Many countries are trying to expand their influence within Arctic Council to have a say over arctic resources
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Highlighting the Arctic’s growing global importance, a number of countries with no geo- graphical links to the Arctic region but with important commercial and economic interests, such as China, South Korea, and the European Union, want to have a voice in future Arctic delibera- tions. France, Germany, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have been granted “permanent observer” status on the Arctic Council, and China is considered an “ad hoc observer.” Only Arctic Council member states have voting rights, and therefore “ad hoc observer” status does not differ from “permanent observer” with regard to the influence on the decision- making process in ministerial meetings. However, “ad hoc observer” status requires that nation to apply to be admitted to each Arctic Council meeting. The European Union’s application to become a “permanent observer” was blocked in 2009 by Arctic Council member Canada in response to the European Union’s ban on the importation of seal products. This example illustrates the chal- lenges of relying on the current structure of the Arctic Council for balanced and objective rulings, which often fall victim to paralyzing squabbles and the partial leveraging of national interests. On the other hand, the Arctic Five excludes nations and indigenous peoples with legitimate interests in the region, compromising its international credibility as a comprehensive governing arrange- ment. As rifts among international governance institutions continue to emerge, to the detriment of regional policy cohesiveness, the U.S. government must clarify how it wishes to primarily proceed with its multilateral Arctic engagement, either principally through the Arctic 5 ad hoc process or through the more institutionalized Arctic Council’s effort.
Russia, Denmark, Norway, and Canada are staking their claims to Arctic resources but the United States, which has conducted research on how far the continental shelf extends from Alaska toward the North Pole, cannot submit any of its evidence because it is not a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).