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Research Topics

Actors and patterns of cooperation and conflict
Russia, Norway and the High North - Past, Present, Future
The United States in the 21 Century Arctic
Defining an Interest: The European Union and the High North
The Power of Energy
Law of the Sea and Ocean Governance
Climate Change and Environmental Protection
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Defining an interest: the European Union and the High North



6 July 2011: The German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP Berlin) organized a colloquium on Arctic Security.


The purpose of the seminar was to closely examine the question how NATO and the European Union and its member states perceive security issues in the Arctic and how they, consequently, approach them. After a brief introduction of the GeoNor programme, two of its researchers tackled this question in introductory statements.

Helga Haftendorn
, associated researcher of the GeoNor programme, concentrated on the security challenges in the Arctic and explained what role Nato could potentially play.  Stefan Steinicke, research assistant in working package 4 “Defining an interest: The European Union and the High North”, focused on EU member states and analysed their perceptions on the security relevance of the Arctic. Based on the presentations a lively debate ensued between researchers of SWP, external researchers and present diplomatic officials, which was moderated by Dr. Claudia Major.

Some preliminary conclusions can be drawn from the debate:

  • All participants acknowledged the strategic relevance of environmental and economic developments in the Arctic for regional security and stability in Europe.
  • At the same time, participants underlined that non-traditional security dimensions, such as environmental, energy or economic security are of greater relevance to the Arctic than military security. This shared view stands in marked contrast to the thesis of the Arctic’s geopolitical dangers as made by some journalists and academics.
  • Consequently, these non-traditional security issues should not and cannot be addressed by traditional military means alone. A wider array of economic, civil and legal tools are much better suited to deal with the Arctic’s security challenges.
  • Still, military issues are not totally irrelevant. NATO, as Helga Haftendorn pointed out, is important as a force projector for its Arctic members states. And the Arctic respectively is strategically relevant for NATO, for example with its base in Thule. While Nato has always been present in the Arctic via its member states, the Alliance hasn’t yet developed an official Nato policy towards the Arctic region. Whether it should do so is not an easy question to answer. Politically, NATO could be an important forum to provide consultation on Arctic matters for its member states. However, as a military alliance, NATO is not the best placed organization to address the manifold security challenges in the Arctic. In principle, though, the Alliance could enlarge its toolbox in line with its comprehensive approach that it has once more underlined in the 2010 Strategic Concept.
  • The EU and its member states, as Stefan Steinicke sumed up, seem to perceive Arctic security developments as becoming more important in recent years. The growing recognition of the security relevance of Arctic affairs can be found in an increasing occupation with the region in strategic documents of EU member states. Especially transport and energy security as well as environmental challenges are recognized as the most pressing topics linked to Arctic security.
  • Given the vast size of the region and the negative implications that the international financial crisis had on national budgets of almost all Arctic coastal states, the transformation of the Arctic will present these states with considerable challenges. The renewal and expansion of adequate infrastructure for resource exploration, shipping, and search and rescue are examples in point. When it comes to developing this infrastructure, the EU and its member states certainly have an added value and can contribute to economic, energy- and environmental security in the region.  Specifically, European capacities were mentioned with regard to the creation of the technical and logistical infrastructure that is needed for the planned search and rescue system. Also, with its satellite and navigation systems the EU could become a valuable partner for Arctic coastal states.
  • Because only some of its member states are directly linked to the region and because the EU as an organization is excluded from the Arctic Council, there has been a debate on its strategic outlook for the region. Some participants have advocated an approach in which the EU places emphasis on cooperative measures and continues to extend its political and technical expertise to Arctic states. Developments in the Arctic have to be dealt with in a medium to long term perspective by all actors active and interested in this changing region. However, as economic actors heavily invest already today in the region, policy makers have to lay the legal, political and operational rules and procedures soon.

 

 


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Norwegian Institute for defence Studies CSIS Fritjof Nansen Institute Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik University of Tromsø Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the MFA of Russia University of Oslo Institute of general history Norwegian Defence Research Establishment Econ Pöyry
 
  The GeoPolitics in the High North research programme is now terminated, and the programme website will be preserved through 2016, but not updated.
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