Arctic News Roundup: 10-16 February

[Photo by Marc Lanteigne]
by Mingming Shi

1) Morgunblaðið, or, an Icelandic news agency, commented on the country’s employment situation involving foreign laborers. Generally, the employment rate of  foreign nationals is high in Iceland, and have contributed to the country’s high economic performance in recent years.

However, in recent months, the unemployment rate of foreign laborers has risen considerably. Hannes G. Sigurðsson, the deputy director of the SA Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise (Samtök atvinnulífsins in Icelandic), called for the Icelandic government to assist immigrant families in adapting to the country and seeking employment.

2) Scottie Andrew reported on the situation for polar bears for CNN this week. The article outlined the reasons behind declining populations, and the changing habitats of the species, including climate change and diminishing sea ice.

3) The International Inuit Business Association has been launched, according to Eye on the Arctic, a news service based in Canada, which specialises in High Northern regional affairs. The new institution consists of Inuit members focusing on business-related issues, mainly in Alaska, Greenland and Canada. One of the ambitions of the organisation is to promote improved economic cooperation among Inuit communities.

4) This week as reported by Sermitsiaq, Ortu Mørch Olsen, an Eskimologist, (or Inuitologist), shared his experiences and thoughts on attracting Greenlanders home from abroad. In his eyes, the job market in Greenland tends to be ‘protectionist’, and should be more open to educated young people.

5) A commentary was published this week by Kevin McGwin in Arctic Today on the most recent five-year strategy of Greenland on oil and gas development, covering 2020-24. Oil exploration has been conducted in Greenland for almost fifty years and there has been the question of whether this sector could make a stronger contribution to the country’s economy in the future.

6) According to High North News, Oslo has re-asserted its stance to Moscow over the current Svalbard dispute. Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister of Russia, called for a bilateral meeting to confer on the differences between Moscow and Oslo over the status of the islands. However, Audun Halvorsen, the State Secretary of Norway, has claimed that his country had no interest in that suggestion, and would open a new discussion on the sovereignty issues.

7) The Barents Observer reported that, this week in Kirkenes, a town north of the Arctic Circle in Norway, Urmas Paet, the sitting Member of the European Parliament from Estonia, highlighted the importance of the participation of the European Union in Arctic affairs, given evolving international politics as well climate change in the region. In addition, the representative also conveyed his dissatisfaction over the insufficient devotion over the Arctic within the EU, and urged it to pursue a more active role.

8) The chief editor of Over the Circle, Marc Lanteigne, provided a comment on the idea of a potential ‘Arctic Treaty’ for the region. The notion was proposed by Bobo Lo, an Sino-Russian affairs specialist based in Australia, in a plenary session in the Arctic Frontiers assembly in Tromsø last month.

The conclusion from Lo was based on various factors, including increasing economic activities, changed international relations, and environmental concerns which are shared by Arctic and non-Arctic governments. However, according to his comments, such an agreement should not undermine the importance of the ‘Arctic Eight’ group, but on the contrary. Lanteigne noted the differences between the current governance system in the Arctic and the Antarctic Treaty System developed since 1959.

9) An article about the planned US consulate in Greenland, by Robbie Gramer was published in Foreign Policy. The involvement of the US in Greenland can be traced back to over half a century ago.

During the Second World War and the Cold War, the US had tightened its relationship with Greenland primarily via military related affairs. In 2019, Donald Trump, the President of the US, proposed a purchase of the Arctic island. However, this was rejected by the Kingdom of Denmark. Nevertheless, the presence of the US is not going to subside, and Washington has been arranging another diplomatic tie with the island, namely through having its consulate in the capital of Nuuk.

10) A jointly produced TV show, Ísalög, (by Iceland and Sweden producers), which tells a fictional story of preventing an oil banning treaty in the Arctic from being signed, was broadcast in Iceland by RÚV this week. Warning: The linked episode is not suitable for young children.