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NEWS: Around the Arctic March 13, 2014 - 2:49 pm

European Parliament calls for sanctuary around North Pole area

Greenpeace wants Canada, other Arctic nations to follow suit

The European Parliament passed a resolution March 12 calling for protection around the high Arctic. (FILE PHOTO)
The European Parliament passed a resolution March 12 calling for protection around the high Arctic. (FILE PHOTO)

The European Parliament passed a resolution March 12 calling for more protection in the high Arctic, including the establishment of a sanctuary around the North Pole.

The resolution of the European Union Arctic strategy could go as far as banning oil companies and fishing fleets from the region “without the prior establishment of appropriate regulatory mechanisms,” reads the resolution.

It goes on to give its support to “the development of a network of Arctic conservation areas and, in particular, the protection of the international sea area around the North Pole outside the economic zones of the coastal states.”

Responding to an increased use of the Arctic’s natural resources, the resolution stresses that any exploration must respect the local population – both indigenous and not – and take full environmental responsibility.

Northern Europe’s indigenous people, the Saami, live in the EU states of Finland and Sweden.

Greenpeace welcomed the move March 12, noting that it responds to many of the demands of the organization’s Save the Arctic campaign.

The resolution also represents a clear break from the current positions of Arctic Council members like Norway, Denmark, Canada and Russia, Greenpeace said, which have rejected calls for permanent protection of the Arctic.

“As the European Union sets an impressive precedent for Arctic protection, Canada continues to push forward its pro-business and pro-oil agenda as chair of the Arctic Council,” said Greenpeace Canada spokesperson Farrah Khan in a March 12 news release.

“To successfully prevent devastating oil spills and the depletion of fish stocks that could destroy the livelihoods of millions, measures such as those proposed by the European Parliament need to be reflected in Canadian law as well as the laws of all Arctic states.”

The European Parliament also stressed the need for a binding agreement on pollution prevention at the Arctic Council, an international forum that Greenpeace has accused of being too close to the oil industry.

Greenpeace’s Arctic protection advocates now hope the resolution can push the Arctic more firmly onto the agenda of EU foreign ministers and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who the environmental organization says has been reluctant to speak against the industrialization of the region by oil companies like Shell, BP and Russia’s state-owned Gazprom.

Greenpeace and Gazprom clashed when 30 Greenpeace activists showed up at Gazprom’s offshore oil project in the Pechora Sea last year, only to be taken into custody by the Russian Coast Guard.

The Arctic 30, as they came to be known, remained detained for two months facing charges of hooliganism and piracy, until the Russian parliament adopted an amnesty bill that would end legal proceedings against the group.

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