Facts & Figures

AC Observer: 2013
Active Polar Icebreakers: 0

Ennio Morricone, Peter Finch and Claudia Cardinale – three names that should ring a bell with anyone interested in the motion picture industry and all with a surprising link to the Arctic. The three were part of the 1969 joint Soviet-Italian movie The Red Tent. It told the story of the mission to rescue the Italian engineer and Arctic explorer Umberto Nobile whose Airship, Italia, crashed on its way to Svalbard in 1928. Only two years earlier—in May 1926—Nobile’s Airship Norge was the first to fly across the polar ice cap from Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard to Teller, Alaska. Nobile is only one historical reference among many that exemplifies Italy’s legacy in the Arctic region. Other famous figures include the explorer Prince Luigi Amedeo and the anthropologist Silvio Zavatti.

Italy’s presence in the Arctic is not solely limited to explorers and academics, however. Italy was one of the original signatories of the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty and has been operating the multidisciplinary research facility Dirigibile Italia in Ny-Ålesund since 1997. Similarly, Italy maintains several polar research vessels (e.g. OGS Explora) and is represented in the European Polar Board. Italian research institutions are also partnered with and/or contribute to several European research projects, such as SIOS or INTERACT. Since the 2013 Kiruna ministerial, Italy has also held observer status at the Arctic Council (AC). As an observer, Italy also takes part in the work of several AC working groups and task forces; furthermore it bilaterally cooperates with several Arctic states on science and technology co-ordination (Canada) or environmental and socio-economic issues (Finland).

From an economic perspective, the Arctic engagement of the Italian multinational oil and gas company Eni may be the most prominent one. Together with Norway’s Statoil, Eni will develop the Goliat field – the first offshore oil field to be operated in the Norwegian Barents Sea. Additionally, Italy’s Arctic economic dimension includes collaboration perspectives with regard to renewable sources of energy, mining and shipbuilding.

Italy’s Arctic approach is so far characterized by its historical legacy, a strong commitment to international cooperation in the fields of scientific and technological research (science diplomacy) and the focus on environmental and biodiversity challenges, caused by international climate change and increasing (economic) activities on site. In December 2015, Italy published its first White Paper on Arctic issues: Towards an Italian Strategy for the Arctic.

Towards an Italian Strategy for the Arctic (Verso una strategia italiana per l’Arctico), released December 2015, in Italian only

Country description by the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment of development in the Arctic:

Italy’s Arctic diplomacy: Past as prologue in The Arctic Journal, 6 January 2016

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale):

AC Observer Contact Information:

National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics (Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e Geofisica Sperimentale):