EU and the Arctic: from ‘rule maker’ to ‘growth facilitator’?

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The EU confirmed its engagement in Arctic development by securing an ambitious, new EU-Greenland Partnership Agreement for 2014-2020. The European Parliament also passed a new resolution on the Arctic. However, the challenge for the EU is to be perceived as a ‘growth facilitator’ rather than as a ‘rule maker’ in the region, writes Damien Degeorges.

Damien Degeorges is Head of EU Affairs at Arctic Consensus.

As a consequence of climate change, the Arctic region is on the cusp of a new era. Increasing maritime traffic through polar routes illustrates the unique position of the Arctic in global economic affairs, as the region links America, Europe and Asia. The level of current interest in the area is unprecedented

The European Union has enormous growth potential up north. One of the key areas in the Arctic being Greenland, the European Union has a constructive role to play, by securing the development of this self-ruled territory. Given Greenland’s strategic assets, and its changing relationship with Denmark, a strong and sustainable Greenland economy is critical in securing a stable framework for future regional developments.

Greenland, one the most strategic Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs), has everything to attract everyone. It has become a meeting place for global interests, especially for the US, the EU and China. The European Union has played a leading role in the development of the education sector in Greenland, an absolutely key area.

Apart from the existing tools that the European Union has at its disposal to contribute to Greenland's economy, a region within the EU could contribute to further strengthening EU-Greenland relations: for 40 years, North Denmark has provided a ‘bridge’ between Greenland and Europe via the Port of Aalborg, Europe’s only base port for Greenland. Approximately 80% of Greenland’s external trade passes through Aalborg.

Old ties between the North Denmark Region and Greenland, as well as expected developments in Greenland, led to the establishment of ‘Arctic Consensus’, a consortium based in Aalborg, Denmark’s third largest municipality, and established by the North Denmark Region, Aalborg University, the Port of Aalborg and Aalborg Municipality.

EU regional policy, through the North Denmark Region, could be used to indirectly boost growth in Greenland. More awareness of this channel is needed. In order to ensure a regular discussion on Arctic issues in Brussels, Arctic Consensus is launching the North Denmark Arctic Dialogue, with an inaugural seminar, on Arctic shipping routes, taking place on March 25th, at the North Denmark EU-Office, in Brussels.

By further supporting the development of Greenland, the European Union can profile itself in a constructive way as a ‘growth facilitator’ and gain more respectability among other Arctic stakeholders.

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