President of the European Commission Jose Barroso has called for a revitalization of transatlantic ties. Europe and America have a “common story” with both historical and contemporary aspects. We share a past landscape that includes the struggles surrounding the era of exploration and sustainable settlement. The new Atlanticism encompasses a similarly broad geographic reach. However, it includes a growing attention to what has been termed our Northern Frontier.
Recent Your Opinion articles on atlantic-community.org reviewed Polar Politics as these have evolved in complexity following the retreat of the Arctic ice. From the Arctic to the Baltic Sea and beyond, nations whose coastlines touch the Northern Frontier are racing to recover valuable resources, often with competing maritime and territorial claims. The preservation of biodiversity is also a shared interest, as are efforts to avoid the militarization of what is fast emerging as a strategic geopolitical environment. One major accompaniment to these interests is the formation of an array of organizations, including The Arctic Council, Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Nordic Council, an EU initiative -- its Northern Dimension, and the US Enhanced Partnership with Northern Europe. Another, has been the advent of fault lines amid this now overlapping framework. Currently, for example, there is no one umbrella organization that encompasses all nations with a northerly coastal status, a situation that tends to provoke serious questions about the representative nature of formal and informal conferences among the “littoral states.” Further, though all Nordic organizations aim at fostering multilateral coordination among nations, growth specialists, and research scientists, actual presentation of the results to a wider community appears hindered by a lack of a centralized data gathering and clearing-house.
Since both EU and US Nordic policy favor a rise in public engagement as an essential part of a “common story,” a tentative guide to the EU’s Northern Dimension’s many diverse projects, available for the year 2008, was used to discern trends. These suggest an increased interest and coherence in cross-border public and private sector participation. A sample of 132 out of 401 projects with the designations economic and social was reviewed. A majority of EU funded projects (31%) was devoted to issues of sustainable growth and habitation. Broad questions of improved transportation, road construction, and infrastructure development, figure prominently as does a need to outfit the future Nordic economy with southerly connections. The gathering of quantitative data on the environment and natural resources followed in attention (29%).while studies of rural development, including the challenges facing indigenous peoples, small business enterprise, and the integration of relatively isolated municipalities, were also of concern (24%).Development of both national and international tourism as a viable rural resource was a final category of activity (16%).
At present, each of the Northern Frontier’s associated organizations annually produces expanding pools of information. Many in the interested public thus continue to confront a host of separate data sets that frequently demand integration as a condition of convenient access and usage. A centralized archive might produce helpful summaries of project results and research trends as well as offer defined channels for information sharing and distribution. A dialogue on this approach could inform other institutional efforts at multilateral cooperation and coordination, including discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of a more inclusive Arctic governance, and the feasibility of establishing a permanent Secretariat for the Arctic Council.
Ann H. Sontz, a political anthropologist, is the founder and editor of EuropaSurvey.Org, an online independent journal of European, EU, and Transatlantic affairs.
Related Material from Atlantic Community:
- Memo 23: International Law is Critical for Alleviating Arctic Tensions
- Shakti Prasad Srichandan: The EU Stakes its Claim in the Arctic
- Ingrid Lundestad: Will the US Become More Active in the Arctic?