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European Parliament calls for international ban on heavy fuel oil in Arctic

The European Parliament is calling for an international ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil on vessels operating in the Arctic, like that which is to apply to the Antarctic from August 2011. Further, it asked the EU to impose a strict regime limiting soot emissions and the use of heavy fuel oil by vessels calling at EU ports prior to voyages through Arctic waters.

An alternative resolution by the GUE/NGL (Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left) group calling for a moratorium on industrial exploitation of the Arctic region for environmental reasons was rejected during Parliament’s plenary session this past week.

The European Parliament said that Iceland’s probable accession to the EU, new Arctic oil and other natural resource opportunities, and the effects of pollution, notably on sea-level changes in Member States, all strengthen the case for placing the Arctic at the top of the EU policy agenda and pushing for greater EU involvement in the Arctic Council.

Research suggests that about one fifth of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbon resources may lie in this region. Yet, Members of Parliament warned, it is the responsibility of Arctic states to ensure that oil international companies use the technology necessary to prevent oil spills like the British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

MEPs stress the benefits that would flow from Iceland’s joining the Union, which would make the EU an Arctic coastal entity and consolidate its presence in the Arctic Council (AC), a key intergovernmental forum whose members already include the USA and the Russian Federation. Denmark, Sweden and Finland are the three EU Member States represented in the AC. The EU currently attends the Council an ad hoc observer, a status which MEPs would like to see turned into that of permanent observer, so as to enhance the EU’s presence in an international organization which plays a privileged role in managing the region.

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