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14/12/2019  
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INTERVIEWS

Luis Fraga: The role of Europe in the «New Nomos» of the Arctic


One of the outcomes of the 1991 end of the Soviet Union was a notorious disorientation amongst the political analysts who were trying to find clear ideas about which would be the new planetary order resulting after the end of the Cold War. Schmitt´s Nomos of the Earth (1940-1950) is a forecasting geopolitical description which has confirmed its brilliancy seven decades after. And it might be effectively applied to understand our XXI century geopolitical challenges.
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As we all know, the first two main academic proposals trying to explain the new situation were Fukuyama’s “End of History” and Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”. And we also know that both theories turned out to be insufficient to clarify what was happening. Moreover, the two positions were substantially contradictory between them, so it seems that nobody, in the political science laboratories linked to Huntington or Fukuyama, had developed, during the last decade of the XX century, a believable image about which was going to be the planetary order in the XXI century.

Does this also mean that no one, in the last hundred years, had sufficiently thought about the real meaning of the XX century’s deep streams of history and their future consequences? Someone did: Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), especially in his almost prophetical book The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of Jus Publicum Europaeum. Ahead of his time by more than half a century, in the mentioned book (and also in earlier articles written in the forties) Schmitt predicted quite accurately which was going to be the physiognomy of the XXI century
 nternational order. According to Schmitt, this new planetary order would neither be founded on the former statu quo of the European states and their previous political balances, nor on a unipolar (meaning the USA) hegemony. But, instead, it would be constructed on a multipolar paradigm in which a multiplicity of larger geopolitical entities would establish a new balance and, therefore, an order: the new nomos of the earth. It should be added that Schmitt does not use the Greek word nomos (QóPR9) in its most usual meaning (the law, in German Gesetz) but in its wider ancient Greek sense (nemein), a word which, similar to the German termnehmen, means the act of dividing, of taking, of distributing a certain portion of land, and thus establishing an order.

Schmitt’s Nomos of the Earth (1940-1950) is a forecasting geopolitical description which has confirmed its brilliancy seven decades after. And it might be effectively applied to understand our XXI century geopolitical challenges. The Arctic is one of them. Therefore, if we talk about an Arctic Political Order we are clearly speaking about territorial distributions (territorial waters, continental platforms, international waters), but additionally about the ownership of natural resources (oil, gas); consequently, also about security. And we are also talking about international cooperation concerning not only scientific research, but also the transnational actions with regard to the environmental menaces and challenges of our millennium. National specific interest, on the one hand.

On the other hand, international cooperation and world governance efforts. It would be too obvious tojust say that the world should strive to look for a balance between both goals. More difficult, however, would be how to effectively harmonize, for such a purpose, several different interests.

Actually, each country involved in the Arctic needs to prepare an own strategy and an own narrative. And each national narrative (which shall be understood and  eventually supported by the nation’spopulation) always involves the country’s tradition and history and even its own national founding mythology, but also the national
objective economical and political interests. Each country must care about its own perspective. Perspective is, indeed, crucial when it comes to understand the complexity of any geopolitical position. And in the Arctic we can dentify three perspectives: The National Interest perspective of each country, the world governance perspective as well, but also the perspective of the large blocks. Let’s focus our attention on the third one. On the large areas.

Schmitt calls them the Großräume (plural of Großräum), that is, the wider political entities which are the main political actors in a multipolar world. In the Arctic, such political entities (Russia and Europe, but also
others) might of course represent different interests. This enables us to draft two main possible scenarios about the Arctic’s future: In a cooperation scenario, the main actors of the world order, together with the Arctic Council (member states and observing states), would continue to develop a multilateral cooperation based on the legal framework provided by the world governance institutions, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In a confrontation scenario, strategic reasons (energy, security, territorial claims) would drive the major actors into dispute. But, which would be those main political actors? Individual countries? Blocks? The so called “East” against the so called “West”? Something might be forecasted: The fundamental contributors to a desirable cooperation scenario would bethelarge political entities based in geopolitical spaces; at the same time, nobody (individual countriesin particular) would take any advantage in a confrontation scenario, especially in the hypothesis of a bipolar escalation mentioned a few lines before.

But the core question is if such a confrontation is avoidable. And, in order to address such an issue, it might be useful to recall the words of the beginning of this article about the theories drafted after the end of the Soviet Union. Why were both Fukuyama’s and Huntington’s heories wrong? Were Fukuyama’s theories misguided because he was repeating what Hegel and Kojève had already written before, and Huntington’s theses ungrounded because he was readapting to the last years of the XX century some ideas which Toynbee, Spengler and also Schmitt had better explained many decades before? No. They  were wrong because both approaches were foreseeing an unavoidable future. And, in politics, there is no such a thing as an unavoidable (or an irreversible) situation. But Fukuyama was forecasting an unavoidable “One World”, that is, an ineluctable peace. And Huntington was also forecasting an inexorable future. A future in the form of an unavoidable confrontation, a sure “clash”.

The latter might be applied to the Arctic. Moreover, Carl Schmitt lessons might be certainly useful if we take into account the following: the key factor which enables a strong international political order and, accordingly, a stable international Arctic order, is the balance between several political blocks based in enforceable law and durable agreements.

In such a task, Europe plays an important role. First of all, because an alignment of the EU against Russia (or against the USA and Canada) would prove to have disastrous consequences. And the EU is, in Arctic matters, a reliable, serious interlocutor with clear and credible multilateral cooperation projects. Many reasonable documents have been published in Brussels on Arctic matters. Countless outstanding resolutions concerning the Arctic cohesion have been passed in the European Parliament. In short: the EU is a factor of stability for the Arctic Region. Europe is a key political actor in the planetary order. And a fundamental international entity with some of its member countries located in Arctic latitudes. T

That’s why the EU has applied to be an observing member in the Arctic Council. Having been reached an agreement on the seal trade ban, presumably Canada has no interest in disagreeing with the EU’s bid to reach the observer status in the Arctic Council. For obvious reasons, the same could be stated about Russia. Russia needs Europe and Europe needs Russia. Not only because we are neighbors on thesame continent. Not only because a spiral of mutual provocations and counter-provocations between us could lead to unpredictable consequences.

But, mainly, because both Russia and Europe are striving to reach a planetary balance based on cooperation and stability in a world which is far from being as simple as it was thirty or forty years ago.

A balance of powers in a new, multipolar world is reachable. And there fore the new “Nomos of the Arctic”represents an opportunity of cooperation rather than confrontation.


 Luis Fraga, Spanish Senator (1989-2011). President (1996-2004) of the Latin America Committee of the Spanish Senate. President of the WSO (World Stability Observatory)

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