Estonia to apply for observer status within Arctic Council

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Estonia announced on Thursday that it will apply for observer status within the Arctic Council.
Foreign Ministers attend the Arctic Council summit at the Lappi Areena in Rovaniemi, Finland May 7, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/Reuters)

The Estonian government announced on Thursday that it will formally apply for an observer status within the Arctic Council in order to increase its involvement on issues related to the region.

“Considering the increasing challenges from the Arctic, it is a chance for Estonia to get more involved internationally with topics related to the Arctic,” said Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia’s foreign minister, in a news release. “The Arctic Council is one of the most important cooperation forums dealing with the region’s issues and it addresses the sustainable development and protection of the environment of the Arctic.”

The Foreign Minister proposed to apply at a cabinet meeting which then adopted the idea as a government decision.

Reinsalu said that the sustainable development of the Arctic required not only the involvement of Arctic states but also the political support of other countries and international organizations. 

As the northernmost non-Arctic country and due to its location, Estonia is directly affected by the geopolitical developments in the Arctic, and this is why we should be included in discussions and problem-solving. Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia's foreign minister
Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu speaks to the media as he arrives to the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Helsinki, Finland August 29, 2019. (Lehtikuva/Markku Ulander/Reuters)
Interest in Science, Economy and Security

With this status, the Foreign Minister intends to involve Estonian scientists and companies in new cooperation projects in the region. Estonia mainly shows interest in three domains—science, economy and security. 

“For example, the observer status would grant our scientists who are engaged in polar studies a greater access to research funds, and would enhance research through working groups,” said Reinsalu in a news release.

Fisheries, logistics and green technology in the Arctic are of particular economic interest for the country.

An observer status allows members to take part in meetings of the Arctic Council as well as submit written statements at ministerial meetings.

They can also propose projects through an Arctic State or a Permanent Participant. 

However, to apply for an observer status, the candidate must follow some criteria. It must, for instance, accept and support the objectives of the Arctic Council, recognize that an extensive legal framework applies to the Arctic Ocean as well as respect the values, interests, culture and traditions of Arctic indigenous peoples and other Arctic inhabitants.

In addition, the candidate needs to show sufficient expertise and interest relevant to the work of the council as well as financial ability to contribute to this work.

The Arctic Council is comprised of eight member states, six working groups and six Indigenous permanent participant organizations, as well as observer states and organizations. (Arctic Council Secretariat)

The Arctic Council is an international forum made up of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States; and six Arctic Indigenous groups; the Aleut International Association, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, the Gwich’in Council International, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North and the Saami Council.

The council was established in 1996 to work on sustainable development and environmental protection in the North.

Thirteen non-arctic states, such as France, India or China have already been approved as Observers to the Arctic Council.

Fourteen intergovernmental and inter-parliamentary organizations and twelve non-governmental organizations are also approved Observers in the council.

Estonia will know if the country is granted the observer status at the next ministerial meeting in 2021.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Better wildfire & agriculture management among recommendations from Arctic Council black carbon expert group, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Did Finland fail as Chair of the Arctic Council?, Blog – Timo Koivurova

Iceland: Arctic Council group lobs GPS-bugged capsules into Atlantic to track litter trajectories in the North, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway to focus on civil society, press freedom as chair of Barents Euro-Arctic Council, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Putin, Modi work on Arctic cooperation during Russia meeting, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s FM calls for more EU involvement in Arctic as country hosts EU Arctic Forum, Radio Sweden

United States: Finnish and US Presidents agree on Arctic security policies, Eye on the Arctic

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Mathiew Leiser, Eye on the Arctic

Mathiew Leiser, Eye on the Arctic

Born in the south of France to an English mother and a French father, Mathiew Leiser travelled the world from an early age. After studying international journalism in London, he quickly acquired different journalistic skills by working as a freelance journalist in various news organisations. From the BBC to Agence France Presse and the UGC agency Newsflare, Mathiew has acquired experience in various fields of journalism. In 2019, he decided to settle in Montreal to face its harsh winters and enjoy its beautiful summers but above all to develop his journalism. He quickly joined Radio Canada International where he strives to give the best of himself within the various teams.

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