Opponent in the east, friend of the north: EU appoints Russia to partner in the Arctic

Apr 27, 2016


Despite the tense relationship between the EU and Russia, the EU regards Russia as an important ally in the Arctic. The Commission made this clear in its proposal for an Arctic strategy that was published on Wednesday, the Union’s first ever official Arctic policy. Danish ECR MEP and President of the European Parliament’s SINNEA (Switzerland, Norway and the EU-Iceland and EEA JPCs) delegation, Jørn Dohrmann, has looked forward to this proposal, but he also points out the fact that Russia’s military activity is not mentioned or accounted for in the proposal. He says: “The EU and Russia have had previous cooperation on the Arctic – yet it is extremely remarkable that the proposal does not take any note of Russia’s extensive military activity in the Arctic, which has increased significantly in recent years.

Russia started huge investments and buildup of military equipment. They are flying forward in the Arctic. It is noteworthy that this is not considered or mentioned in the European Commission’s proposal,” he says.

The relationship between the EU and Russia, when it comes to the Arctic, is mutual. Russia has great interests in gas and oil, but this also creates the need for cooperation on research, rescue operations at sea, and on environmental issues”. Conversely, the EU’s ambition for more engagement in the Arctic forces it to keep on good terms with Russia. This is particularly the case in order to become a full observer in the Arctic Council, where Russia is a member with veto power, but also in general because the Arctic is one of the last remaining international fora where dialogue between the EU and Russia is still open. Overall, the Arctic policy covers over a number of European objectives for the Arctic, including measures for climate action, environmental improvement, research and economic development in the Arctic. All good initiatives, but Dohrmann thinks they could be helped better on the ! road by creating better telecommunications in the areas. For instance, the Commission’s proposal does not account for the difficult and expensive ways of communication in Greenland.