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A stronger EU engagement for a greener, peaceful and prosperous Arctic

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The High Representative and the Commission have put forward their approach for a stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic. The Arctic region is of key strategic importance for the European Union, in view of climate change, raw materials as well as geostrategic influence. The Communication responds to these geopolitical, environmental, economic, security and social challenges and opportunities. It seeks to forster cooperation with partners on sustainable approaches to overcome them.

The EU will establish a European Commission office in Greenland, which will raise the profile of Arctic matters in the EU’s external relations. EU funding will also be directed towards driving the green transition in the Arctic, for the benefit of Arctic populations.

Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and in support of global climate action, the Communication calls for oil, coal and gas to remain in the ground.

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See also the press release, the questions and answers and the factsheet on a stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic.

Follow the press conference by Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius on EbS.

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Arctic

Arctic: MEPs call for peace and reduced tension in the region

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Parliament calls for constructive international co-operation in the Arctic while issuing warnings over emerging threats to stability in the region, PLENARY SESSION AFET.

 In a new report on geopolitical and security challenges in the Arctic, adopted on Wednesday, MEPs say that Arctic states and the international community should preserve the Arctic as an area of peace, low tension and constructive cooperation. The EU is committed to the long-term sustainable and peaceful development of the region, they underline.

In addition, the text emphasises that the current Arctic governance model, based on international law, has benefited all Arctic states and provided stability in the area.

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Climate change and indigenous communities

Members call on all countries concerned and the EU to respond to the deeply alarming consequences of climate change in the Arctic, including by sticking to the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The culture of the region’s Indigenous Peoples must also be preserved, MEPs stress. All activities in the area, including the use of natural resources, should respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and benefit them and other local inhabitants.

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Russian and Chinese activities in the Arctic

Furthermore, the report expresses serious concern over the progressive Russian military build-up in the Arctic, which MEPs consider to be unjustified as it significantly exceeds legitimate defensive purposes. Any cooperation with Russia in the region should be consistent with the principle of selective EU engagement with the country, MEPs demand. It should not jeopardise the sanctions and restrictive measures adopted as a result of the Russian government’s actions in other parts of the world, they add.

MEPs are also greatly concerned by far-reaching Chinese projects in the Artic. The EU needs to observe closely China’s attempts to integrate the Arctic’s Northern Sea Route into its Belt and Road Initiative, they say, as this challenges the objective of shielding the Arctic from global geopolitics.

The text, approved by 506 votes in favour, 36 against with 140 abstentions, will be available in full here (06.10.2021).

“I would welcome an updated EU Arctic policy, which should continue to focus on issues related to local communities, in particular indigenous people. In our report, we also stated that the EU’s Arctic strategy must reflect the region’s new security reality, growing geopolitical tensions and new regional players, like China. We should be aware that we are not alone in the Arctic; together with our close allies the US, Canada, Norway and Iceland, we can build a prosperous and peaceful future,” said rapporteur Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland) after the vote.

Background

Ahead of this plenary vote, a delegation of Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs visited Denmark, Greenland and Iceland on 21-24 September to discuss international cooperation and challenges in the Arctic with political representatives and officials.

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Arctic

MEPs want EU Arctic policy to better reflect security concerns

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While the European Commission is currently working on an update of the EU’s Arctic policy, MEPs are concerned about emerging threats to stability in the area, World.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Arctic has been a zone of peace and international cooperation, but in recent years the situation has changed. The region has witnessed an increased Russian military presence, while China aspires to integrate the Arctic’s northern sea route into its Belt and Road Initiative.

The Commission is re-examining the EU’s role in the Artic ahead of an integrated EU policy by the end of 2021. Parliament will debate and vote on its own report in Strasbourg next week.

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The Arctic is home to half a million EU citizens from Finland, Sweden as well as Denmark through Greenland.

“A shift in the perception of the Arctic is urgently needed as an increasingly tense international situation forces us to review our Arctic policy,” said Anna Fotyga (ECR, Poland),  author of the Parliament report.

The Arctic will no longer be a remote or inaccessible region, she said, but will in fact play a critical role in Europe’s future.

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Arctic aggression

“The EU’s Arctic strategy must reflect the new security realities in the region, rising geopolitical tensions and new players such as China,” said Fotyga. “Moscow looks at the Arctic in the long term, striving to impose a series of legal, economic and military facts. In this way, it introduces global tensions to a region that we want to preserve as an area of peaceful and fruitful cooperation.”

The report urges Russia to fully respect international law and to be mindful of the consequences of its actions. It also says that potential EU cooperation with Russia in the Arctic must not jeopardise the goals of sanctions against Russian action elsewhere.

License to drill

The increasing role of the Arctic in trade, navigation, environment and climate, issues related to local communities, in particular indigenous people, must also be taken into account,  said Fotyga.

There is growing interest in the Arctic and its rare earth mineral resources, which are crucial in the development of new technologies: both green and military.

“Europe must reduce its dependence on China for these minerals and the Arctic should play a central role in the European Raw Materials Alliance,” said the Polish MEP.

MEPs are worried that Russia and China will exploit the region without proper environmental impact assessment. China’s investments in strategic infrastructure projects and efforts to obtain mining rights are of concern as they are reminiscent of how the country operates in other parts of the world. MEPs therefore urge the Arctic states to carry out thorough screenings of foreign investments.

As China is developing icebreaker programmes, the report suggests that EU countries and partner countries could build icebreakers under an EU flag.

Fotyga, who was part of a Parliament delegation to Denmark, Iceland and Greenland in September, said Parliament wants greater EU visibility in the region, greater EU coordination, as well as cooperation with partners committed to respecting international law, developing peaceful cooperation and guaranteeing freedom of navigation.

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AWA welcomes first deposit from Kazakhstan

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The Arctic World Archive (AWA) has welcomed the constitution of Kazakhstan to its growing repository of world memory.

In a ceremony, attended by the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Norway Yerkin Akhinzhanov, Minister-Counsellor and Deputy head of Mission Talgat Zhumagulov, Counsellor Ilyas Omarov, and First Secretary Azat Matenov from the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Norway, the piqlFilm reel holding the constitution, other important information and historical images were stored forever as a time capsule for future generations.

Kazakhstan now joins Mexico and Brazil as nations that have deposited constitutions.

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‘On the eve of the Day of National Symbols of Kazakhstan, information files including the state flag, emblem, anthem, the Constitution, and the Law on State Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan dated December 16, 1991, were placed in the Archive. This is an important day for our nation, with our contribution now part of this repository of global memory,’ said Mr Akhinzhanov.

Hosted by Piql’s Managing Director Rune Bjerkestrand and Deputy Director Katrine Loen, the delegates received a guided tour of the vault and the growing collection of masterpieces and historic and contemporary treasures stored safely for centuries.

‘I am very proud to welcome the Kazakhstan constitution to AWA as a contribution to world memory and look forward to future Kazakh deposits,’ Mr Bjerkestrand said.

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This is the first deposit from the Republic of Kazakhstan and represents the 16th nation to deposit in AWA.

Piql, the technology behind perpetual digital storage

The Arctic World Archive was founded in 2017 by the Norwegian company Piql AS, which in 2002 developed an innovative technology of transforming 35-millimeter photosensitive film into a digital data carrier.

This innovative method is a response to the changing needs of the digital revolution. Global digital assets double every 2 years, about 10% of hard drives fail after 4 years, the cost of digital data security is increasing every year.

piqlFilm is currently the safest and most durable data carrier in the world, tested to survive for over 1000 years. Szymborska’s works have been stored both digitally and as a visual representation.

Piql services are offered around the world through a network of trusted partners.

The Arctic World Archive

AWA is located 300 metres inside a decommissioned coal mine on the remote Norwegian Island of Svalbard, holding digital treasures from around the world.

Svalbard was chosen as the location for a global memory repository, for its status as a declared demilitarised zone by 42 nations, offering both geographical and political stability. Further, the cool dry permafrost conditions increase the longevity of the stored data.

In this era, much of our heritage is stored digitally and, despite best efforts to protect it for the future, it can be exposed to risks, either from the online environment or just from the limits of modern storage technology.

The combination of resilient long-term storage technology and the safety offered by AWA, data will live on into the distant future.

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