Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 201

201 Arctic Yearbook 2015 governmental representatives are not given the right to vote. The assembly traditionally convenes annually for regular sessions (5-10 days in the capital of each successive member state), with additional special sessions organized when necessary. The delegates are arranged in their seats alphabetically by last name, and each of them is entitled to one vote. The parliamentary assembly of the Nordic Council passes non-binding recommendations and statements addressed to national governments and the Nordic Council of Ministers; the sessions typically feature debates on issues raised by the governments that make up the Nordic Council. Representatives of the Nordic Council are at once delegates to the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, the Barents Parliamentary Conference (BPC), and the Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians. The Nordic Council’s interest in the Arctic region, which after all represents a considerable portion of their collective land mass and territorial waters, was not initially a key area of focus for the Council, whether at the external or the internal level. At most, it fell into broader operations and policy initiatives such as environmental protection or fomenting forms of regional cooperation in the Arctic (e.g. through providing an initial stimulus for the creation of the CPAR) (Bohlin 2010: 28). For all the activity described above, the Nordic Council only initiated its Arctic Co-operation Programme in 1996 and has been systematically expanding it since then in organizational,1 financial,2 and functional (areas of interest) terms (Stokke 2007). It should be clearly noted here that the chief body responsible for the Nordic Council’s engagement in the Arctic is the Nordic Council of Ministers, which has held Observer status with the Arctic Council since 2000. In this case, the role of the parliamentary assembly of the Nordic Council is to provide support to the Council of Ministers via active participation in drafting successive versions of the Arctic Co-operation Programme during the assembly’s special sessions3 as well as practical input into the debates held during the Arctic Council’s conferences on the Arctic region.4 It is possible that one way in which the Nordic Council’s parliamentarians could get further involved in the near future could be in creating a common Nordic strategy for the Arctic; the intent to do so was accepted by the Presidium of the Nordic Council in 2013 (Nordic Council 2013). Furthermore, the Nordic Council may have an important input in the future pathways of parliamentary diplomacy in the Arctic.5 In this respect, Annika B. Rosamund suggests an interesting scenario where the Nordic Council could play the role of a mediator between the Arctic Council and the European Union (Bergman Rosamond 2011: 26). This development seems relatively plausible given that cooperation between the different parliamentary assemblies (NC, EP, and CPAR) has been ongoing and free of major complications for the last several years (European Parliament 2009; Ojanen 2004). The West Nordic Council The West Nordic Council was founded in 1985, during a meeting in Nuuk, as the West Nordic Parliamentarian Council of Cooperation. It is composed of representatives from Iceland and two autonomous territories of the Kingdom of Denmark: Greenland and the Faroe Islands. According to Nielsson, the factors that came into play in the decision to create the Council included, on the one hand, the ever-greater sovereignty of the Danish territories, and on the other, the myriad similarities that linked these three countries, strewn as they are across the wide expanse that divides Europe and Łuszczuk