April 30, 2009

Arctic Councils Denies Membership Amid Seal Hunting Debate

On Wednesday, the Arctic Council denied the EU, China, Italy and South Korea in their attempt to become permanent members because of a dispute between Canada and the EU over seal hunting.

In a statement released after the Arctic Council's gathering in Norway, the eight members of the body "decided to continue discussing the role of observers in the Arctic Council."

The seal hunt, a topic of heavy magnitude to Canada, was highly debated during the meeting, members of several delegations noted.

The 27 member states of the European Union are getting ready to outlaw products resulting from the commercial seal hunt to demonstrate their distain for Canada's brutal hunting methods.

The European Parliament is anticipated to vote on the ban issue in May.

"Some European institutions have shown a lack of understanding with respect to the fundamental interests of Arctic people and states," Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon announced delegates Wednesday.

"I very much regret, therefore, that the European Parliament and Council (of European ministers) are currently considering an EU-wide ban on trade in seal products," he said.

"It is particularly disappointing that such a ban is being pursued despite clear evidence that the hunting of seals in Canada is sustainable, humane and well managed," Cannon added.

The Arctic Council is the only provincial cooperation group in the Arctic, created in 1996 and comprising of eight members: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

Britain, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain are permanent fixture observers, although China, Italy, the EU and South Korea are only ad hoc observers, which mean that their attendance at each gathering has to be accepted by member states.

Canada and Norway will put forward grievances to the World Trade Organization if the EU prohibits the import of seal-associated goods.

"Norway shares that view with Canada. But for Norway, that's yet another reason to invite the observers in," Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said.


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