Among the priorities covered: connecting the Arctic and improving its accessibility through high-speed broadband. Also EU funding for cross-border cooperation figured high on the agenda, along with sustainable investment and Arctic science.
Europe’s strength lies in its diversity and inclusivity. But living in the northern periphery, it can be challenging to make your voice heard. That’s why the European Commission has invited Arctic representatives to come to Brussels and discuss their needs and policy recommendations in the first Arctic Stakeholder Conference.
Main topic of the conference was connecting the Arctic to the rest of the world, notably through broadband connection. Fast-speed internet access is essential to develop private and public services in the region, including distance education and e-health.
However, rolling out such a network in remote areas requires significant investments, and while EU funding is available for Member States, it is not used to the full extent. The conference has looked at ways to improve its uptake.
Arctic indigenous dialogue
Investing in the Arctic economy is needed to secure long-term welfare and wellbeing of the local population. However, when thinking about the needs of future generations, we should pay equal attention to the rich cultural heritage coming from the indigenous way of life.
Listening to the opinion of those who have been living there the longest is therefore a cornerstone of the EU's Arctic policy. At the meeting, the Arctic indigenous peoples could clarify how we can strike this delicate balance and develop their native area sustainably.
A new budget, to the benefit of the Arctic
A milestone in the development of an inclusive EU Arctic policy is the recent report of the Arctic Stakeholder Forum on key investment needs and funding in the polar region. Besides broadband development, the report identifies other important drivers for sustainable development, including
The report has also fed into the Commission's proposals on the next long-term EU budget. Moreover, the Commission’s proposal that 25% of this budget – or no less than EUR 320 billion – should be spent on climate action, is an important contribution to protect the Arctic and its people.