The EU is ready to step up cooperation with Russia on the future of the Arctic despite tensions between Brussels and Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine, foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Wednesday (27 April).
As the 28-nation European Union agreed on a new common strategy for an increasingly valuable and contested region, Mogherini said it had to cooperate with other powers with a stake there.
“This is a clear interest of the European Union to further engage with all actors, including Russia, on the Arctic,” Mogherini told a news conference in Brussels after the European Commission adopted the strategy.
The former Italian foreign minister said the Arctic was an “an example of regional and international constructive cooperation” adding that the EU was ready “even for this cooperation go deeper and to enlarge”.
Brussels’ readiness to cooperate with Russia at the top of the world comes despite foreign ministers last month agreeing to stand firm on its policy towards Moscow, which includes economic sanctions over the two-year conflict in Ukraine.
Mogherini said the ministers had agreed that there could be “selective engagement” with Russia in areas where there was a “clear European interest”, and that the Arctic was one of those cases.
“The Arctic clearly poses not only huge potential but also some critical challenges that we need to discuss together and also to which we need to find common answers,” Mogherini added.
The EU is keen to unlock the potential of the region ― Finland, Sweden and Denmark are all Arctic states ― and protect the environment, but comes up against competing interests ranging from the United States and Canada to China and Russia.
Under its new strategy it will “step up its existing action and engagement” in areas including climate change, the environment and international cooperation, it said in a statement.
The EU has imposed damaging economic sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea and suspected further intervention in eastern Ukraine, sending ties into a deep freeze reminiscent of the Cold War.
In recent months, however, there have been growing calls to see if the two sides can work together to solve shared problems, most notably the Syrian conflict which is destabilising the whole region and driving Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II.