The EU Arctic policy and its critique: a view under Tocci's theory on foreign policy and normative power (Part 2)

Author:M. Elvira Méndez-Pinedo, Alesia Fralova
Position:Professor of European law, Faculty of Law, University of Iceland/LL.M. Natural Resources and International Environmental Law, Faculty of Law, University of Iceland
The EU Arctic policy and its critique: a view under Tocci´s theory
on foreign policy and normative power (Part 2)1
Professor M. Elvira MÉNDEZ-PINEDO2
Legum magister Alesia FRALOVA3
What is the role of the European Union (EU) in the Arctic region? On what basis
does it claim influence and/or authority (if any) ove r part of this vast area of the world?
What can we learn about EU Arctic policy, tools and instruments adopted so far? Is the EU
a normative foreign policy actor as described by Tocci´s theory? What factors do influence
the adoption and validity of EU policies in this region? This study tries to reply to all these
questions casting a light over an area of great geostrategic importance and at the
crossroads of historic developments. In a first part we stu dy the current EU Arctic policy
and assess its strength an d weaknesses according to literature. In a second part we
summarize Tocci´s theory on kinds of normative policy actors and examine what kind of
power is the EU exercising in the region.
Keywords: Arctic, EU policy, Normative Foreign Policies, Tocci´s theory.
JEL Classification: K32, K33
Part 2: is the EU a normative foreign policy actor in the Arctic?
(as in Tocci´s theory)
1. Introduction
The Arctic region is in a state of flux as part of the complex system of
political-legal, social-economic processes. It is not anymore a simple object of
international relations, but it has become almost a subject in itself, a sort of
invisible actor in the international arena. International actors are taking positions
towards the region in order to secure their presence or, at least, defend their
national interests in the region. Contrary to the Antarctic continent, the Arctic is
inhabited by almost four million people living in small communities.
1 Part I was published in the Juridical Tribune Tribuna Juridica, Volume 9, Issue 2, June 2019,
p. 344-362.
2 M. Elvira Méndez-Pinedo - Professor of European law, Faculty of Law, University of Iceland,
3 Alesia Fralova - LL.M. Natural Resources and International Environmental Law, Faculty of Law,
University of Iceland,
30 Volume 9, Special Issue, October 2019 Juridical Tribune
The end of Cold War, and particularly a new policy led by Mikhail
Gorbachev in Russia in the late 80´s4, laid the foundation for the
institutionalization of the relations of several Arctic actors with strong interest in
the region based on a new fundamental different nature. While geopolitics still
rules in the so called “Arctic game” and the issues of national security, military and
defence aspects are increasingly dominating (especially today, in the time of “the
resurgence of Cold War ghost”5); there are, however, joint efforts on
environmental protection and sustainable development that bring not only material
benefits, but also geopolitical stability to the region.
EU Arctic policy is already ten years old and has been revised three times.
The goal of this study is to explore the EU Arctic policy and strategy in the light of
recent literature (Part 1) and to examine whether its regional quasi-normative
power falls under Tocci´s doctrine (Part 2). Nathalie Tocci is a specialist in foreign
policy relations and normative actions and a special advisor to Federica Mogherini,
the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy 6. The first
part of the study reviews the period 2008-2018: What does the EU say in its public
Arctic policy? What is it doing in practice? What are the strengths and weaknesses
of the current EU action so far? In the second part of the study we adopt, instead, a
point of view of international relations and political science: how does the EU try
to secure its interest in the rea vis-à-vis other Arctic actors? Is the EU a truly
‘normative’ foreign policy actor or “it is just talk” (in Tocci´s words)?
The outline of the work is at it follows. In the introduction we define the
Arctic area for the purposes of the study as well as the international legal
framework in place today. In Part 1 we make a brief description of the EU Arctic
policy and some of its most important elements during the decade 2008-2018;
while trying to assess its nature and justifying reasons on the basis of critical
scholarship. In Part 2 we look at the changing EU Artic policy from the perspective
of Tocci´s research model on foreign policy actors and normative rules.
Why Tocci´s theory? Because her theory is novel and fully relevant for the
Arctic. According to Tocci, there are some fundamental questions regarding
foreign policy that we have to ask in the field of law and political relations: “what
does it mean to be a ‘normative’ foreign policy actor? Who - if anyone - proves to
be a normative foreign policy actor in practice?“ Tocci applies a serious novel
analytical framework to explore these essential questions setting pretty high
4 Mikhail Gorbachev speech at Ceremonial meeting on the occasion of the presentation of the order of
Lenin and gold star to the city of Murmansk, Murmansk, 1 Oct. 1987.
5 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned against “the resurgence of Cold War ghosts” in a
speech at the University of Iceland on 11 October 2016 (Arctic Circle Assembly ) to commemorate
the 30th anniversary of the so-called Reykjavík Summit in 1986.
6 See most important publications: Tocci, N. (2008). The European Union as a Normative Foreign
Policy Actor . CEPS (Brussels); Tocci, N. et al. (2008). Who Is a Normative Foreign Policy Actor?
The European Union and Its Global Partners. CEPS (Brussels); Tocci, N., and Hamilton, D. S.
(2009). Who is a normative fo reign policy actor? The European Union and its global partners.
Centre for European Policy Studies; and Tocci, N. (2017), Framing the EU Global Strategy: A
Stronger Europe in a Fragile World, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

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