Estonia kicks off ‘Arctic month’ in support of its Arctic Council observer bid

The region's self-styled “inventive neighbor” says it offers potential solutions to some of region’s challenges.

Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid presented her country’s application for Arctic Council observer status during an event on November 30, 2020. (Estonian foreign ministry)

Seeking to join the Arctic Council as an observer, Estonia on Thursday began a month-long effort to sell the idea to Estonians and to the eight Arctic countries ahead of their biennial meeting in May, when they are expected to decide on its request to join the list of 13 observer countries.

The “Arctic Month” is being held after Estonia officially announced on November 9 that it was seeking to join the Arctic Council as an observer in order to be able to “participate in discussions on the sustainable development of the Arctic at an international forum,” according to its foreign ministry.

“As a close neighbour of the Arctic that feels the immediate impact of climate change, Estonia has the responsibility and opportunity to have a say in how the region develops and contribute to its sustainable development,” a foreign ministry statement said.

[Estonia is applying to become an Arctic Council observer]

During the first event of the month, Riigikogu, the national assembly, heard yesterday that Estonia had a history exploring the polar regions and conducting climate research that is relevant to the Arctic. They were also told that its firms could potentially contribute to the its development.

Estonia is one of the most digitalized countries in the world and the foreign ministry reckons the country can use its experience to help Arctic communities adopt their own digital solutions for challenges such as providing health care and education.

On Monday, Eva-Maria Liimets, the foreign minister, can be expected to bring up similar arguments when she takes part in the Arctic Frontiers conference, a major Arctic event that is being convened online this year.

[Iceland begins its Arctic Council chairmanship with a focus on observers]

“Developments in the Arctic should be a concern for everyone, as the climate change there affects the whole world,” she said in a statement. “Estonia’s scientists, companies and polar enthusiasts are ready to help the Arctic with their expertise.”

Kersti Kaljulaid, Estonia’s president, has repeated a similar message during the weeks since the country announced it had submitted its application, most recently in online event organized by the Arctic Circle Assembly.

During the event, titled, “Estonia in the Arctic Council? What can it offer?”, Kaljulaid suggested that the answer was, in part, determined by the region itself.

“We want to contribute and to do that we need to understand better what partners, neighbours, allies in the Arctic Council are thinking.”