The Faroe Islands and the Arctic
The Arctic has taken a prominent place on the international agenda in recent years. From being a region largely limited to scientific interest internationally, the Arctic has today become a focal point in global politics.
The climate is warmer, the ice is melting at an increasing pace, and new land and sea areas are becoming accessible. It is becoming possible to sail north of Russia and Canada for longer periods of the year and at the same time, previously inaccessible sub-surface reserves of oil, gas and minerals can now be exploited. These changes have huge significance for the Faroe Islands.
Climate change can have consequences for the very basis of the Faroese society. Changes in sea temperature can affect the marine ecosystems and ocean currents, and subsequently also marine resources. Recent dramatic changes observed in fish stocks are no doubt related to climate change. Continued scientific research is therefore necessary in order to better understand these changes and to strengthen our ability to make the necessary adaptations. This must be done in active cooperation among the countries in the region.
The Faroe Islands have a key position in the region, both in relation to the Northern sea route, and especially, situated as they are, the western arm of the Northeast Sea Route; which is expected to have the greatest significance in the years to come.
Shipping has already increased in the seas around the Faroe Islands, and this traffic is likely to expand even more in coming years. Increased maritime activity in such a large area, with many associated risks, requires high standards for safety and emergency response, both with respect to safeguarding human life and protecting the environment. This increasing activity also brings with it significant economic opportunities and the number of foreign ships using Faroese ports in the future will no doubt continue to grow. With long-term experience and initiative working in the Northern seas as a part of the Faroese maritime identity and culture, Faroe Islanders have the possibility to make the most of these valuable assets.
The Faroe Islands have vast experiences in fisheries in the seas of the High North and in order to ensure appropriate rights to participation in any new fisheries in the area, it is very important to closely follow negotiations regarding the future management of fisheries in the Arctic sea.
The economic and cultural basis of Faroese society is similar to that of other Arctic peoples. Faroese experts who participate in various areas of Arctic cooperation consider the commonalities shared with other Arctic countries as a great advantage in Arctic cooperation, compared with other international fora for research cooperation.
The Faroe Islands have long played an active role in regional cooperation in a range of different areas, both as a part of the Nordic family of nations, through cooperation in the West Nordic region and across the North Atlantic. Strong and visible Faroese participation in Arctic cooperation, in particular within the framework of the Arctic Council, is a natural part of the continued development of the Faroe Islands as a reliable and constructive partner in international cooperation.
The Faroe Islands have the knowledge and experience necessary for the further development of fisheries, shipping and research, as well as the conservation and management of natural resources. In close cooperation with other countries and keeping a keen eye out for new opportunities, the goal is to create new opportunities for the Faroe Islands, both for individual citizens, as well as for the business sector and the research community.
The Arctic Council
The Arctic Council is the only forum on high-level intergovernmental cooperation in Arctic matters. The member states are the United States, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Denmark/Greenland/Faroe Islands.
The Arctic Council was established in 1996 and has its origins in the Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), which was established in 1991. AEPS is considered the first real step towards protecting the environment and promoting safety in the Arctic area in the aftermath of the Cold War.
The Faroe Islands have been active participants in the Arctic Council together with Greenland and Denmark since the late 1990’s and also took part in the AEPS prior to the establishment of the Arctic Council.
The Faroe Islands are part of a delegation to the Arctic Council called Denmark/Greenland/Faroe Islands, which flies the flags of all three nations.
The Faroe Islands – a nation in the Arctic
As an island nation in the West Nordic region of the Arctic, the Faroe Islands have very many political, economic and social challenges and opportunities in common with their neighbouring countries and communities across the High North.
Recognising this, the Government of the Faroe Islands commissioned a strategic assessment in 2012, which was to provide a deeper and broader understanding of the challenges and potential of the Faroe Islands in the years to come and their place in the future development of regional cooperation. The task was to examine in more detail how the Faroe Islands can best adapt to changing circumstances while creating and benefitting from new opportunities.
The assessment The Faroe Islands – a nation in the Arctic was presented in April 2013. Key recommendations in the assessment include the following:
The assessment is available here.
A summary is available here.
The EU is currently updating its Arctic Policy.
The Faroe Islands welcome the EU’s initiative to update its Arctic Policy from 2016. This process provides an excellent opportunity to increase awareness about the Arctic region in the EU, to draw attention to the EU’s engagement in the Arctic and to assess the effectiveness of the EU’s Arctic policies so far.
The Faroese contribution to the EU consultation on the update of the Arctic policy can be read here.