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The European Union called, on 10 September, for the protection of the environment of the Arctic and the sustainable use of its resources, as the region contains a large amount of hydrocarbons and other natural resources. Arising at the time of a conference on the stakes in the Arctic, organised in Ilulissat (Greenland), EU Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Joe Borg stated that the European Commission is going to propose, in principle by the end of the year, an action plan for the protection and conservation of the Arctic environment and biodiversity.

EU representatives, the USA, Canada, Russia, China and South Korea gathered, on 9 and 10 September, in Greenland to attract attention to the Arctic, a region particularly affected by global warming and which contains a wealth of unused resources. Organised by the Nordic Council of Ministers, the conference's goal was to arouse "greater awareness of the effects of European policy on conditions in the Arctic". Other than Commissioner Borg, the EU's delegation in Ilulissat included the French Environment Ambassador Laurent Stefanini, representing the French EU Presidency, and Deputy President of the European Parliament Diana Wallis (ALDE, UK), proof of the growing importance that the Union gives this region of the world increasingly coveted by its neighbours, particularly Americans, Canadians, and Russians, due to the large hydrocarbon reserves and other resources that it contains.


According to the Commission's action plan, which follows its 2007 communication on Climate change and international safety', the EU's main objective must be to safeguard the Arctic. It should focus on scientific research and the surveillance of this region, which have an essential role to play on this matter, and will have to promote the sustainable use of the resources of the Arctic, which covers "large reserves" of oil and gas, and even "new fishing opportunities created by the recession of the ice caps and warmer water". In the absence of a conservation and management regime for international fisheries covering all the Arctic high seas, the EU, specified Borg, "is ready to ensure that all future fishing activities are properly regulated to guarantee a fair and sustainable use of such a precious resource."


But by entering this unexplored Arctic territory, the EU believes that here is a pressing need for clean governance: "We intend to stress this question of Arctic cooperation and governance," affirmed Borg, for whom it is important, in this context, to revisit the international environmental treaties applicable in the Arctic. "We need to determine how and if they have been properly applied and if additional measures are necessary," he said. For Ambassador Stefanini, the EU, which already has a "window" into the Arctic, should rather have "a door," so that it is no longer an observer but is on the same level in the Arctic. "The European Union," he says, "must have this dimension in its foreign and security policy more than in the past".

"A more systematic, proactive approach"

A report, entitled The European Union and the Arctic', ordered by the Nordic Council, states that it is "clear that the situation requires as a minimum a more systematic, proactive EU approach" for the Arctic in all pertinent policies, both for Arctic and non-Arctic member states. "The support of the European Parliament, which has consistently advocated an enhanced EU role in the Arctic, will be essential," as the Arctic hides a wealth of oil and gas resources which Europe needs. Particularly regarding the gas resources, the EU has a strong interest in securing its deliveries of gas and situating itself to take part in the future developments in the production of gas in the Arctic, recommends the report.
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Publication:Europe Energy
Date:Sep 24, 2008

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