Chapter 18: From Ilulissat to Kiruna: managing the Arctic Council and the contemporary geopolitics of the Arctic
In May 2013, a ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council was held in the northern Swedish city of Kiruna, famed as an iron-ore producing centre. The meeting itself was caught up in a spell of bad weather, including icy fog which disrupted delegates’ travel plans. More significantly, perhaps, the meeting itself was also the site of protest from environmental activists (such as Greenpeace) demanding that the Arctic be ‘saved’ from further mineral-based exploitation as well as indigenous, mainly Swedish, Sami protesting against the impact of mining on reindeer-herding communities. Furthermore, Aleqa Hammond, then Premier of Greenland, refused to attend because the Swedish hosts were unwilling to offer three chairs to Denmark around the main table in the public building which was to host the meetings. During the Swedish Chairmanship (2011–2013), the Kingdom of Denmark was represented by its three constituent parts: Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. In fact, that ministerial meeting was not really intended to be one dominated by mining and the politics of seats at the tables. At stake, as most international commentators with an interest in the Arctic noted, was the issue of observers (Steinberg and Dodds 2015). Would the Arctic Council admit either the entire list of candidates (six states, one regional organization and seven organizations) or a select group to be determined during the meeting?
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