Skip to main content

The European Union sees light at the end of the tunnel with the Arctic Council

February 9, 2016


Task Force students from JSIS 495C: The Arctic – A New Player in International Relations, traveled to Canada’s capital, Ottawa, from January 23rd to 30th, 2016 to engage in on-the-ground research with organizations and specialists in the field and learn about climate change and the current issues facing the Arctic region. Below are student articles of their trip and learning experience.

The Arctic Task Force visited the European Union (EU) Delegation to Canada to discuss issues in the Arctic region, specifically the EU’s involvement in the Arctic Council. In the past, the involvement of the EU in the Arctic Council has been controversial. Historically, the EU has been kept out of the Arctic Council surrounding its ban on seal products, which form a major economic export for Canadian Indigenous groups. The ambassador outlined the EU’s progress trying to enter the Arctic Council as an observer, as well as celebrating their fortieth year as a delegation in Canada. This progress focused the EU’s involvement with the development of aid in the Arctic: environmental protection, economic development, international cooperation. While the ban on seal products has been resolved, EU sanctions on Russia (based on Russia’s actions in Ukraine) have since formed another barrier to entry. The sanctions imposed have hindered Russia’s position at Arctic Council meetings and have halted the development of search and rescue capabilities in the Arctic. As a result of the actions taken by Russia in Crimea, all military contact between the EU and Russia has been ceased. Considering most nations use armed forces to fulfill search and rescue operations, this has created a large problem. The EU, which has a large search and rescue capability due to its many developed nation states, plays a large role in the search and rescue process. Assuming tensions between the West and Russia settle, the EU’s continued presence as an ad hoc observer to the Arctic Council bode well for its ultimate acceptance as an official observer. The EU is currently reviewing its Arctic policy. With the combination of its updated policy and Horizon 2020, the largest research and innovation project ever (80 billion Euro), the future looks bright for the EU and the Arctic Council.


Author: Jake Creps

This publication was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.