German-Norwegian Cooperation in the Arctic

21.03.2013 - Article

How should the Arctic be used commercially and how can we protect the environment at the same time?  A German-Norwegian workshop at the Federal Foreign Office is to cast the spotlight on opportunities and challenges in the region.

Workshop participants at the Federal Foreign Office
Workshop participants at the Federal Foreign Office© Photothek/Imo

Climate change is causing the Arctic ice to retreat more and more. This opens up new business opportunities in the region: the extraction of raw materials, shipping, energy production and research. However, peace, security and the environment must also be preserved in the Arctic region. Germany is working at an international level to ensure that economic interests and the need for environmental protection are reconciled. This is also the focus of a German-Norwegian workshop taking place on 21 March at the Federal Foreign Office.

“The opportunities and risks brought about by climate change have effects felt far beyond the Arctic,” said Federal Foreign Office State Secretary Professor Harald Braun at the opening ceremony of the event. He said that we were facing a truly “global challenge”. At the same time, Arctic countries and many other states wanted to profit from the new economic opportunities in the region, he added.

The Artic holds large quantities of valuable raw materials. Experts expect to find the largest oil and gas reserves on the planet there. There are also minerals of immense industrial importance that German companies are interested in exploiting. State Secretary Braun said that we must find a “responsible balance” between commercial opportunities and the environment.

Germany is a special partner to Norway

Arctic expedition of the research ship “Polarstern”
Arctic expedition of the research ship “Polarstern”© AWI/Mar Fernandez

Torgeir Larsen, State Secretary Braun’s Norwegian counterpart, pointed out that most of Norway’s Arctic region was ice-free because of the Gulf Stream and has always been exploited commercially. The far north was very important to his country, he said, adding that Germany was seen as a “special partner” in this context. For more than one hundred years, Germany has been active in Norway, in building up Norwegian industry and conducting research in the polar region, for example. An important role in this is played by the Alfred-Wegener-Institut für Polar und Meeresforschung (AWI). With the help of German technology, wind energy is also being generated in Norway’s Arctic region now.

International cooperation

The Norwegian island of Hopen surrounded by ice
The Norwegian island of Hopen surrounded by ice© picture-alliance/Bäsemann

Larsen pointed out that Asia’s interest in the Arctic region is growing. Raw materials from Russia and shipping lanes now free of ice were the main factors for this, he said. Europe, he added, should also remain involved. He said that the Arctic Council, founded in 1996, provided an important framework for political cooperation. Norway and seven other countries from the region are members of the Council. Germany, which has observer status, promotes the idea that the European Union should also be granted observer status.

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