Continuity with Great Confidence: The European Union's 2021 Arctic Policy Update

Adam Stępień, Andreas Raspotnik

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On 13 October 2021, the European Union’s Arctic policy was updated with the publication of the Joint Communication on A stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic, issued by the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy. In this analysis, we offer some thoughts on this recent development. The EU presents itself as a more selfconfident actor in the Arctic, taking stock of its economic and environment impacts, while retaining the previous definition of the scope of its Arctic engagement. This includes climate and environment, developmental issues in the European Arctic, and international cooperation within and relevant for the region. At the same time, however, one of the key objectives of the new policy statement is to position the EU’s Arctic engagement within the landscape of the European Green Deal (EDG) and the newly found self-portrayal of the EU as a geopolitical actor (e.g. von der Leyen’s Commission being declared a “geopolitical Commission”). Among the consequences of this new setting is a strong focus on Arctic resource developments, discouraging those that contradict global climate objectives (opening new hydrocarbons exploitation) and encouraging those that support the transition (critical minerals). The new proposal for a moratorium on hydrocarbons exploration especially is discussed below in greater detail. We also consider whether the Arctic policy could be seen as a testing ground for the EU’s future foreign policy in general.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWashington, DC
PublisherThe Arctic Institute
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2021
MoEC publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study


  • European Union
  • Arctic
  • European Green Deal
  • Energy
  • Hydrocarbon extraction
  • Policy
  • climate action

Field of science

  • Political science


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