Carl Bildt, Espen Barth Eide, Leona Aglukkaq and Magnus Johannesson at the signing at Framsenteret. Photo: Morten Brugård
Signing the Arctic Council Host Country agreement in Tromsø yesterday, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide explicitly expressed that he will work towards admitting China observer status in the Arctic Council. Carl Bildt, Chair of the Arctic Council and Swedish Foreign Minister supported the statement.
It has been argued that the Norwegian governments would use China’s application for observer status in the Arctic Council for leverage in the on-going conflict after Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2010. These allegation was brushed aside as Minister Eide put it in layman’s terms; “We want people to join our club. That means they will not start another club”. Barth Eide is backed up by Minster Bildt; “The Arctic Council should be the arena for Arctic issues”.
Ambassador to Norway for the Peoples’s Republic of China, Zhao Jun and Ambassador to Norway from the Republic of Korea ,Byong Hyun Lee both advocated including stakeholders from outside the Arctic to be admitted observer status in the Arctic Council when giving speeches at the Arctic Frontiers in Tromsø earlier that very same day. They both stressed the importance of the Arctic in regards to both energy and new shipping lanes, and how these changes affect who the stakeholders are.
The Arctic Council consists of the eight Arctic countries and six non-Arctic countries have so far been admitted as observers. Twelve countries and organizations are currently applying for observer status. These include China, Italia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, India and the EU.