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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

Defining an interest: the European Union and the High North


Council conclusions on Arctic issues
introduction by Ida Holdhus, Master Research Fellow, Norwegian Instiute for Defence Studies, 3 February 2010

Council conclusions on Arctic issues

  • Adopted at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting 8 December 2009.
  • Builds on the 2008 Commission’s Communication on the European Union and the Arctic 
  • Is meant to constitute a next step towards what the Council considers “the gradual formulation of a policy on Arctic issues to address EU interests and responsibilities, while recognising Member States’ legitimate interests and rights in the Arctic” (emphasis added).
  • Supports three main policy objectives proposed by the Commission:
    • Protecting and preserving the Arctic
    • Promoting sustainable use of natural resources
    • Contributing to enhanced governance
  • 23 points are presented - some of a general nature, others reiterate earlier positions but the document also includes specific proposals for action.
  • Provides the Commission with guidelines as to the formulation of an Arctic policy.
  • The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1st December 2009 gives increased legislative powers to the Parliament, but it is too early to draw conclusions as to the relative influence of the EU institutions in the formulation of an EU Arctic policy. 
  • The Council requests the Commission to present a report on progress made in these areas by the end of June 2011.


Some substantial points include:

Protecting and preserving the Arctic

  • The Council invites Member States and the Commission to support efforts to protect Arctic ecosystems, encouraging Arctic states to develop marine protected areas (Point 5).
  • The Commission is invited to present a work plan for monitoring, research, restriction of use and destruction of hazardous chemicals released into and inside the Arctic (Point 9).
  • The Council underlines the importance of supporting sustainable development for indigenous peoples, including on the basis of their traditional means of livelihood (point 3)

Sustainable use of resources

  • The Council underlines that in the implementation of the Integrated Maritime Policy harvesting of Arctic marine living resources should be managed on the basis of scientific advice as part of an ecosystem perspective (point 10).
  • The Council favours a temporary ban on new fisheries in those Arctic waters not yet covered by an international conservation system (point 10).
  • The Commission and Member States are invited to examine the possibilities to endorse the revised Arctic Council Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines of 2009 (point 4)


  • The Council supports the applications by Italy and the Commission to become permanent observers in the Arctic Council (point 17). 
  • The Council welcomes the IMO’s amendment of the existing guidelines for ships operating in polar waters and the agreement to develop a new mandatory instrument for ships operating in polar waters (point 12).
  • It reiterates the rights and obligations for flag, port and coastal states provided for in international law in relation to freedom of navigation, the right of innocent passage and transit passage, and will monitor their observance (point 16).

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