European Union policy for the Arctic

NSP 06-07-2016

The Arctic states have primary responsibility for tackling issues within their territories, many of the issues affecting the Arctic region can be more effectively addressed through multilateral cooperation.

This is why EU engagement is important in the Arctic region. Building on previous initiatives, the European Parliament has started the work on developing an integrated European Union policy for the Arctic – that focuses on advancing international cooperation in responding to the impacts of climate change on the Arctic’s fragile environment, and promoting and contributing to sustainable development in the European part of the Arctic (EU –Commission resolution by 27.04.2016).

  1. BACKGROUND

Reasons for EU’s focus on the Arctic region:

Climate change – In recent years, the Arctic’s role in climate change has become much more prominent. Wheras in the past attention focused almost solely on the effects of climate change in the Arctic, more recently there has been growing awarness that feedback loops are turning the Arctic into a contributor to climate change. Understanding these dynamics, and helping to develop specific strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change in the Arctic, will form the EU’s wider efforts to combat climate change.

Arctic environment – Given the important role of Arctic as a regulator for the climate of the planet and acting as a sink for long-range pollution, the EU has a duty to protect the fragile Arctic environment and strengthen ecosystem resilience. The EU Arctic policy will be an important element to produce the adaptation strategies that are needed to help Arctic inhabitants respond to the serious challenges they face because of climate change.

Sustainable development – Taking in to account both the traditional livelihoods of those living in the region and the impact of economic development on the Arctic’s fragile environment. The EU should contribute to enhancing the economic and environmental resilience of societies in the Arctic. A number of EU activities and decisions are having an impact on economic developments in the Arctic region and EU is a major consumer of products coming from the Arctic states, such as fish products and energy. Investment by European companies can help advance sustainable development in the Arctic region.

International strategic importance – In recent years, the arctic region has acquired a higher profile in international relations due to its increasing environmental, economic and strategic importance. The EU already contributes substantially to Arctic research and regional developments. The opportunities of the Arctic can also increase tensions in the region – thorough competition for the resources and increasing economic activity. It is now more important than ever to ensure that the Arctic remains a zone of peace and constructive international cooperation.

Investment – A recent report: “A Strategic Vision for the North – May 2015” estimated investment opportunities in the Barents region alone to be EUR 140 billion. Regional ‘Smart specialisation strategies’ combined with EU funding, can help to develop local models of sustainable growth and job creation in the European Arctic with potential benefits across the EU:

  • Investment by European private capital
  • Investment by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF)
  • Activities under the Investment Plan for Europe (IPE)

2. PRIORITY AREAS

Against this background the European Parliament has asked the Commission for Foreign Affairs to develop an integrated policy on Arctic matters, and to develop a framework for EU action and funding programmes that focuses on three priority areas:

  • Climate change and safeguarding the Arctic environment
  • Sustainable development in and around the Arctic
  • International cooperation on Arctic issues

The main target for the EU Arctic policy is research and innovation – which will play a key role across all the three priority areas.

3. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN AND AROUND THE ARCTIC

Sustainable economic development faces specific challenges in the Arctic region. Compared with other parts of Europe, the European part of the Arctic region is rich in natural resources such as fish, minerals, oil and gas – but is characterised by lack of transport links such as road, rail and flight connections, and has a sparse population spread over a wide area.

This means that the European part of the Arctic region has a significant potential to support growth in the rest of Europe. Through its’ Member State and its’ close ties with Iceland and Norway, as members of the European Economic Area (EEA), the EU can play an influential role in shaping the future development of the European part of the Arctic through the application of EU rules relevant for the EEA and the deployment of financial instruments.

The climate of the Arctic region makes it an ideal innovation site for cold climate technologies and services. Harsh climatic conditions and fragile environment require specialised technology and know-how to meet high environmental standards – and a lot of other opportunities. The European Commission will help to monitor opportunities in the Arctic region by giving priority to:

  1. Sustainable economic activities and innovation:
  • Cold Climate Technology
  • SME Competitivness and innovation
  • Climate research
  • Green Economy – Renewable energy/Multi-source energy systems
  • Blue Economy – Aquaculture, fisheries, marine biotechnology

     2. Project financing through EU territorial cooperation programmes:

  • Interreg Nord
  • Botnia-Atlantica Programme
  • The Baltic Sea Region Programme
  • The Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme
  • The Kolarctic cross-border cooperation programmes

 3.  Innovation support:

  • ESIF Programmes
  • Horizon 2020
  • European Investment Bank Group
  • The European Enterprise Network
  • European Arctic Stakeholder Forum
  • Arctic EU Funds
  • European Investment Advisory Hub
  • The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

 4. Infrastructure Projects:

  • European Investment Bank (Transport connections, telecom, energy efficiency)
  • Trans-European network for Transport (TENT)

 

EUROPEAN ARCTIC STAKEHOLDER FORUM

Consultations between the Commission and the European External Action Service has lead to the conclusion that the Arctic region is suffering from underinvestment. Recognising this, the Comission will set up a European Arctic stakeholder forum with the aim to enhancing collaboration and coordination between different funding programmes. This temporary forum should bring together EU institutions, Member States, and regional authorities to contribute to identifying key investment and research priorities for EU funds in the region.

Complementary to the forum, the NPA programme will lead a pilot activity aiming at bringing together a network of managing authorities and stakeholders from various regional development programmes in the European part of the Arctic. It is to facilitate the exchange of information, plan and coordinate calls for proposals and monitor the impact of programmes on the region. The new collaborative network will also be open to participation by relevant national and international financing instruments. The network feeds into the work of the stakeholder forum in identifying the research and investment priorities.

To bring the results of the forum and network, the Commission will fund and facilitate an annual Arctic stakeholder conference in the European Arctic region – after 2017 – to strengthen collaboration and networking between stakeholders to improve international project development in the Arctic region.

CONCLUSIONS

Through its Member State and its close ties with Iceland and Norway, the EU would play an influential role in shaping the future development of the European part of the Arctic through EU rules relevant for the EEA and the deployment of financial instruments focusing on innovation priority areas, project financing, innovation support and infrastructure programmes.

The European policy for the Arctic region would guide the EU’s actions for the coming years, but the Commission will keep the Arctic policy under review in light of developments. This will als ogive the participants in the GREBE-Project opportunity to contribute to identifying key investment and research priorities to EU – through the European stakeholder forum and the NPA stakeholder network and take part in and bring result in to the annual Arctic stakeholder conference in 2018. Work Package 4 with focus on SME innovation and harsh climate conditions challenging the opportunities in the ‘Green Economy’ sector.

The rich resources of the Arctic region has the potential to support economic growth in the rest of Europe, and the strategic importance of the Arctic region has increased as a result of this – and the willingness to invest in the area is huge, both from EU investment fund and EU innovation programmes.

The GREBE-Project has participants from the Arctic region and EU – so the integrated EU policy for the Arctic gives the GREBE-projects opportunities to have an influence on the priority of identifying key investment area for the renewable energy sector in the arctic region.

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