The now former-Arctic Council chair Carl Bildt explained during the ministerial meeting that although the EU’s application had been received “affirmatively” the Council will defer the final decision until some of the “concerns of Council members” have been addressed.
While answering questions after the meeting, Leona Aglukkaq, the new Canadian chair, confirmed that it was Canada that had had misgivings about bestowing the EU with observer status.
“One of the criteria that observers must meet is respect for the traditional ways of life of the indigenous people in the North,” she told reporters.
Seal hunting has been a way of life for the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic for millennia. In more recent years, the commercial sale of sealskins and other seal products have become a valuable source of income for some Inuit.
But the hunt has also come under fire from animal rights activists and, in 2009, the EU banned the sale of most seal products.
The issue came to a head in Canada recently when some politicians in Nunuvut, one of Canada’s northern territories, began speaking out against the EU’s application. The controversy gained steam with a petition called “No Seal No Deal” that began circulating last month. The online version of this petition now has over 500 signatures.
But both sides say they are committed to resolving the dispute.
Officials from the EU released a statement today, which read, in part:
“The EU welcomes the Arctic Council’s decision on the EU’s application for permanent observership…. Further to previous exchanges with the Canadian authorities the EU will now work expeditiously with them to address the outstanding issue of their concern.”
Aglukkaq agreed: “as the Arctic Council operates on consensus,” she told reporters, “I will be working with the EU to address some of those concerns.”
MURMANSK: Ecological groups gathered on Kola Peninsula fear that Barents nature will be the looser after Oslo decided to call off the environmental minister’s Moscow meeting in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
TROMSØ: Since the first five specimens of snow crab were found in the Barents Sea in 1996, the population has exploded. There is now ten times as much snow crab than king crab in the area, and scientists are just starting to find out how this new species has adopted to life in the Barents Sea.
The current situation in Ukraine makes cross-border cooperation with the neighboring countries even more important, Barents Secretariat leader Rune Rafaelsen says. At the same time, Norway has joined NATO’s condemnation of Russia’s military escalation on the Crimea peninsula.
Board member Amund Trellevik in the press network fears entry-denial of Kremlin’s controversial propaganda-journalist Dmitry Kiselyov could be retaliated by refusing Norwegian journalists access to Russia.