European Union External Action

International Cooperation on Arctic Matters

20/02/2017 - 16:20

The EU engages in multilateral, regional and sub-regional cooperation on Arctic matters. Many Arctic matters relate to the Arctic as well as to lower latitudes.

Self-evidently, the Arctic States and their inhabitants are interested in Arctic matters. However, the Arctic is facing increasing interest from non-Arctic states and other actors from lower latitudes and the region has a high profile in international relations due to its increasing environmental, economic, social, and strategic importance. The complex challenges affecting the Arctic, including geopolitical dynamics, play out at several levels: multilateral; regional; and sub-regional.

In recent decades, a number of Arctic-specific cooperation forums have been set up (e.g. Arctic Council (AC), Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC), Northern Dimension (ND) policy framework etc.). Furthermore, a number of international forums address wider issues which impact on the Arctic but are not Arctic-specific per se. A key example of this is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The EU engages at the aforementioned levels, across the forums which address Arctic matters, and with all Arctic partners, as well as with Arctic indigenous peoples and local communities. Key areas of engagement include combatting climate change and safeguarding the Arctic environment, sustainable development, regulation of fisheries, search and rescue capacity, science, research and innovation.

Overall, engagement on behalf of the EU is led by the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Commission Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare); many other Directorates-General are important actors in specific thematic areas such as research, climate change etc. Furthermore, EU Member States are engaged in Arctic matters in line with their national priorities. All three EU Arctic states (Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Sweden), as well as the seven EU Member States which have observer status with the Arctic Council, have developed Arctic policy papers or strategies. The European Parliament has a delegation covering Arctic matters (SINEEA) which participates in the work of the international Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (SCPAR).

It is important to the EU that the Arctic remains a zone of peace, prosperity and constructive international cooperation.

Multilateral cooperation on Arctic matters involves many different organisations and forums, ranging from those dedicated specifically to the Arctic to organisations and forums working on more universal themes with Arctic implications.

The EU engages in Arctic-specific international organisations and forums (non-exhaustive list):

Arctic Council and subsidiary bodies

On the basis of a standing invitation to attend at all levels, the EU participates in the work of the Arctic Council (AC) and its subsidiary bodies.

  • The Arctic Council's activities are conducted in six Working Groups covering a broad range of subjects. Working Groups of the Arctic Council include: Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP); Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP); Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF); Emergency Prevention, Preparedness and Response (EPPR); Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME); Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG)
  • Task Forces are appointed at the Ministerial meetings to work on specific issues for a limited amount of time. Current Task Forces of the Arctic Council include: Task Force on Arctic Marine Cooperation (TFAMC); Task Force on Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Arctic (TFTIA); Scientific Cooperation Task Force (SCTF)
  • Expert Groups are also appointed for a limited time to work on specific deliverables. Current Expert Groups of the Arctic Council include: Expert Group on Black Carbon and Methane (EGBCM); Ecosystem-Based Management Expert Group (EGEBM)

Barents Euro-Arctic Council and subsidiary bodies

The Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) is a forum for intergovernmental cooperation on issues concerning the Barents Region. BEAC meets at Foreign Ministers level in the chairmanship country at the end of term of office.

The EU is a member of BEAC and participates in its work at the various levels.

  • Working Groups under BEAC include: Working Group on Economic Cooperation (WGEC); Working Group on Environment (WGE); Steering Committee for the Barents Euro-Arctic Transport Area (BEATA); Joint Committee on Rescue Cooperation; Barents Forest Sector Network (BFSN)
  • Working Groups under the Barents Regional Council (BRC) include: Working Group on Environment (WGE); Working Group on Transport and Logistics (WGTL); Working Group on Investments and Economic Cooperation (WGIEC)
  • Joint Working Groups of BEAC and BRC include: Joint Working Group on Health and Related Social Issues (JWGHS); Steering Committee on Youth and Children at Risk (CYAR); The Barents Tuberculosis Programme; The Barents HIV/AIDS Programme; Joint Working Group on Education and Research (JWGER); Joint Working Group on Energy (JEWG); Joint Working Group on Culture (JWGC); Joint Working Group on Tourism (JWGT); Joint Working Group on Youth (JWGY)
  • The Working Group on Indigenous Peoples (WGIP) represents the indigenous peoples of the Region at different levels of BEAC and BRC

Northern Dimension

The Northern Dimension (ND) is a joint policy framework between EU, Russia, Norway and Iceland. The policy aims at providing a framework to: promote dialogue and concrete cooperation; strengthen stability, well-being and intensified economic cooperation; promote economic integration, competitiveness and sustainable development in Northern Europe.

  • The Northern Dimension Partnership on Transport and Logistics (NDPTL). This partnership operates through the Infrastructure Working Group
  • The Northern Dimension in Public Health and Social Well-being (NDPHS). This partnership operates through several Expert Groups: Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR); Alcohol and Substance Abuse  (ASA); HIV, TB and Associated Infections (HIB TB & AI); Non-Communicable Diseases related to Lifestyles and Social and Work Environments (NCD); Occupational Safety and Health (OSH); Baltic Sea Network on Occupational Health and Safety (BSN); Prison Health (PH); Primary Healthcare (PHC); eHealth for Regions Network
  • The Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP). This partnership operates through a Steering Group and the Nuclear Operating Committee (NOC)
  • The Northern Dimension Partnership on Culture (NDPC). This partnership is guided by a Steering Committee

Nordic Council of Ministers

Nordic co-operation in the Arctic takes place at both parliamentary level and through governmental co-operation. Governmental co-operation between the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden takes place through the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers has an Arctic Expert Committee which advises on the elaboration, implementation and follow-up of Arctic activities. In addition, a large number of Arctic activities and initiatives are carried out through the respective policies of the States.

Other international organisations and forums

The EU also engages in other international organisations and forums that relate to the Arctic without being Arctic-specific (non-exhaustive list):

The United Nations (UN), its specialised agencies and subsidiary bodies:

  • UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)
  • International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)
  • International Maritime Organization (IMO)

Climate change and environment

The EU is engaging in international organisations and forums relating to climate change and the environment that are of relevance to the Arctic (non-exhaustive list):

The United Nations (UN), its specialised agencies and subsidiary bodies:

  • UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  • The UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollutants (CLRTAP)
  • United Nations Environment (UNEP)

Further information on EU activities relating to climate change and the Arctic environment can be found on the Climate Change and the Arctic Environment subpage.

Scientific cooperation

Scientific cooperation has a key role to play in establishing the factual basis for developments and dynamics in the Arctic. Scientific cooperation can be used as a catalyst to support a common understanding at regional and international levels, enabling jointly agreed solutions to be reached and fostering peaceful cooperation.

As a global leader in science, the EU is engaging in large scale global scientific collaboration, and scientific engagement is set to increase over the coming years. The Commission Directorate-General for Research & Innovation (DG RTD), the Joint Research Centre (DG JRC), and the Directorate-General for Growth (DG Grow) contribute to this work. The EU is further supporting and developing international scientific cooperation in the Arctic through a variety of activities, such as (non-exhaustive list):

  • funding research in all areas of science and innovation, including those relating to Arctic matters through the EU Research and Innovation Framework Programme Horizon 2020
  • promoting transnational access to research infrastructures and an open data policy with countries in the Arctic region and those interested in Arctic research through INTERACT
  • supporting international scientific cooperation under the Transatlantic Ocean Research Alliance (AORA)
  • committing to activities in DG JRC's 2017-18 Work Programme, including action on: black carbon; methane; vessel tracking; fisheries; situational awareness; and off-shore safety; which complement the information that DG JRC has already compiled on Arctic soil data in the European Soil Data Centre and the maritime data held in the Blue Hub
  • developing a multi-resolution map of the entire seabed and overlying water column in seas and oceans around Europe by 2020, which will include the Barents Sea from 2018
  • hosting a collection of marine data, products and metadata on the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) to make these harmonised, quality-assured resources more available to public and private users

Arctic Stakeholder Forum

Information on the Arctic Stakeholder Forum can be found on the Sustainable Development subpage.

The Commission Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG Regio) is leading EU work to support investments and capacity building in the Arctic region, especially in regional cross-border areas and in particular in the European Arctic. Throughout this work, there is an emphasis on research and innovation, enhancing SME competitiveness and supporting the shift towards a low-carbon economy. The EU is facilitating regional cooperation in the Arctic through a variety of activities.

Funding programmes

The EU is providing financing for regional and sub-regional projects in the Arctic region through Interreg programmes (non-exhaustive list):

  • Interreg Sweden-Finland-Norway (Botnia-Atlantica) programme to improve cross-border competence centres, develop competitiveness of SMEs, protect the environment and increase the sustainable use of the natural and cultural heritage
  • Interreg Sweden-Norway programme to create the best conditions for an economically strong region with an attractive living environment through cross-border cooperation
  • Interreg Baltic Sea Region programme 2014-2020 which supports integrated territorial development and cooperation for a more innovative, better accessible and sustainable Baltic Sea region
  • Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) programme 2014-2020 which aims to generate vibrant, competitive and sustainable communities by harnessing innovation, expanding the capacity for entrepreneurship and seizing the unique growth initiatives and opportunities of the Northern and Arctic regions in a resource efficient way
  • Interreg Nord programme, which aims for sustainable economic, social and environmental development

The EU also provides support to local communities through funding programmes, such as the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).

European Neighbourhood Instrument

The EU's the European Neighbourhood Instrument also supports Cross Border Cooperation (CBC) in the European Arctic through (non-exhaustive list):

  • Karelia CBC programme aims to create an attractive region for people and business. The core area of the programme consists of the regions of Kainuu, North Karelia and Oulu (Finland) and the Republic of Karelia (Russia)
  • Kolarctic CBC is a financing programme to support cooperation between the countries in the North Calotte (Finland, Sweden, and Norway) and northwest Russia. The core region of the programme consists of Lapland (Finland), Norrbotten (Sweden), Finnmark, Troms, Nordland (Norway) and Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Nenets Autonomous District (Russia). The main aim of Kolarctic CBC is to promote a viable economy and highlight the attractiveness of the region, where inhabitants and visitors can enjoy Arctic nature and where the natural resources are used sustainably

Indigenous Peoples Dialogue

The Commission Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare) organises a dialogue between the EU and Arctic indigenous peoples. The traditional knowledge of Arctic indigenous peoples and local communities can inform the design and implementation of programmes in the Arctic region.

The EU organises the Arctic Indigenous Peoples Dialogue to exchange views and agree on areas for further cooperation, particularly in relation to sustainable development and human rights so as to ensure that their views and rights are respected and promoted in the ongoing development of EU policies affecting the Arctic.

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