This document sets out a policy proposal, which will guide the actions of the European Union in the Arctic region in the future. It follows up the request in 2014 of the Council and European Parliament to the Commission and the High Representative to develop an integrated and more coherent framework for EU action and funding programmes in the Arctic by reviewing the EU's contribution to the Arctic since 2008 (when the Commission adopted its first Communication specifically on the Arctic).
The Arctic covers the Central Arctic Ocean, its regional seas such as the Barents, Kara and Chukchi seas, as well as the territories of Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark (including Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the USA. Three EU member states are thus also Arctic states, with Iceland and Norway being members of the European Economic area.
The Joint Communication takes into account the existing EU legislation, including the commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as ongoing and forthcoming EU activities and projects. It also builds on and complements the Arctic policies of the EU Member states.
The communication foresees that the European Union will step up its existing action and engagement in the region with 39 actions focussing on climate change, environmental protection, sustainable development and international cooperation. Across these priority areas, particular importance is given to research, science and innovation.
The Joint Communication identifies the following priority areas:
Climate change and safeguarding the Arctic environment: climate mitigation and adaptation strategies are of utmost importance, considering that the Arctic ice cover is melting and permafrost is thawing at faster rates than foreseen a decade ago. Furthermore, fundamental to a better understanding of the developments in the region is Arctic research. The EU should also continue its engagement and encourage full respect of multilateral environmental agreements like United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Promoting sustainable development in the region: the EU should support the deployment of innovative technologies in the Arctic, which have the potential of bringing broad social and economic benefits to the region and beyond. Recognizing that the European Arctic is suffering from underinvestment, the Commission will set up a European Arctic stakeholder forum with the aim of enhancing collaboration and coordination between different EU funding programmes. Space technology and safe and secure maritime activities will be given more attention as well.
Supporting international cooperation on Arctic issues: the joint communication stresses the importance of science, which can be used as a catalyst to support a common understanding, allowing to reach jointly agreed solutions and to foster peaceful cooperation. The EU will continue its active participation in the Arctic Council, which is the primary forum for international cooperation in the region, as well as it will continue to support regional, sub-regional and bilateral cooperation. The engagement with Arctic indigenious peoples and local communities should be further strengthened. With regard to fisheries management, appropriate international framework needs to be established to ensure long-term conservation and sustainable use of resources in the Arctic high seas.