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Germany is taking on more responsibility for the Arctic

17.02.2023 - Article

The Arctic plays a key role in international politics. Change in the region is accelerating and its importance to the international community is steadily growing as a result of global warming, the rapid melting of the ice sheets and the thawing of the permafrost.

On 21 August 2019, the Federal Cabinet therefore adopted new guidelines for Germany’s Arctic policy. The policy guidelines are the first at interministerial level, and were drawn up under the auspices of the Federal Foreign Office. They bring together the Arctic policies of the different ministries and set out the German Government’s strategic goals in the Arctic.

Key region for climate change

A glacier at Sirmilik National Park, Canada
A glacier at Sirmilik National Park, Canada© Thomas Imo/photothek.net

Due to its conditions and location, the Arctic is an early warning system for global warming and the consequences of climate change. Developments there also have a grave impact on Germany and Europe, for instance in the form of rising sea levels and the increase in extreme weather phenomena. We therefore have to urgently direct our attention to the region.

In addition to the dramatic climatic changes, there are also major economic and geostrategic challenges in the Arctic: the melting of the Arctic sea ice is making possible the navigation of Arctic shipping routes, the extraction of raw materials and more fishing. Many states have an interest in this. There is therefore increasing competition in the Arctic. The German Government would like to preserve the Arctic as a largely conflict-free region and strengthen multilateral cooperation.

The six priorities of Germany’s Arctic policy guidelines are climate and environmental protection, international cooperation, security policy, science and research, sustainable development and the involvement of the indigenous population in the Arctic. The guidelines determine the direction of German Arctic policy in international negotiating platforms, especially as an observer state in the Arctic Council. Furthermore, they offer clear orientation for future research activities with German involvement and for economic activities by German companies in the Arctic.

The aims of German Arctic policy at a glance:

  • Germany wants to work towards worldwide climate and environmental protection in line with the Paris Agreement.
  • The German Government is calling for the deployment of environmentally-friendly technology as well as the application of the highest environmental standards and the designation of protected areas to preserve biodiversity in the Arctic.
  • The interests of the indigenous population as well as the safeguarding of their rights to freedom, good health and self-determination in their habitat should be strengthened.
  • Germany is committed to free and responsible research in order to learn more about the Arctic.
  • For the future of the Arctic, close and rules-based cooperation with other countries within a strengthened international legal framework is necessary. Germany is therefore working in the Arctic Council as an observer as well as within the EU and NATO to protect the Arctic as a largely conflict-free region.

Download the guidelines

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