Arseny Mitko: Russian Arctic zone needs a federal law
© RIA Novosti. Evgeniy Samarin

Arseny Mitko: Russian Arctic zone needs a federal law

Russia's legal system is lacking a framework law to regulate activities in the Russian Arctic zone; therefore, it goes by different names, such as the Russian North, Russia's Arctic sector, or the territory of the Far North, Siberia, the Russian Far East, etc. The predominance of the sector-specific approach can be clearly seen from the fact that only a few regulations have been included in laws on regulating activities in the Russian Arctic zone: out of 67 federal laws in this sphere, only six laws are devoted to Arctic development. The inadequacy of legal regulation (an excessive number of by-laws) should lead to the development of special legislation to regulate relations in the Arctic.

The basic concept of the Russian Arctic zone contradicts the definitions in current legislation. There's no notion of integrated socioeconomic development of the Russian Arctic zone, and Russia's strategic interests have not been defined as of this writing. The proposed procedure for creating core zones, the purpose of their creation, and the procedure for submitting reports on achieving these goals require clarification. The adoption of a law will require amending the existing urban planning legislation and Federal Law No. 131-FZ of October 6, 2003, On General Guidelines for Organizing Local Self-Government in the Russian Federation.

Other criticisms include the inconsistency between the name of the draft law and the subject of regulation; unsubstantiated duplication of individual provisions; lack of unity in terminology; inconsistency of the name of the articles with their provisions; and the groundless nature of the special procedure for the entry into force of the law in question. The adoption of the draft law will require additional allocations from the federal budget, which is not included in the feasibility study.

Based on the above, the draft federal law On Developing the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation and Amending Individual Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation does not merit support in its current version.

In my opinion, in order to transform the legal framework of activities in the Arctic, it is necessary to conduct research in the following areas:

1.      Studying ways and mechanisms for harmonizing national legislation with developing international legal regulators, including the improvement of the legal framework of cooperation in the Arctic, as well as the conceptualization of applying soft law acts in the Russian legal system, judicial acts, international judicial acts and program documents of international organizations;

2.      Studying trends in legal regulation of the Arctic in order to rectify the fragmentary and inadequate nature of its legal regulation, as well as to emphasize the sector-specific approach;

3.      Analyzing foreign environmental regulation practices and the possibility of using corresponding positive experience in Russia;

4.      Updating legal regulation of bringing labor resources to the Russian Arctic zone with the mandatory observance of the rights of the indigenous peoples of the North living in that region;

5.      Studying the formation of a model of legal regulation, rooted in the Constitution, for the protection of the original habitat and the traditional way of life of the indigenous peoples of the North.

The Arctic Doctrine

"The need to develop an Arctic doctrine is emphasized by the geopolitical and economic importance of the Arctic, its exceptional role in preserving biological balance and forming global atmospheric processes," Mikhail Nikolayev, Chairman of the Northern Forum and the first President of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), said in 2003.

The Arctic Doctrine of the Russian Federation (hereinafter, the Arctic Doctrine) is a set of fundamental official views (approaches) on the state policy of Russia in the Arctic, systematized in a single document. It concerns the organization of the state, society and citizens to ensure sustainable development of the Russian Arctic zone as part of a global sustainable development strategy.

The provisions of the Arctic Doctrine as an integral part of the regulatory, conceptual and program policy documents which regulate and organize the activities in the sphere of sustainable development of the Russian Arctic should be binding on all executive and governance bodies, including companies, institutions and organizations which, under Russian legislation, are charged with responsibility for organizing and carrying out steps designed to implement activities in the Russian Arctic.

The importance of adopting the Arctic Doctrine stems from a number of factors, of which the following are the key ones:

1.      The interests of humankind in the Arctic are globalizing, which is due the ever-growing interest in the Arctic, including the intensive use of natural, spatial and other resources;

2.      There's a trend of Russia losing its leading positions in the Arctic region, which has historically been associated with the country, due to a number of factors (the adoption of a White Paper by China and a number of other documents on the Arctic by leading world powers);

3.      There's a trend of Russia losing its Arctic-related research and information capacity accumulated over the years of extensive development of the Arctic;

4.      The Arctic foundation for preserving Russia's Eurasian unity looks promising;

5.      The stabilization of sustainable global development on the basis of sustainable development of the Russian Arctic zone looks promising;

6.      The practicability of assessing the efficacy of the decisions that determine activities in the Arctic region, primarily from the geopolitical positions, has become obvious;

7.      There's a trend of the Arctic region becoming increasingly important for Russia in military strategic terms.

Notably, the world's advanced economies are now focusing on developing alternative energy sources and decreasing their dependence on conventional hydrocarbons. The increasing production of hydrocarbons from offshore and shale deposits in the United States and the gas revolution in China  may lead to intensified competition between suppliers in the market and, as a consequence, a further decline in hydrocarbon prices.

As such, it is necessary:

1. To increase the profitability of hydrocarbon production by reducing the share of imported technology;

2. To ensure the delivery of hydrocarbons to customers by way of creating transport infrastructure (further expansion of the Northern Sea Route and construction of gas and oil pipelines);

3. To ensure safety at production facilities (investment is needed in studying the geological structure of the Russian Arctic shelf);

4. To increase the efficiency of the use of hydrocarbons (to conduct research in oil conversion depth and to further develop chemical utilization of natural gas);

5. To take the activities of the state commission on the Arctic to a new level;

6. To create a working group to restructure Russia's Arctic Doctrine and the law on the Russian Arctic.