November 20 2008
BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Union gave notice Thursday it is keen to have a share of the much sought after oil, gas, mineral and fish resources in the Arctic region as the polar ice cap melts.
The move is likely to irk other Arctic players, including Canada, Russia, Norway and the United States all of which have issued territorial claims in the polar region.
The European Commission said the 27-member bloc, which has three member states in the polar region – Denmark, Finland and Sweden – should get involved in the current rush in the Arctic, notably in offshore oil and gas exploitation.
Denmark controls the semiautonomous territory of Greenland.
The announcement was part of a first outline of priorities the EU is seeking in the Arctic, an area where the bloc is now planting its own flag of sorts as a key economic and security interest for Europe.
“The Arctic is a unique and vulnerable region located in the immediate vicinity of Europe,” said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner.
“Its evolution will have significant repercussions on the life of Europeans for generations to come.”
She added that the quickly changing Arctic posed new challenges and opportunities for EU states and as such the bloc needed to formulate a policy for the region.
Interest in the Arctic is intensifying because global warming is shrinking the polar ice and that could someday open up resource development and new shipping lanes.
Ferrero Waldner stressed however, that any EU moves in the region would not endanger the local environment or local native populations.
“The EU is ready … to keep the right balance between the priority goal of preserving the environment and the need for sustainable use of natural resources,” she said.
Ferrero-Waldner said recent U.S. surveys “estimate that up to 25 per cent of the planet’s undiscovered oil and gas could be located” in the region.
A share of that would help the EU bloc ease its heavy reliance on Russian oil and gas imports.
European involvement is sure to add weight to Arctic claims filed by Denmark.
Danish officials are gathering scientific evidence to show that the Lomonosov Ridge, a 2,000-kilometre underwater mountain range, is attached to Greenland, making it a geological extension of the island.
Canada and Denmark also both claim Hans Island, a 1.3-square-kilometre rock at the entrance to the Northwest Passage. The island is wedged between Canada’s Ellesmere Island and Danish-ruled Greenland, and has been a subject of bitter exchanges between the two NATO allies.
The new EU strategy, which will be debated by EU governments in coming months, foresees a stepped up role by EU officials in the eight-country Arctic Council as well as part of the United Nations’ Law of the Sea Convention which is trying to settle claims over the Arctic.
Ferrero-Waldner said that acting through these means, the EU as a whole will be able to have a greater say over the Arctic’s future.
Countries involved in the claims recommitted themselves last May to settle competing claims under the UN convention. A UN panel is supposed to decide on control of the Arctic by 2020.
However, Russia and Canada have already moved to flex their muscle over their claims by holding military exercises in the Arctic.
Russia last year sent two small submarines to plant a tiny national flag under the North Pole, while Ottawa has announced plans to build a new army training centre and a deep-water port in contested Arctic waters.
All after oil, gas, mineral and fish . At the expence of the enviroment I might add.
The masters of destruction.