European Arctic

The European Arctic is the most heterogeneous of the three study regions and comprises territories of five states: Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. In comparison to other parts of the Arctic, the region has a relatively well-developed transport infrastructure, especially in northern Fennoscandia. Still, compared to the political centers of Fennoscandia, the region is characterized by relatively low population density, sparse settlements, and long travel distances, both within the region and to external markets. This, in conjunction with the Arctic being viewed as a strategically important region, has resulted in large resource allocations by the respective states for development and infrastructure projects. Scandinavia has historically been a seafaring region, providing important hubs for European trade routes since the Viking Age. While shipping still plays a major role in the insular western part of the region and in Norway, home of a string of ice-free ports along the Gulf Stream, northern Fennoscandia is today chiefly integrated through a developing road and railroad network, in some areas complemented by a network of airports. Infrastructure development across the nations is of major concern to regional cooperation initiatives, such as the West Nordic Council and the Barents Euro-Arctic Transport Area, which seek to foster economic and social development by strengthening transport corridors both within the region and to external markets. This study region will include the following potential case study areas:

  • The non-Russian part of the case study area Barents Region is defined by the anchor points Rovaniemi (Finland) and the ice-free sea port of Kirkenes (Norway). The latter would constitute the final link between the EU and the Arctic Ocean, connecting the Northern Sea Route (NSR) to central and eastern Europe and making Kirkenes the first non-Russian port on the sea route coming from the East. The large town of Murmanskacross the border from Kirkenes (see the Russian Arctic Study Region) is of interest from a comparative perspective, as it is one of the starting points of the NSR.
  • Longyearbyen and Narvik are the anchor points of the case study area Svalbard and Northern Norway. Narvik constitutes a major infrastructure intersection connecting the railway and road system to the sea and an airport, and is striving to become the biggest ice-free port north of the polar circle. Longyearbyen, at the same time remote and central due to its insular location and busy airport, is already a central arctic tourist destination. An upgrade of the port in order to make it a central hub along the NSR is a central part of Norway’s arctic strategy. 
  • The case study area of Finnafjördur (or Finnafjord) centers on aplanned deep-water harbor in northeast Iceland, a small inlet in a remote farming and fishing region on the country’s east coast. As melting sea ice facilitates new trans-Arctic shipping routes, Finnafjördur will serve as a key site for exchange between Asia, Europe, and the U.S. The harbor is a collaboration between foreign investors, German developers, and Icelandic engineers, to facilitate the trans-shipment of (largely) Chinese cargo. Construction is ongoing and completion planned for 2023.
  • The area around the Greenlandic capital of Nuuk is the European anchor point of the Davis Strait case study area. This study examines the ongoing debates and aspirations for Greenland’s future embedded in national policy and made manifest through these overlapping local infrastructural projects in Nuuk and other locations along the Greenlandic west coast. It explores how expanded international and regional connections through infrastructure are framed in policy as supporting national independence through greater global interdependence.