The fact that the Arctic Council could not agree on a joint declaration is embarrassing and will make it more difficult to cooperate in the High North in the future, argues the Chair of the Norwegian parliament’s Delegation for Arctic Cooperation.
Member of [the Norwegian] Parliament Eirik Sivertsen (Labor) chairs the Storting’s Delegation for Arctic Cooperation. He argues that today’s Arctic Council meeting in Finland demonstrates that it will be more difficult to cooperate in the High North in coming years.
- I consider Pompeo’s talk unnecessary provoking. And it throws suspicion on other countries’ motives. That makes it more cooperation in the Arctic more challenging. The fact that we do not manage to agree on a joint declaration is also embarrassing. The Americans carry the responsibility for this failure, Sivertsen says to High North News.
Lashed out against Russia and China
In an astonishing talk on Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out against China and Russia. Pompeo left no doubt about his opinion about what he argues is China’s hidden agenda in the Arctic, using civilian infrastructure to establish permanent military presence in the region.
The USA also argues that Russia violates international law on the Northern Sea Route and contributes to a military arms race in the High North.
Sivertsen, who was present at the meeting on Tuesday, argues that the lac of agreement on a text addressing climate change challenges in the Arctic is nothing but embarrassing for the Arctic Council.
- There is overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change happens now, not in the future, and that these climate changes very severely affect the four million people living their lives in the Arctic.
- And the the USA is solely to blame for this?
- As far as I know, and from what I hear from those involved in the negotiations, the most difficult issue for the USA has been accepting that the declaration includes strong wording about the climate crisis. We had similar debates two years ago in Fairbanks, however, in Alaska we managed to agree on a joint declaration in the end, Sivertsen says.
Downplays civilian cooperation
Sivertsen says the Rovaniemi meeting in many ways has been a breach with the established praxis of not addressing security policy challenges and geopolitics at the Council’s meetings.
- What the USA does now, is to play up the security policy challenges while toning down climate challenges and other practical cooperation areas. There is a danger that security politics will push other cooperation areas off the table. If one plays up the danger of increased tension, there is a risk that you will get just that. That is why the Arctic Council has had an established praxis of not talking about security politics here. Talks have rather been about economic challenges, climate challenges, research, search and rescue and other issues.
- Can this Council meeting be the beginning of the end of the Arctic Council as a consensus-based body?
- It would be ironic if the beginning of the end would come here, in Rovaniemi, where the Arctic Council was created back in the day. However, we do have a job to do to protect the work that the Arctic Council has done, and we must focus on moving on. There are two years until the next meeting, and that is a long time in politics. In two years, we must be ready to take seriously the fact that the very fundament of life in the Arctic now is about to be destroyed. I would say that this Ministerial Meeting is a major disappointment to the four million people who live in the Arctic and who now see that the foundation for their lives in this region is being destroyed through climate changes.
This article originally appeared in English and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.