European Union

Facts & Figures

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The European Union’s (EU) Arctic endeavor was the source of much controversy over the last decade. Often perceived as an ‘external Arctic actor’, the EU has had difficulties proving its regional legitimacy to all Arctic states. Despite much debate on the its role in the Arctic, the EU can base its regional presence on a variety of interconnected dimensions. These include geographic, legal, political, environmental, economic and social factors.

Three EU member states – Denmark, Finland and Sweden – are also member states to the Arctic Council. The EU maintains close relationships with three other Arctic states/entities – Greenland, Iceland and Norway – either via the European Economic Area or the association of Overseas Countries and Territories. Although, not yet an observer to the Arctic Council itself, the EU and its Commission, respectively, are members of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, and party to UNCLOS and all its connected agreements with direct or indirect Arctic relevance.

Additionally, the EU influences the region through pollution emissions and resource demand more so than the rest of the world because of its close geographic proximity to the region. It also makes available a broad range of funding dedicated to Arctic research and related cooperation. With regard to the issue of environmental impact, the EU was the first international actor to initiate an Arctic Footprint and Policy Assessment Report – an assessment of the EU’s actual footprint on the Arctic environment. Under its Seventh Framework Programme for Research (2007-2013) the Union contributed around €200 million for Arctic research projects and about €1.14 billion to regional development in the EU and neighboring Arctic regions in the same financial period.

Since 2008, the EU and its various institutions have issued 10 policy documents (see Table below) on the Arctic with the aim to create a coherent and integrated EU Arctic Policy. The policy aims to reconcile external/foreign, cross-border and internal issues, including fisheries, research, climate change, maritime transportation, and regional development, all eventually bound together under one geographical label (‘the Arctic’). Accordingly, it has three policy objectives: (1) protecting and preserving the Arctic in cooperation with the people who live there; (2) promoting sustainable use of resources; and (3) international cooperation.

European External Action Service: EU Arctic Policy: eeas.europa.eu/arctic-policy/eu-arctic-policy_en

European Commission, DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries: Sea Basin Strategy Arctic Ocean: ec.europa.eu/maritimeaffairs/policy/sea_basins/arctic_ocean/index_en.htm

EU Arctic Information Centre: www.arcticinfo.eu/en/