Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 435

435 Arctic Yearbook 2015 The Eastern Neighbourhood (e.g. the Ukraine-Russia-EU triangle) and the Southern Neighbourhood (e.g. the Mediterranean migration crisis) undoubtedly and in fact matter, whereas the Northern Neighbourhood does not. Moreover, the term “Northern Neighbourhood” actually does not even exist in official EU vocabulary. The Arctic region may be (economically) relevant in the decades to come, however currently it is simply not. Hence, a key question occurs: how to “integrate” this “not-yet-existing-policy-region” into the EU’s current policy structure? Instead of devising an “integrated” strategy that essentially lacks a common understanding (“one thought/perception, one voice”) of what the region is and means, EU policymakers could initially focus their crosscutting Arctic activities on creating procedures, instruments and mechanisms enhancing and supporting the EU’s very presence in the region – presence which already has a couple of positive facets. Elements of such an approach could include:    enhanced coordination within the Commission, between EU institutions and Member States; durable and meaningful consultation platforms for engaging Arctic stakeholders (including those from outside the EU or EEA); and considering long-term mechanisms for communicating the knowledge gained through the EU’s Arctic engagement to the general EU decision-making processes (for instance via impact assessments conducted before EU regulations are proposed). Some steps towards that direction have already been taken, but the challenges are still plenty. The established inter-service group that brings together policy officers from various DGs, EEAs and EU agencies was a first necessary step for an envisaged coordinated approach. However, so far the irregular meetings have served primarily information purposes. Additionally, the channels for informing major EU decision-making processes on Arctic-specific problems are scarce, if any. The ways for better informing both EU public and Arctic stakeholders about what the EU does in the Arctic are also being discussed. However, numerous critical comments (Personal communications, Rovaniemi, Oslo, Brussels, April-July 2015) on recent consultations dedicated to streamlining EU Arctic funding indicate that the implementation of stakeholder engagement remains a major challenge. And as regards EU-indigenous Arctic Dialogue meetings, we are yet to see any concrete effects of this format for the EU’s activities in the Arctic. The upcoming policy document will show whether progress has been made in any of these procedural areas, whether any concrete goals could be devised, organizing ideas found and in general whether the “Northern Neighbourhood” has any real and defined significance for the EU as a whole, a significance beyond declaratory and formal statements. The new communication might show whether the overarching EU Arctic-policy framework can be coherent, whether it can – against the odds – manifest features of an integrated policy and whether it supports many, still disconnected, EU activities in the region. Stępień & Raspotnik