With global warming doing its thing the Arctic is no longer this quiet backwater that rarely made the news. It’s definitely piquing peoples interest as exemplified by the tug ‘o war for membership, in one form or another, in the Arctic Council.
For the time being the only countries with membership are the ones with territory within the Arctic circle; the Council also recognises other countries & non-state entities as observers. The observer status has to be conferred unanimously, see the Alaska Dispatch for more info. Now many countries, mostly Asian, are gunning for a seat at the Council such as Singapore, China, Greenpeace and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers. The reasons behind the Asian countries’ interests are the increase in ships navigating the Arctic waters last summer & the competition for resources.
The requests for observer status is dividing the eight members. Until then the Arctic Council has operated in a spirit of co-operation, but the Chinese application is dividing the members. Canada, which takes over the chair from Sweden, might be using its vote to get back at the EU for its seal ban, while Russia isn’t in favour of observers such as Greenpeace. Ultimately, the question is whether letting in more actors in the Council will be beneficial for all, including the Arctic.