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EU Relations with British Antartic Territory

The British Antarctic Territory (BAT) is one of twelve overseas territories of the United Kingdom and is the oldest territorial claim on the continent. The territory comprises that sector of the Antarctic south of latitude 60 degrees South, between longitudes 20 degrees West and 80 degrees West. It includes Graham Land, the South Shetland Islands and the South Orkney Islands.


Only 0.7 per cent of the BAT’s surface is ice-free. The remainder is covered by a permanent ice sheet of up to five kilometres thick. BAT has no permanent inhabitants however there are approximately 200 researchers and support staff. The United Kingdom’s presence in the Territory is provided by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) which maintains two permanently manned scientific stations (at Halley and Rothera) and two summer-only stations (at Fossil Bluff on Alexander Island and Signy in the South Orkney Islands). In addition, several other nations ( Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Ecuador, Germany, Republic of Korea, Peru, Poland, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, United States and Uruguay) maintain stations and bases in the BAT, many on the South Shetland Islands.

BAT is rich in marine life, including large colonies of penguins and seals. The Territory also contains a large range of landscapes from mountains to ice shelves and ice caps.

The BAT is self-financing through revenue from income tax and the sale of postage stamps.

Political Situation

The UK made the first territorial claim to part of Antarctica in 1908 by Letters Patent. By the 1950s, five-sixth of the Antarctic continent was claimed by seven States ( Britain, Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand and Norway ). Most of BAT itself is counter-claimed by either Chile or Argentina. None of the territorial claims was recognised by non-claimant states; thus, to establish a mechanism that would defuse escalating disputes over sovereignty, claimant and non-claimant states negotiated the Antarctic Treaty. The Treaty was adopted in 1959 and entered into force in 1961. The objectives are to keep Antarctica demilitarised, establish it as a nuclear-free zone, ensure that it is used for peaceful purposes only, promote international scientific cooperation in Antarctica and to set aside disputes over territorial sovereignty. Five separate international agreements have been negotiated which, together with the original Treaty and the associated measures, decisions and resolutions, provide the framework governing all activities in Antarctica. They are known as the Antarctic Treaty System. By October 2002, 45 States had become members of the Antarctic Treaty System.

Letters patent are a type of legal document which is an open letter issued by a monarch or government granting a right, monopoly, title or status to someone or some entity.

These are namely the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora (1964), Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (1972), Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (1980), Convention on the Regulation of Antarctic Mineral Resource Activities (1988), superseded by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (1991).

Originally BAT was administered as a Dependency of the Falkland Island. It was not until 3 March 1962 that BAT became an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. The Territory is administered by the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Commissioner for the BAT is the Head of the FCO’s Overseas Territories Department, Tony Crombie. The BAT has a collection of laws in addition to a legal and postal administration.

External and regional environment

The British Antarctic Territory (BAT) is not a member of any regional or sub-regional organizations.

Relations with the EU

The British Antarctic Territory (BAT) does not receive any Community Aid as it is a self-financing territory.

Relations with international community

The British Antarctic Territory (BAT) does not have independent international relations at the political level.

Last update: 17/02/2012 | Top