Four years after the EU adopted its Arctic policy, it is preparing work on a new strategy document.
On Monday (20 July), the European Commission and the EU’s diplomatic service (EEAS) jointly launched a public consultation on the EU’s Arctic policy, which according to EU officials is meant to lead to a “broad reflection” on the bloc’s future strategy for the region, including the EU’s ambitions under the Green Deal and security.
The Commission said the consultation seeks input on the strengths and shortfalls of the existing policy, with a view to possibly preparing an updated approach.
Experts and regional stakeholders had been surprised earlier this year that the European Commission’s work programme for 2020 had made no reference to plans to update the bloc’s stance on Arctic matters, in a setback for those hoping it would step up its engagement with the region.
“It’s a genuine attempt to get frank input, which will help us shape the process of updating the policy and once the consultation closes, we will obviously need some time to process it,” EU’s new Arctic Ambassador, Michael Mann, told EURACTIV, adding that “2021 will be a year of intensive work on the EU’s future Arctic policy.”
But with geopolitical trends accelerating, the bloc might find itself seemingly racing against time.
An increasing number of European countries have produced their own national Arctic strategies, while global powers such as Russia and China, a non-Arctic state, are vying for increased influence in the region.
On another note, a year after the US and Denmark butted heads over President Donald Trump’s offer to buy Greenland, his secretary of state Mike Pompeo is visiting the Nordic country this week, with Arctic issues at the top of the agenda.
Pompeo stated bluntly that the US and its allies were ‘late to the party’ in the Arctic and have been too slow to react to Chinese and Russian interests in the region. “I think we have all been a little bit naive to watch not only the Russians but the Chinese interest there continue to become more and more aggressive,” Pompeo told DR during a diplomatic visit in Copenhagen. “We are a little late. That’s alright, I’ve been late to parties before and had a great time.”
Greenland is home to a strategic American asset, the Thule Air Base, the US Air Force’s northernmost military base. In 2018, China unveiled a vision for a “Polar Silk Road,” and in the same year, a state-owned constructions company entered a bid to renovate airports in Greenland, an Arctic territory covering over two million square kilometres.
>> For more on the region, have a look at our Global Europe Arctic Special from earlier this year.