The European Union in the Arctic: A Pole Position?

Item Reference: 
BRIGG 2012/4
Publication Date: 
Publication Place: 
Publication Language: 
College of Europe, UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
Series Title: 
Bruges Regional Integration and Global Governance (BRIGG) Papers
Working Paper Type: 

With temperatures in the Arctic rising at twice the pace of anywhere else in the world, the European Union (EU) decided in 2008 to begin formulating an overall Arctic policy tackling maritime, environmental, energy and transport challenges. This attempt to draft a comprehensive policy on a topic that the EU had rarely touched upon unavoidably ran up against other existing strategies from Arctic and non - Arctic states. Against this background, this paper examines whether the EU’s current Arctic policy is conducive to framing a strategy that is both correctly targeted and flexible enough to represent Europe’s interests. It shows that the EU’s approach can serve as an effective foreign policy tool to establish the Union’s legitimacy as an Arctic player. However, the EU’s Arctic policy is still underestimating its potential to find common grounds with the strategic partners Russia and China. A properly targeted Arctic policy could help influence Russia over the EU’s interests in the Northern Sea Route and strengthen cooperation with China in an endeavour to gain recognition as relevant Arctic players.