China, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore were all welcomed as new observer states by the Arctic Council during the ministerial meeting in Kiruna today.
China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Singapore are the first Asian countries to gain observer status to the Arctic Council.
The European Union’s application for observer status was received affirmatively but has not yet been approved, as the union must first address several questions about its bid, including concerns on its ban on sea products from Canada, which today took over the chairmanship of the council from Sweden. The EU banned the import of seal products in 2009. It is an issue of key importance to Canada, as seal hunting is an important part of life for many indigenous groups. The EU was granted the right to observe council proceedings until a final decision is made.
The ministerial meeting also adopted an observer manual that will define what rights the observer states have and clarify which decisions that are not included in the observers’ mandate. (Barents Observer)