Arctic policy of the European Union
If the accession of Iceland to the European Union occurs, the EU will increase its Arctic influence and possibly gain permanent observer status in the Arctic Council. The Northern Dimension of European Union policy, established in the late 1990s, intended to deal with issues concerning western Russia, as well as to increase general cooperation among the EU, Iceland and Norway. It has since become a multilateral, equal partnership among the EU, Iceland, Norway and Russia. Canada and the United States are observers to the partnership. Three Nordic Council members have joined the EU (Denmark in 1973 and Sweden and Finland in 1995). The European Union’s application to become a “permanent observer” in the Arctic Council was blocked in 2009 by Canada in response to the European Union’s ban on the importation of seal products.
The Arctic is an area of growing strategic importance. The European Union has an important role to play in supporting the successful Arctic co-operation and in helping to meet the challenges that now confront the region. The European Union is the world’s strongest proponent of greater international efforts to fight climate change. It has three (and if the accession of Iceland to the European Union occurs, potentially four) Arctic Council states amongst its members. The European Union is also a major destination of resources and goods from the Arctic region. Many of its policies and regulations therefore have implications for Arctic stakeholders. The European Union wants to engage more with Arctic partners to increase its awareness of their concerns and to address common challenges in a collaborative manner.
The EU Arctic policy is built around three main policy objectives:
- protecting and preserving the Arctic in unison with its population;
- promoting the sustainable use of resources;
- international cooperation.
As climate change and economic development accelerate in the Arctic region, the European Union intends to step up its engagement with its Arctic partners to jointly meet the challenge of safeguarding the environment while ensuring the sustainable development of the Arctic region.
- Supporting research and channel knowledge to address the challenges of environmental and climate changes in the Arctic;
- Acting with responsibility to contribute to ensuring economic development in the Arctic is based on sustainable use of resources and environmental expertise;
- Intensifying its constructive engagement and dialogue with Arctic States, indigenous peoples and other partners.
Blocked from Arctic Council
In May 2013, Canada blocked the EU entry as an observer on the Arctic Council, presumably because of the EU's continued ban on the import of Canadian seal products.