Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 248

248 Arctic Yearbook 2015 establishment of the Arctic Economic Council, and the potentially grave consequences of Russia’s March 2014 annexation of Crimea for circumpolar cooperation. These developments came at the time when Canada, sixteen years after the inception of the Council, held the AC chair for the second time, from May 2013 to April 2015. Whereas a number of articles have addressed the second Canadian chairmanship (Exner-Pirot 2011; Fenge 2013; Spence 2013) and others have anticipated the second US chairmanship from 2015 to 2017, the question of the role of the chair in the Arctic Council - and its influence on Arctic politics- has until now received relatively little academic attention.1 To address it, this article first looks into theoretical insights on the influence wielded by formal leaders in international cooperation and multilateral bargaining. It then turns its attention to the debates over the institutional setup of circumpolar cooperation, which evolved during the negotiations leading to the establishment of the Arctic Council in 1996. It continues with application of theory to rules and practice of the Arctic Council, complemented by inclusion of effects of the external developments on the course of the AC. The paper concludes with an initial assessment of the role exerted by a state chairing the Arctic Council. Theoretical approaches to the chair The scant attention offered to the question of chairmanship is by no means limited to the context of the Arctic Council. As Jonas Tallberg points out, the power of the chair is a topic that “so far has received limited systematic attention by international relations (IR) theorists” (Tallberg 2010: 241), despite important implications that the concept of formal leadership holds for our comprehension of multilateral bargaining. Typically, negotiations have been “conceptualized as a process between actors that enjoy the same formal status, but differ in terms of power capabilities, preferences, information, ideas, and alternatives to negotiated agreements” (Tallberg 2010: 242). Indeed, the influence wielded by a formal leader may be severely constrained by both formal (i.e. decision-making rules) and informal (expected norms of behavior) limitations, however this does not mean that the chair should be considered as a function with no impact over the outcomes of the process. Studies of power and effectiveness of the chair (Blavoukos, Tsakonas & Bourantonis 2006; Tallberg 2004, 2010) are to large extent informed by the rational approach to the design of international institutions, which presumes, in broad terms, “that states use international institutions to further their own goals, and they design institutions accordingly” (Koremenos, Lipson & Snidal 2001: 762). In line with this approach, the design features of specific institutions are a “result of rational, purposive interactions among states and other international actors to solve specific problems” (Koremenos et al. 2001: 762). To this end the position of chair is a functional response to problems relating to collective action and bargaining in a multilateral context: potential failures of agenda, negotiation and representation. Through tasks typically conferred upon the chairmanship - namely agenda management, brokerage and representation - states seek to address difficulties of overcrowded or shifting agendas, the inability of parties to identify underlying areas of agreement, as well as handling relations with non-members an