With the Conservative government’s foreign policies already under a critical spotlight this week, a conference on the future of the Arctic to be held Thursday in Ottawa will urge Canada to assume a new leadership role on the circumpolar stage at a time when the remote region is heating up — politically and literally — like never before.
Canadian diplomats are facing a determined and often ill-informed push by European lawmakers to increase their influence in the Arctic, documents show.
Briefing notes obtained under Access to Information legislation suggest many members of the increasingly influential European Parliament consider Canada a barrier to Europe gaining the larger role in Arctic governance it wants. The same notes suggest those parliamentarians understand little of the region they seek to influence.
"There is increasing attention to the Arctic within the European Parliament," says the March 15, 2010, note for officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, written after a meeting of the parliament.
"The wide range of knowledge and, at times, stunning lack of knowledge on the Arctic caused our Norwegian contacts also attending the debate to note 'we have our work cut out for us.' "
Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon has taken a bold step into the sometimes frosty domain of polar politics, inviting the foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, Denmark and Norway to a meeting in Chelsea, Quebec on March 29. The mini-summit will take place immediately before a gathering of G8 foreign ministers in Gatineau that same evening and the following day.
Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak says the European Union should not be
allowed to join the Arctic Council, given its proposal to ban the
import of seal products.
The EU is one of several bodies that have applied to be permanent
observers at the council, an intergovernmental forum comprising eight
Arctic countries, including Canada and the United States, as well as
Arctic indigenous groups.
As it stands, Arctic policy is already a dense network of legal
and political agreements between different national and supranational
stakeholders. Now the European Union wants to play a greater role in
In November 2008, the EU Commission published a report entitled "The
European Union and the Arctic Region," which was submitted as a
"communication" to the European Parliament and the Council. This
"communication" is seen as the first step in the development of a
systematic EU Arctic policy that addresses not only the greater
potential for economic utilization resulting from climate change but
also the threat to the Arctic environment posed by both climate change
and human encroachment. Moreover, with this document the European Union
has shifted Arctic policy beyond the inner circle of polar powers and
made it an international issue. ...
At the international conference “Arctic Frontiers”, Norway, EU and
Russia agreed that there is no need for any new international treaty on
Both Norway and the European Union believe that the UN Sea Treaty, The
Arctic Council, The International Maritime Organization and the UN
Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf are sufficient
instruments for management of the Arctic and the waiting climate
Co-operative agreement between nations necessary to protect key areas, World Wildlife Fund reports
Bob Weber, Canadian Press, January 21, 2009
As more and more nations spell out their plans for increasingly
accessible Arctic waters, a study says huge gaps in international law
are leaving the sensitive region vulnerable to environmental damage
from a rush for resources. ... For the full text, see: http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/574423
Canada's Arctic sovereignty is not under increased threat despite
recent forthright statements from the United States and the European
Union spelling out their interests in the region, says Foreign Affairs
Minister Lawrence Cannon. ...
ILULISSAT, Greenland - An Arctic Ocean
summit aimed at easing territorial tensions among the five nations
bordering the northern sea -- including Canada -- appeared to evolve
yesterday into something more substantial: a kind of Arctic G5 with
ambitious plans for overseeing polar oil and mineral exploration,
maritime security, transportation and environmental regulation.
Randy Boswell, Ottawa Citizen, November 22, 2008, A5
A report by European Union executives
urging the federation to assume a bigger role in governing the Arctic,
exploiting its resources and protecting its environment is a "gauntlet"
tossed in front of Canada and other polar powers, says one of this
country's leading experts on Arctic issues.
of Calgary political scientist Rob Huebert -- describing a European
Commission report released Thursday in Brussels as an EU attempt to
"redesign the Arctic to be a backyard of Europe" -- said the document
portends a host of diplomatic challenges for Canada and the four other
nations that have Arctic Ocean coastlines, as well as strong incentives
to extract oil and gas, and control shipping through the increasingly
"This is really
troubling for Canadian interests," Mr. Huebert told Canwest News
Service yesterday. "This is Europe trying to muscle in on the
formulation of the governance system for the Arctic."