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EurOil: EU takes aim at Russia’s Arctic oil and gas wealth

The EU has proposed a new Arctic strategy which, if implemented, would prevent member states from acquiring oil and gas from the Russian Arctic. While Moscow has downplayed the impact of this move, it could undermine efforts to exploit trillions of dollars of oil and gas in Russia’s far north, putting it on a political collision course with Brussels.

The European Commission is seeking to expand the EU’s role in addressing climate change and other environmental issues. Its proposal published on October 13 reflects this effort, although the bloc currently has limited influence in the Arctic. It is not a member of the Arctic Council, even though three of its member states – Denmark, Finland and Sweden – are. The Arctic Council is chaired by Russia, and Moscow may see the EC’s strategy as an encroachment on its sphere of influence.

“The EU is committed to ensuring that oil, coal and gas stay in the ground, including in the Arctic regions,” the EC said, while conceding that the EU already imports significant volumes of oil and gas from Arctic fields in Russia and Norway.

“To this end, the Commission shall work with partners towards a multilateral legal obligation not to allow any further hydrocarbon reserve development in the Arctic or contiguous regions, nor to purchase such hydrocarbons if they were to be produced.”

Going further, the EC’s hope is that it can convince all members of the Arctic Council to support a ban on Arctic development. Besides Russia and its EU members, the council also comprises Canada, Iceland, Norway and the US. Getting all of these nations to cease Arctic drilling would be a considerable undertaking. The EU ban on Arctic oil and gas purchases is a more likely prospect, although it will need the support of the European Council and the European Parliament to become a reality, and this is far from assured.

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