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EU’s presence in the Arctic

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Written by Christian Blanco

Edited by Alex Marchan

Supervised by Syuzanna Kirakosyan

The EU presence in the Arctic region is acquiring decisive importance in terms of security and defence, especially since the escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian war. However, not only geopolitical rivalries are an important change, but also the opportunism of the effect of global warming and the increase in commercial interest in natural resources. The joint communication of 2021, October 13, A stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic, proposed that the EU pursue a secure, stable, sustainable, peaceful, and prosperous Arctic region. There is a need to adopt a strengthened maritime security policy, especially in the areas of economic development, free trade, transport, and energy security. The Strategic Compass of 2021, March 21, foresaw that the EU in the Arctic will fight in the coming decades against climate change, natural disasters and environmental degradation, in addition to the intensification of geopolitical competition and tensions also in terms of resources and transportation routes (Council of the EU, 2021). In this regard, the EU Council published in its Conclusions of 2021, March 8, that close cooperation was required with partner countries, the international organisations involved (i.e. the UN) and multilateral partnerships.

On  February 28, 2024, EU defence and security in the Arctic is becoming a priority. Especially on the north coast and in the North Pole (Russian Arctic), the current geopolitical situation is leading the EU to adopt measures in the field of strategic positioning, internal priorities, or the dual use of infrastructure (Padrtova, B., 2020). For example, the EU Satellite Centre (SatCen) ensures geospatial security by monitoring the region; Galileo offers search and rescue security services; and the Galileo Regulated Public Service seeks unlimited and uninterrupted access to navigate in the Arctic waters of the EU to its authorised users.

Moreover, there would be three variables to consider for strong EU security and defence in the Arctic. First, the dominions of the Kingdom of Denmark also encompass Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which is a strategic area that became a focal point in terms of Arctic diplomacy (Kočí, A.; Baar, V., 2021). Secondly, Finland joined the NATO on April 4, 2023, marked a before and after in terms of protecting water domains from Russian influence and affecting the Arctic in terms of free trade, trade routes, and global maritime transport. Third, Sweden joined the NATO on February 26, 2024, was intended to close this area of influence.

However, not only military actions by sea, land or air are a threat in terms of security and defence. Among others, climate change and melting ice become greater strategic competition, the Barents Sea accumulates spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, and current geopolitical tensions are leading actors to seek benefits for energy resources. Finally, Russia is not the only threat to the EU’s presence in the Arctic region. The activities of other actors (i.e. China) are making the area more insecure, for instance, through growing interest in infrastructure ownership, maritime cable construction, global shipping, cyberspace, and disinformation.


Council of the European Union.,(2021, March 21).  A Strategic Compass for Security and Defense. 27-28.

European Commission., (2021, October 13,). , . A stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic. Joint Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions.

Council of the European Union.,, (2023, March 9). Conclusions on climate and energy diplomacy.,

Ciolan, I. (2022, April 11). “The EU’s Geopolitical Awakening in the Arctic”. European Policy Center Blog, Security and Defence Section.

Østhagen, A. (2022, March 28). “The EU must re-think its Arctic Relationship with Russia”. Euractiv Blog, Arctic Agenda Section.

Kirby, P.; Beale, J. (2023, April 4). “NATO’s border with Russia doubles as Finland joins.” BBC News.

Padrtova, B. (2020). Applying conventional theoretical approaches to the Arctic. London/New York: Routledge, Handbook of Arctic Security Routledge. 339-341.

Kočí, A.; Baar, V. (2021, July 22). “Greenland and the Faroe Islands: Denmark’s Autonomous Territories From Postcolonial Perspectives”. Norwegian Journal of Geography, 75(4): 189-202.