EU looks to strengthen ties with Arctic, protect environment

The European Union has announced plans to open a representation in the Arctic and vowed to protect environment in a region the bloc considers of key strategic importance

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union announced plans Wednesday to open a representation in the Arctic and vowed to protect environment in a region the bloc says is of key strategic importance.

The 27-nation bloc said it will open a European Commission office in Greenland and use EU funding to promote sustainable development in the Arctic.

“The Arctic is warming up to three times faster than the rest of the planet. The melting of ice and thawing of permafrost in the Arctic further accelerate climate change and have huge knock-on effects," said Virginijus Sinkevicius, the commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries.

Acknowledging its environmental footprint in the region, the EU pledged to support marine protection and to promote research into the thawing permafrost.

Amid fierce competition between superpowers, the EU said it will also seek commitments from partners to agree to an end of exploitation of oil, gas and coal.

Russia has sought to assert its influence over wide areas of the Arctic in competition with the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway as shrinking polar ice from the warming planet offers new opportunities for resources and shipping routes. China also has shown an increasing interest in the region, which is believed to hold up to one-fourth of the Earth’s undiscovered oil and gas.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has cited estimates that put the value of Arctic mineral riches at $30 trillion.

“The Arctic is changing rapidly, owing to the impact of global warming, increased competition for natural resources and geopolitical rivalries," said Josep Borrell, the bloc's top diplomat. “These developments show that Europe must define its geopolitical interests broadly to promote stability, safety and peaceful cooperation in the Arctic.”

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