As the Arctic ice melts, Germany wants to make sure its scientists gain unfettered access to the region. They have been hindered by the Russians, and other Arctic nations have been hesitant to cooperate. But Berlin also has its eyes on the bigger North Pole booty: natural resources and sea routes.
What happens in the Arctic in the coming years and decades is everyone's business. The Far North has a decisive impact on the climate of the entire planet. Temperatures in the region are rising at higher rates than elsewhere in the world, which affects people and the environment far away from the Arctic. The German scientists' data are urgently necessary to understand these changes.
"This is why we need access to allow our scientists to move about and work throughout the entire Arctic," says polar scientist Lochte. She is now getting prominent support for her demand. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, a member of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), is hosting an international conference on the Arctic in Berlin on Thursday, where the key topic will be future polar research.
However, unfettered access for scientists isn't the only interest Germany is pursuing in the Arctic. From fish to natural resources to shipping routes, the region is of great interest for Germany, according to officials at the Foreign Ministry. The diplomats are worried that the five countries bordering the Arctic -- Russia, Canada, the United States, Norway and Denmark -- plan to divide up the previously ice-covered ocean among themselves. They argue that there is a risk that the Arctic could be completely nationalized when the sea ice melts, providing access to the sea floor. Germany argue, however, that Germany and other countries should also be given a say in what happens in the region. Natural resources that will become much more accessible when the Arctic ice melts are of critical importance for a high-tech country. A similar argument holds true for the possibility of transporting German goods to Asia through the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route off the Russian coast. Germany wants the five countries bordering the Arctic to recognize that other countries have an interest in using the Arctic. For this reason, a representative of China, which pursues interests similar to Germany's, was also invited to the Berlin conference.