EU Arctic Policy and the EU ARCTIC Forum
In January 2011 the European Union reinforced its commitment to bring the Arctic region to the forefront of its external relations agenda when the European Parliament adopted the long-elaborated report On a sustainable EU policy for the High North by MEP Michael Gahler.
While the document itself does not constitute a policy strategy per se, the Parliament’s report is unique as regards expertise on a subject and was praised by the Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Stefan Füle as the “third pillar of EU Arctic Policy basic architecture”.
The EU ARCTIC Forum was created in the beginning of 2010 to provide the European politicians with a cross-party platform to foster a better understanding of changes in the Arctic Region and its implication for European citizens and businesses. In a short period of time the Forum transformed into an engine of coherent and coordinated EU Arctic policy action and greatly contributed to initial drafting as well as subsequent debates and revision of the Parliament’s report.
During the drafting process the Forum functioned as a bridge builder between policy-makers and different interested outside parties and contributed to raising the awareness of the Arctic challenges and opportunities internally within the Parliament. The Forum organized a range of Arctic-related public hearings and events and was always at the forefront of the Committee debates within the EP. A debate with the Commission, the shadow rapporteurs of the political groups and several other MEPs, most of them participating in the EU ARCTIC Forum, can be watched online here.
The increased attention to the report resulted in 174 amendments from 28 MEPs during the legislative process. Mr Gahler was assisted by 5 shadow rapporteurs, expressing the views of different political groups on the prospects of environmental protection, sustainable socioeconomic development and Arctic governance. This helped to achieve a well balanced and comprehensive document that clearly identified EU priorities for a more ambitious policy in the Arctic.
The report concludes with a number of requests and recommendations to the European Commission and Member States, including better leadership and more efficient diplomacy.
EU ARCTIC Forum’s objectives of bringing divergent voices together and capitalizing on a greater information input was proved a timely and efficient strategy. EU ARCTIC Forum will continue to provide an open platform for cooperation and an interface for science, business and civil society concerned with the High North region. As a mature and recognised player in the EU-Arctic affairs EU ARCTIC Forum reassures its commitment to development of consistent, unified and coherent EU policy for the Arctic region.
- The European Parliament has shown that it is a driving force in developing a new Arctic policy for the EU. The leading role of the EU Arctic Forum, a platform of MEPs working in several committees and political groups in the European Parliament, in fostering a debate with Arctic experts, state officials, NGO’s and business from the Arctic region, proved that balancing interests are necessary and possible for the EU to play a leading role”
Michael Gahler, MEP and Rapporteur.