Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 275

275 Arctic Yearbook 2015 chessboard. Interpretations of what a ‘common Arctic’ means diverge however greatly. The Arctic states, interpreting the Arctic as a regional common, insist on their priority for geographical reasons and related territorial sovereignty or sovereign rights. Non-Arctic states, for their part, construe the Arctic, at least in some respects, as an international common, relying on resource-related or on environment-related (quasi-)legal concepts. As the legal analysis shows, the resource-related concept of common heritage of mankind is misguided and misguiding, as it does not apply to the whole Arctic, but only to a marginal part of the central Arctic Ocean. The environment-related concept of common concerns, is of uncertain legal status, but might be a useful reminder that cooperation should be favoured to address the Arctic’s environmental problems. However, the ongoing power game in the Arctic must be seen against the backdrop of economic and geopolitical opportunities. Although environmental problems receive indeed much attention in the current debate on Arctic governance, there is reason for concern that references to environmental issues are mere tokenism. Only incisive decisions to address the Arctic’s environmental problems and determined action to slow down global warming could prove wrong those who see in the environmental arguments only a fig leaf in the struggle over influence and involvement in Arctic issues. This is not to say that a comprehensive cooperation scheme could not emerge from an environmentfocused collaboration. Given the frequent interrelation between environmental problems and economic and geopolitical issues, the latter would inevitably have to be addressed, at least incidentally. Whatever the scope of cooperation, however, Arctic States’ sovereignty and sovereign rights must be respected. This means that measures related to international areas or activities require a different approach than measures related to areas or activities subject to coastal states’ jurisdiction or sovereignty. Nevertheless, the Arctic states would benefit from acknowledging non-Arctic states’ rights and legitimate interests. Regarding the protection of the Arctic environment, the duty of cooperation on environmental matters and the concept of common concern provide good legal arguments for an inclusive approach. In the context of ongoing negotiations for a new balance of power in and over the Arctic region, the challenge for Arctic states is to not let their – of course vital – awareness of non-Arctic states’ more self-serving interests stand in the way of cooperation. Whether the Arctic Council provides the appropriate forum for broader and more inclusive cooperation and whether such cooperation would benefit from a treaty-based approach instead of the prevailing ad hoc approach are questions that are beyond the scope of this article, but no less relevant. What seems important to note here is that there is more than one way to conceive of a ‘common Arctic’. Although they may seem contradictory at first sight, these different approaches can be used in a complementary manner. Indeed, ‘common’ does not necessarily entail identical status, rights and influence for the interested states. A ‘common Arctic’ could be a fruitful project, if it means that interested states pursue the shared goal of cooperating on Arctic issues in a peaceful, efficient, environmentally sound and politically differentiated way. The Common Arctic