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European Commission

Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

European Union strategy for the Arctic

European Parliament, plenary debate / Strasbourg

17 April 2013

President, Honourable Members,

The European Union is stepping up its contribution to Arctic cooperation.

I am therefore pleased to speak to the Parliament today on behalf of High Representative and Vice-President Catherine Ashton, about the European Union's Arctic policy following the adoption of the Joint Communication of the Commission and HR/VP last June. Progress has been substantial.

Over the last decade, we have become the largest sponsor of Arctic research, with contributions of 20 million euro per year. Additionally, as part of its regional and cross-border funding, the European Union has put over one billion euros into economic development from Greenland to Russia. Add Member States' bilateral contributions to that and the figure rises to almost two billion euros.

The next steps we plan will make the European Union's contribution to Arctic cooperation even more meaningful.

Our policy focuses on three key components:

  • 'knowledge';

  • 'responsibility; and

  • 'engagement'.

Starting with "Knowledge", the European Union's new Horizon 2020 programme will establish closer links with researchers from third countries. We are also exploring the feasibility of creating a European Arctic Information Centre.

Turning to "responsibility", we want to work with our Arctic partners and with the private sector to develop environmentally-friendly, low-risk technologies that could be used by the extractive industries and the shipping industry.

And finally, on "engagement", we are stepping up our dialogue with all Arctic states and stakeholders.

The Commission will continue to engage with Arctic indigenous groups to find ways to work together in a number of practical areas. We will organise an Arctic indigenous dialogue meeting in the coming months.

An important decision on the European Union's application for observer status is to be made next month by the eight Arctic States that form the Arctic Council - in our view, the key international forum on Arctic questions.

We trust that the Arctic Council members will come to a fair decision, recognising in particular the significant contribution the European Union can bring to the work of the Council. I am therefore thankful for the European Parliament cross-party support for the application.

Let me conclude by saying that whatever we do, there is one thing we must do for the Arctic, and that is work with our international partners to address climate change and to limit global temperature increases to less than 2°C.

Closing remarks

I would like to thank you for your valuable input this evening. This Parliament has been an important driver behind the development of the European Union's Arctic policy. Tonight, you have underlined once more that the Arctic is a region that affects us all here.

You made clear that the Arctic itself will need support in facing the tremendous environmental and economic challenges that have relevance not only for today's, but also for future generations. Cooperation is key. We need to take responsibility and make a contribution.

We are already intensifying discussions with the United States and Canada on Arctic research cooperation. The European Union has established a regular dialogue on Arctic issues with Norway and is exchanging views with Iceland to find policy synergies. We also have a successful cooperation framework with Iceland, Russia and Norway through the Northern Dimension. The partnership between the European Union and Greenland will open up important new opportunities to assist.

The further development of our policy will also be affected by our observer application to the Arctic Council. We trust that the Arctic Council members will come to a fair decision, recognizing in particular the significant contribution the European Union can bring to the region.

Thank you.

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