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Arctic Politics and the EU-Norway Fishing Dispute

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Fishing is the economic lifeline of many small villages along the Norwegian coast like Gjesvær in Finnmark. Photo: Gordon Leggett

With only two years until the Norwegian chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a decades-old point of contention between Norway and the European Union––a fishing dispute––could be coming to the forefront of Arctic politics and set precedent for the future relationship between voting members and observers in the high-level intergovernmental forum.

The issue centers on access to fishing grounds around the Svalbard archipelago and the interpretation of the century old Svalbard Treaty which has come under increasing scrutiny as the region evolves due to climate change. In recent years the migration of living resources to the waters around the islands has been the source of legal disputes between the EU acting on behalf of member states and Norway which holds sovereignty over Svalbard. Norway, a permanent…

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