For someone like me, born in an island in the Mediterranean, travelling to the far North, is something very special. It’s like reaching the boundaries of the world. During my recent visit to Greenland, I had the opportunity to see with my own eyes the tremendous beauty of nature, which shows all its power crafting gigantic sculptures of ice in the stunning ice fjords of Disko Bay, but also to witness its great fragility. The Arctic is warming up rapidly. The period 2005-2010 stands out as the warmest period ever recorded in the region. Ice-free summers in the Arctic would be possible in the next 30 to 40 years. This fact, together with the rapid advances in offshore technology, has driven up human activity in Greenland, as in the rest of the Arctic region. However, it’s not difficult to imagine that this could also have serious repercussions for the Arctic’s fragile environment.
I went to Greenland to listen and to learn from those who witness these changes directly. The warm welcome I received by the Greenlandic Premier Kuupik Kleist, the Minister for Fisheries and Hunting Ane Hansen and the others I had the chance to meet, allowed me to get a better understanding of the importance of EU partnership with Greenland: Greenland is realizing the potential of its natural resources and the powerful transformative effect this might have on a mainly fisheries-based economy.
The EU has much to gain from new economic opportunities in the region, but we want to do so in a way that is responsible and supports indigenous populations. The EU has already contributed around €200 million to international research activities in the Arctic and will continue to do so, to address the challenges of environmental and climate changes in the Arctic; at the same time, we are investing in the sustainable development in the North, providing already over €1.14 billion to develop the economic, social and environmental potential of the Arctic regions: we have to ensure that the economic development in the Arctic is based on sustainable use of resources and environmental expertise. Last but not least, I intend to do my utmost to intensify our dialogue with Arctic States, indigenous peoples and other partners, for a constructive engagement of the EU in the Arctic.