Foreign Affairs Committee stresses importance of the Arctic for Europe

Foreign Affairs Committee stresses importance of the Arctic for Europe
Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Unsplash

A delegation of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee visited Denmark, Greenland and Iceland last week to discuss international cooperation and challenges in the Arctic with political representatives and officials.

After the visit, David McAllister, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, stressed the importance of the region to Europe.

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the Arctic for the environmental ecosystem of the world and for Europe in particular,” McAllister said in a statement.

“Our mission reconfirmed the conviction that the current Arctic governance framework, which is based on international law, is still contributing significantly to the region’s well-being and stability. However, our visit showed that the unique complexity of the challenges the region is facing requires more engagement and solutions based on the knowledge and will of the inhabitants of the Arctic.”

The European Parliament recently voted on a new Overseas Countries and Territories association decision which will include Greenland for the first time.

They’ll also soon vote on a new EU-Greenland sustainable fisheries partnership agreement, the Minister said, along with a Foreign Affairs Committee report titled “the Arctic: opportunities, concerns and security challenges.”

“In this respect, I welcome the climate of shared ownership and collaboration witnessed at the Arctic Council’s latest Ministerial meeting,” McAllister said.

“The EU must continue contributing to this climate by encouraging sustainable development in the Arctic through all the platforms and bodies in which it participates. Moreover, it should develop an ambitious strategy taking into account the rapidly changing reality of the region and integrating the Arctic in all its policies and actions.”

He said that the Foreign Affairs Committee will keep the Arctic high on its agenda, “and ensure that in the future there will be both more EU in the Arctic and more Arctic in the EU.”

Some of the stakeholders the delegation met with include members of the Danish parliament, Greenland’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Climate, of Education and Culture, of Industry and Natural resources, Icelandic officials dealing with Arctic matters, the Danish and Icelandic Arctic Ambassadors and various others.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe and experienced record temperatures in 2020.

The EU is involved in legislation concerning the Arctic and currently working on updating its Arctic policy. What this will mean for economic activities in the Arctic region is not clear, since the EU, like other players in the region, also has an interest in the natural resources in the region.

The Arctic region means a lot to the EU, and not only because three member states are close to the region, besides two other European countries, Norway and Iceland,” said Michael Mann, EU Special Envoy for Arctic Matters at the European External Action Service (EEAS), at a webinar in May.

“The Arctic is a living region. We need to strike a balance between preservation and supporting people living there, inclusive indigenous people.”

A new joint communication is expected to be issued by the European Commission and the EU Commission’s Vice-President and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in the autumn.

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