CNARC default person

Wang Chuanxing

Professor, Tongji University, China

Visiting at: Fridtjof Nansen Institute and UiT, Norway
Period: 1 month
Research Theme: Arctic Policy-Making and Legislation in the Nordic Countries -- A Case Study of Norway

Prof. Wang Chuanxing from Center for Polar and Maritime Studies and School of Political Science and International Relations of Tongji University, Shanghai China was granted the fellowship to conduct a one-month academic visit at Fridtjof Nansen Institute and UiT in Norway in 2019. 


Research Report on “Arctic Policy-Making and Legislation in the Nordic Countries——A Case Study of Norway”

Wang Chuanxing from Center for Polar and Maritime Studies

Texts below are the summary of an academic report of CNARC fellowship that Prof. Wang Chuanxing has submitted.

In policy making studies, there is the shift from the macro-level analysis to the micro-level analysis in the past decades. Such a shift is also reflected in the foreign policy making studies as foreign policy making is a process entangling both domestic politics and international politics, because “states even superpowers-are stable, unitary actors is likely to be highly misleading”. And such blurring between domestic politics and international politics is also reflected in Norway’s Arctic policy (making) in that there are such an arguments: that one layer of Norwegian Arctic policy is to regard the High North as a “national project” since the post-Cold War; that the main public debates in Norway “can be said to have framed and defined the High North since the turn of the Millennium”.

“While stressing the output side of political processes, the input side is in danger of being neglected” in policy studies. This is also one problem in Norway’s Arctic policy (making) studies in that more emphasis is overwhelmingly laid on policy outcomes, rather than policy processes. In this report, it is the core to have an analysis of political participation of organized interests in the process of policy making, namely, to analyse the impact of organized interests on Norwegian Arctic policy making from the angle of corporatism/lobbyism, which implies Norway’s Arctic policy making is neither purely Norway’s domestic politics nor purely Norway’s international politics.

Norwegian Arctic Politics and Defining Norway’s Arctic Policy

Broadly speaking, Norway’s Arctic policy can be separated into two periods, with the end of Cold War as the watershed. In the first period, Norway’s “interest in the polar areas has not shown consistency either, and has had a tendency to be steered by impulses from other sources than a considered long-term policy.” This is a striking contrast with the second period during which Norwegian governmental official delivered Norwegian Arctic speeches and Norwegian governmental/official Arctic strategy reports have been issued.

And in the period before the end of Cold War, Norway experienced two different phases regarding its Arctic policy: the phases before and after the end of WWII. During the phase before the end of WWII, although “the public and the political interest that collect around Svalbard and Norwegian arctic activities during the first two decades of the 20th century represented the first period of relatively intense occupation with a Norwegian polar images and status”, “the polar areas have in many and sometimes long periods been peripheral in national policies and priorities in Norway”, which is reflected in the fact that NSIU (Norway’s Svalbard and Arctic Ocean Research Survey) as a government agency “was not until 1937 that it could rely on government funding alone.” And what’s more, “although the post-war Norwegian government felt the need to support and encourage Norwegian polar status and activities, the will failed when necessary resources had to be weighed against all the other financial needs of the country.” During the phase before the end of Cold War, Norway’s Arctic policy is the embodiment of a dualist approach: on one hand, the European Arctic as a high-tension interface between East and West; on the other hand, with the fundamental changes in the law of the sea, Norway and the Soviet Union entered into a formal partnership to manage the rich fish resources of the area in the Arctic. During this period, Norway’s Arctic policy is a component of the European Arctic policy which is a part of the Western strategy to contain the Soviet Union itself before 1980s; and before the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991, there emerged cooperation between Norway and the Soviet Union, although security was still the major concern.

The second period, namely, the post-Cold War period, is typical of “a considered long-term” Norwegian Arctic policy, as is mentioned above; and in such a policy, there are four layers: the High North as an arena for great-power politics (mainly a legacy from the Cold War), the High North as an arena for institutionalized collaboration with Russia (mainly a legacy from the 1990s), the High North as a “national project” (mainly a legacy from the mid-2000s), and the High North as an arena for circumpolar politics (present throughout the period, but increasingly important the last few years). During this period, like other Nordic countries and beyond, owing to changes both in Arctic environment and Arctic politics, Norway is very actively involved in the Arctic affairs.

This paper focuses on analyzing Norway’s Arctic policy in the post-Cold War period. But first of all, it is necessary to differ “The Arctic” from “The High North” terminologically in Norway, because, Norwegian Arctic policy outside Norway is nowadays highly possibly known as Norwegian High North policy, which could result in “a distinct lack of joint or shared understanding when Norwegians and non-Norwegians exchange views on policy issues related to areas which could be referred to as the Arctic/the Sub-Arctic/the European Arctic/the High North/the Far North or the Circumpolar Regions.” In Norway, “although ‘The Arctic’ and ‘The High North’ may, to some extent, be mutually overlapping, the former is a distinctly geographical concept”, while the term “The High North” which was used in official language and took full effect only in 2003 is a political concept.

To avoid such “distinct lack of joint or shared understanding”, the concept “The Arctic” is used equivalent to the concept “The High North”, namely, “The Arctic” is used more as a political concept like “The High North” in this paper.

Organized Interests and Norwegian Arctic Policy Making

The separation of international politics from domestic politics “have limited the field’s ability to understand international relations”. This is also true in the Arctic policy making in Norway. In other words, organized interests have been deeply involving in Norway’s policy making in general, and in its Arctic policy making in particular, because Norway is a corporatist state, which indicates “the formal representation and participation of organizations on government boards, committees and councils”; and Norway’s shift from corporatism to lobbyism since 1980s signifies organized interests’ adopting a lobbyism position on their involvement in policy making, which implies organized interests taking “a means of political influence that is practiced through personal relationships, telephone conversations, informal meetings, correspondence, etc”. Consequently, while “lobbyist relations may be both frequent and stable, but often more ad hoc based than the formal and institutionalized corporatist relations.... Interest organizations and other lobbyists can lobby on their own initiative. Hence, lobbyism is a more flexible strategy than corporatism”

“Organized interests” involvement in Norway’s Arctic policy making is embodied in two respects.

The first respect is that, in Norway’s Arctic policy in general and in its Arctic policy making in particular, there are clear evidences of the convergence between international politics and domestic politics, and especially evidences of the involvement of organized interests:

There’s a very interesting balancing act for the Norwegian government here. On the one hand, it’s not politically correct to present High North initiatives as old-fashioned regional policy – that feeds into the picture of Northern Norway as needy. On the other hand, there are clear expectations of financial support in Northern Norway, for instance by stakeholders that I call "the mayors", local politicians who see "roads, ports and jetties" as legitimate priorities in the government’s High North policies. Then you have the "Cold War romantics", who yearn for a revival of geopolitical interest in the North; the "petro optimists" who see salvation in oil drilling in the Barents Sea; the "Barents practitioners" in Kirkenes, and the "Arctic foxes" in Tromsø. Arctic fox is the translation of the Swedish word "fjellräven", which again is a brand of outdoor clothing frequently worn by politically correct outdoorsy people who worry about the vulnerability of the natural environment in the Arctic. Arctic politics creates enthusiasm in Norway, sometimes at a deafening volume, but ownership to the phenomenon is diverse."

The second respect is about specifications of organized interests’ involvement in Norway’s Arctic policy making in the Norwegian strategy reports. First, regarding the report Look North! Challenges and opportunities in the Northern Areas (2003), its committee (initiated to create such a committee by Foreign Minister Jan Petersen on March 3, 2003) members include scholars from think tanks and universities, representatives from NGOs, business, Arctic organization. What’s more, the committee ... has sought to consult environments and individuals with particular interest and expertise for the topics the committee has addressed; ... has also held meetings with a number of central ministries; ... has received a number of written input from organizations and individuals, and obtained information through attending conferences and seminars. Second, in The Norwegian Government’s High North Strategy (2006), besides emphasizing Norway’s good neighborly relations with Russia, its responsibility for combating illegal fishing and managing the renewable fish resources its opportunities in the Barents Sea presenting as a new European energy province, taking environmental and climate considerations into account, it also touches upon the points that “we will improve living conditions, opportunities and the quality of life for all those who live in the High North, and we will exercise our particular responsibility for safeguarding indigenous peoples’ rights....This is more than just foreign policy, and more than just domestic policy”....“We have also maintained close contact with a large number of groups and institutions in the High North, and with regional authorities and the Sámidiggi (the invaluable advice on how to make Norway’s Arctic policy as forward-looking and effective as possible.” Sami Parliament)....The key words for the strategy are presence, activity and knowledge....This strategy sets out the framework for our efforts in the High North. Third, in New Building Blocks in the North: the next step in the Government’s High North Strategy (2009), while continuing to maintain the argument that “the overall aim is to enhance knowledge in and about the north, increase our activity and presence in the area and lay the foundations for sustainable economic and social development in the years to come...”, it begins to emphasize to “build on constructive partnerships – between the public and private sector, between central and local authorities, and between Norwegian and foreign actors. ” Fourth, in Norwegian Ministries, Norway’s Arctic Strategy: between geopolitics and social development (2017), special attention is paid to the arguments that “(F)oreign and domestic policy are intertwined in the region, and people’s everyday lives are affected both by high politics and by day-to-day issues”; that “(F)oreign policy and domestic policy converge in the Arctic”; that “(G)overnment has sought to give greater consideration to the domestic aspects of Norway’s Arctic policy”. Thus, “(I)n the development of North Norway, it is the region’s own citizens, companies and politicians that have the most important role to play”; “(E)nthusiastic representatives of the business sector, various organizations and knowledge institutions from all over North Norway have given us invaluable advice on how to make Norway’s Arctic policy as forward-looking and effective as possible.”

And based on these reports, there are two findings. First, the increasing shift from emphasizing Norwegian Arctic policy as a foreign policy to emphasizing it as both a foreign policy and domestic policy, which leaves increasing larger room for the involvement of organized interests in Norway’s Arctic policy making. Second, Look North! Challenges and opportunities in the Northern Areas (2003) is written by a committee created based on Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen’s initiative; both the Norwegian Government’s High North Strategy (2006) and the New Building Blocks in the North: the next step in the Government’s High North Strategy (2009) are issued by Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and forwarded by Prime Minister Jens Stolternberg; however, Norwegian Ministries, Norway’s Arctic Strategy: between geopolitics and social development (2017) is issued by Norwegian ministries, and forwarded by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Foreign Minister Børge Brende, and Minister of Local Government and Modernization Jan Tore Sanner. The implication is that Norwegian Arctic policy is increasingly not a pure foreign policy; rather, it is increasingly converging between Norwegian foreign policy and its domestic policy, which gives room to organized interests regarding their involvement in Norway’s Arctic policy making