Estonia to apply for Arctic Council observer status by end of 2020

Arctic Council flags.
Arctic Council flags. Source: Arctic Council.

Estonia will submit its application for observer status on the Arctic Council before the end of the year, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) told the government on Thursday (October 15), calling it a "key policy".

At a meeting on Thursday, the government discussed the preparatory actions for applying for observer status. The application will be submitted to the Secretariat of the Arctic Council and Iceland, which currently holds the chairmanship of the council.

Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the candidacy is among Estonia's key policies and objectives. "Estonia is the northernmost non-Arctic country. We are directly affected by developments in the Arctic," he said, explaining Estonia's Arctic Council aspirations.

"With its knowledge, long polar research experience and inventive approach, Estonia has a lot to offer to the sustainable development of the Arctic. Expertise gained by Estonian universities in polar research is already used in research programmes by numerous research institutions and universities in Northern Europe, Russia and other countries," Reinsalu said.

The minister said in addition to Estonia's proposed contribution to the Arctic Council, observer status would enable Estonian scientists to have a more substantial say on issues related to the developments in the Arctic. Greater visibility on Arctic topics would also provide Estonian companies with new opportunities – in areas such as e-health or clean technology – to offer new and efficient solutions to the Arctic.

Estonia hopes its application will be discussed at the ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in May 2021.

In November last year, the Government of Estonia approved the proposal to submit an application for observer status on the Arctic Council. An interagency working group, headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been preparing the application since January.

If Estonia's application is successful it will join France, Germany, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, China, Poland, India, Korea, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland United Kingdom as an observer country.

The Arctic Council is the leader intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, Arctic indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular on issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic. The council's mandate does not include military security. It was formally established in 1996.

The member countries are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. The council's observers include non-Arctic countries, NGOs and intergovernmental and interparliamentary organizations.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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