres around three priorities: climate change and safeguarding the Arctic environment; sustainable development in and around the Arctic; and international cooperation on Arctic issues. The public consultation launched today is open until 6 November 2020.

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