Composition of the Study Group
- The EESC is keenly aware of the importance of the Arctic region for the European Union, and in particular for the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland and Sweden, which are members of the Arctic Council. But it is equally aware of the fact that the European Union only acts as an observer in the Arctic Council, even if it has de facto been able to go beyond the strict role of an observer.
- The Committee notes that the Joint communication is based on three pillars – climate change, sustainable development and international cooperation; however, the policy outcome is dependent on the results of this international cooperation, and sustainable development is the priority for representatives of the people living in the region. Given this, the EESC suggests reversing the order in which the EU's objectives are presented so as to make them clearer and more effective, especially as the objectives and projects mentioned in the document are commendable and their intention can scarcely be criticised.
- Furthermore, the Committee notes that one of the consequences of climate change has been to open up new waterways in the north, creating specific opportunities for shipping, fishing, and even mining, which in turn mean an increased risk of "perils of the sea" in the Arctic. It therefore recommends treating the issues of safety and security – not only in terms of transport but also in terms of drilling – as being of the utmost importance, and underlines the fact that the environmental consequences of these new waterways, opened up by the melting ice, are not yet known.
- The EESC underlines how important it is for other European policies – in addition to climate and environmental policies – to take account of Arctic issues. This applies in particular to EU's structural policy, the common agricultural policy, fisheries policy and maritime policy.
- The Committee also stresses the need to ensure that the local population in the Arctic can benefit from the opportunities offered by sustainable economic and social development, which are very often brought about by improved physical and non-physical means of communication. Therefore, the preservation of Arctic regions and the fight against climate change must not be undertaken without consideration for its inhabitants or in a way that is detrimental to them. The EESC calls for civil society to be able to play an active role in promoting the interests and concerns of people who live there.
- Last but not least, the EESC expresses the view that success and tangible impact of the integrated EU Arctic policy will depend on the EU's diplomatic skills, as it cannot be pursued without the agreement and support of countries that are not – and never will be – EU Member States. The Committee considers that international cooperation is, and will continue to be, crucial to any Arctic policy.