The Periphery Beyond the Periphery: Arctic Transport in the Blind Spot of Europe

The Periphery Beyond the Periphery: Arctic Transport in the Blind Spot of Europe


L Ampleman, Jagiellonian University, PL


This paper aims to clarify how the problem of an integrated transport system in the Arctic does not only concern the Arctic countries and polar communities, but also the whole Europe especially regarding European policies, connections and research.


For several years, the Arctic region has become a major area of discussion in the political, economic and environmental fields. This popularity is continuing nowadays to show up in an increased number of scientific publications as well as in a substantial circulation of popular books and reports in the public media. In this regard, references to the transportation as a key factor for the Arctic development are abundant. The general treatment of transport topics in the Arctic region, however, still neglects some important aspects.

Firstly, the treatment of arctic transport is most often related to some restricted issues where transportation is relegated to a background role. These issues concern the security and the militarization (or demilitarization) of the Arctic; the defence of sovereignty and national interests; the development of access to natural resources and the rich economic potential (mining, fisheries, energy) of the circumpolar region; climate change and its impact on the opening of Arctic waters to navigation or international trade, environmental protection and the decontamination of infected arctic areas. Although these issues remain major, the actual treatment of arctic transport masks the concern of integrated transport systems. Beyond the cross-cutting issues, is there a political match plan for the development of an integrated transport network in the Arctic?

Secondly, this popular treatment of transport topics, which by and large focus on spectacular Arctic issues and continue to mobilize national and international entities, seems to veil local issues that are much more modest but which often constitute a priority for Northerners who really inhabit the polar zone: Access to trap lines / hunting areas, mobile health care and evacuation, East-West connections, rescue services cooperation, small craft safety, adapted snowmobile networks, food safety, cost of transport, risky impact of new transport connections on access to drugs, alcohol, gambling and crime in the far north communities. It is worth mentioning here that apart from Iceland, all Arctic countries have their centres of political decision-making in the ?big?? South far from the circumpolar zone. One may argue that spectacular development in Arctic cooperation over the past 20 years has helped establish many pan-regional organizations (the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) and its regional matching part, the Barents Regional Council (BRC); the Nordic Atlantic Cooperation (NORA); the Saami Council; the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC), the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON)), all which increase the influence and rights of local stakeholders.One can ask how the role played by local stakeholders has impacted both national and international political decisions concerning transportation in the Arctic.

The objective of this research paper is to expose one aspect too little discussed regarding Arctic transport: the problem of an integrated transport system in the Arctic Area and more specifically in the Euro-Arctic. This aspect leads us to discuss two questions: i) how does this problem not only concern the Arctic countries and local polar communities, but also the of whole Europe? ii) To what extent do the challenges posed by transport in the Arctic impact the global transport network of Europe and its political Agenda (European policies, transborder network, Europe's connections to the Arctic and research development)?


Association for European Transport