• Norway edition
 
Ashton in far north to reach EU policy on Arctic
Catherine Ashton with Norway's foreign minster, Jonas Gahr Støre, in Ny-Ålesund (Photo: Berit Roald/Scanpix)

Ashton in far north to reach EU policy on Arctic

Published: 09 Mar 2012 13:26 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Mar 2012 13:45 GMT+01:00

The polar region has seen ice shields retreat because of global climate change, which is ironically promising to open the remote area up to oil and gas exploration as well as shipping.

"The Union has begun to think about its policies towards the Arctic," Ashton said after arriving at the Svalbard islands late on Wednesday.

"We have some discussions already but I wanted to see for myself, and there is nothing better than going somewhere as extraordinary as Svalbard."

Travelling around the islands, which cover an area twice the size of Belgium, about 1,000 kilometres from the pole, Ashton visited a glacier and spoke with international researchers in a remote village.

The EU top diplomat said she was eager for the 27-member bloc to receive permanent observer status on the Arctic Council, an eight-country forum.

"We want to become an observer... not just because some of our member states are so connected to it, but because all of the European Union has something to offer, when you think about some of the environmental issues," she said during an earlier stop in Kiruna in the far north of Sweden.

To allow the EU as an observer, all the eight members of the council must agree, but according to Norwegian media, two members, Canada and Russia, are reluctant to go along with the move.

The other members are Denmark (with Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

In addition to climate change, especially visible in the region where the icecap has been melting, Ashton also discussed energy issues.

The Arctic is rich in mineral resources, and its seabed is thought to hold 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of gas resources yet to be found, according to the US Geological Survey.

"Trade routes as well are a very interesting issue for the countries of this region but also for world trade, because the potential of being able to use the routes of the Arctic is enormous," Ashton said.

The region has taken on an increasing strategic importance with the opening up of a new shipping route as the Arctic icecap melts.

Compared with traditional routes through the Suez Canal or the Cape of Good Hope, the Northeast Passage, north of Russia, would considerably shorten the voyage between Europe and Asia.

The coveted riches have stoked tensions between bordering countries, while environmentalists worry increased shipping and oil and gas exploration could lead to spills that would be catastrophic for the delicate ecosystem.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Øyer murder suspect back in Norway for trial
First images from inside court: Kim Andreas Kristiansen (right) with defence lawyer Geir Lippestad. Photo: Marte Christensen / NTB scanpix

Øyer murder suspect back in Norway for trial

Kim Andreas Kristiansen, the man charged with killing his step-father in Øyer, has appeared in court in Norway on Monday after being extradited from Holland. READ  

Samurai sword attack at Norway wedding
Two Norwegian wedding guests were stabbed by attackers in Skedsmo. Photo: Shutterstock

Samurai sword attack at Norway wedding

Wedding guests in the town of Skedsmo, central Norway, watched in horror as two men were attacked with a Samurai sword on Sunday. READ  

Norway's teachers' strike over as unions agree
Pupils return to Norway schools from Tuesday after teachers' conflicts resolved. Photo: Shutterstock

Norway's teachers' strike over as unions agree

Agreement has been reached about teachers' working hours, ending the strikes that have disrupted Norway for over two weeks, it was announced on Monday. READ  

Base jumper dies in Oslo ski ramp plunge
Holmenkollen ski jump in Oslo. Photo: Jon Olav Nesvold / NTB scanpix

Base jumper dies in Oslo ski ramp plunge

An unidentified person was found dead after a failed base jump at the Holmenkollen ski jump ramp in Oslo on Sunday. READ  

Plane forced to emergency land in Oslo
The Novair Airbus plane with a punctured tire performs an emergency landing in Oslo Gardermoen. Photo: Vegard Wivestad Grøtt / NTB scanpix

Plane forced to emergency land in Oslo

A plane carrying 191 passengers had to circle over Oslo for hours before emergency landing at Gardermoen airport after a suspected flat tyre after taking off on Sunday. READ  

Ebola threat to Norway: Sweden fears first case

Ebola threat to Norway: Sweden fears first case

Sweden has confirmed a suspected case of Ebola on Sunday, making it possibly the first Nordic case of the virus. READ  

Norwegian man in 7,000 litre 'Ice Truck Challenge'
A Norwegian from Nord-Trøndelag used his cement truck to pour ice water over his head for a unique Ice Bucket Challenge. Photo: Shutterstock

Norwegian man in 7,000 litre 'Ice Truck Challenge'

A 29-year old man from Stjørdal, central Norway, raised the bar for ice bucket challengers everywhere when he had 7,000 litres of freezing water poured over him from his cement mixer truck on Saturday. READ  

 Boom in electric car sales under fire
Electric cars charging. Photo: NTB/Scanpix

Boom in electric car sales under fire

Politicians in Norway are under increasing public pressure to reduce perks and tax breaks for electric car oweners after sales of the vehicles have grown sharply. READ  

Thirsty cyclists mistake soap for soft-drink
Cyclists in Norway were hospitalized after drinking washing detergent 'Omo', believing it was a sports drink.. Photo: Bård Idås / NTB scanpix

Thirsty cyclists mistake soap for soft-drink

Six cyclists in Norway were sent to hospital on Friday after drinking a soap detergent they thought was a sports drink. READ  

Norway asks EU to sanction Hungary
Minister for European Affairs Vidar Helgesen. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix

Norway asks EU to sanction Hungary

Tensions between Norway and Hungary escalated after the Nordic country on Thursday asked the EU to consider sanctions against the eastern European country. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Norwegian man in 7,000 litre 'Ice Truck Challenge'
Society
Norwegian brewery pulls 'fart-smelling' beer
Sport
Ødegaard: Norway's youngest player ever
Features
Meet Norway's raining kings of fashion
National
Miracle cat survives 20 gunshots in Norway
National
Second death within hours at Chess Olympics
National
Norway and Sweden mark 200 years of peace
Culture
Interview: Helene Meldahl, selfie artist
Society
Now serving ... Norway's smallest bar
Travel
Floating Northern Lights hotel planned in Norway
National
Circus camel escapes again
National
Swiss bus driver charged with careless driving in fatal Norway crash
Society
Brit's charity tractor trek heads for Norway
National
Norway lifts Segway ban
Culture
GALLERY: Ten great songs about Norway
Society
Høie promises to reform sex change law
Education
Norway fjord invaded by monster jellyfish
Culture
VIDEO: Norwegian anti-Facebook film goes viral
Culture
Norway pop duo hits number 4 on US charts
Sport
Norway fan wins big on Suarez bite bet
National
Solberg 'most chatty' leader on Twitter
Culture
British Airways takes 'Slow TV' to the skies
International
Top Norway lawyers back Snowden Nobel
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

332
jobs available