ESS-N Arctic Cover Image

European Security Seminar-North (ESS-N)

August 30 - September 4, 2021 / Course language: English

The one-week seminar on the Arctic is embedded into the series of European Security Seminars (ESS) consisting of ESS-South, ESS-East, and ESS-North. The ESS-North primarily looks at the Arctic. The next ESS-North is scheduled to take place from August 30 to September 4, 2021 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The aim of ESS-N is to provide an opportunity for mid to high-level practitioners to discuss emerging challenges in the Arctic region and assess their impact on regional and global security. The exchange of insights among experts and a sound analysis of the current situation, opportunities, and risks will enhance participants’ ability to think strategically about the Arctic region.


The Arctic has long held significant geostrategic importance – from the earliest explorers and whalers through the Cold War.  Global warming and its impact on the Arctic is unquestionably driving change across the region, affecting the future security environment of the Arctic and even beyond.  In order to adequately assess regional challenges and opportunities, it is important to understand the economic, environmental, and security trends. Warming trends are now combining with improved technology to allow increased exploration and development of the region’s natural resources. Demands of a rising global population, particularly food and energy needs, will drive Arctic economic development at sea and ashore. Yet this rising activity in the region brings increased concerns for the fragile Arctic ecosystem and protection of indigenous communities.

The increasingly accessible region has attracted numerous global stakeholders. Thus far, Arctic stakeholders have largely adhered to international laws and norms. The Arctic Council acts as a useful coordinating mechanism, though its mandate explicitly excludes security.  The Arctic has long been held to be a peaceful and stable region, yet the evolving economic and geopolitical interests may impact the future security of the region.  While regional militaries have historically operated in the Arctic, particularly in the undersea and air domains, it is clear that military activity is on the rise.  This Seminar will provide participants an opportunity to further examine the complex Arctic environment and provide strategic recommendations for regional stakeholders to address contemporary security challenges.

The Seminar Will Cover Three Case Studies

During the first two ESS-North seminars, the current Arctic landscape was examined with a focus on geostrategic importance and key geopolitical, geo-economic, and environmental issues. This third seminar will build upon those findings and participants will offer a sound analysis and evaluation of three different Arctic case studies – and how the findings may apply more broadly throughout the region.

Each case study will seek to understand, analyze, and evaluate a particular region of interest within the Arctic. These cases were specifically selected due to their complex implications across the geopolitical, economic, environment, and security spectrum.

Case Study 1 – Greenland. Participants will examine:

  • Impact of climate change on the environment
  • The political situation and Greenland’s political aspirations
  • Economic potential and foreign direct investment initiatives
  • Greenlandic foreign relations
  • Security and military considerations
  • Role of indigenous communities

Case Study 2 – Svalbard Archipelago. Participants will examine:

  • Legal framework
  • Primary actors’ positions
  • Additional signatories of the Svalbard Treaty-and their interests
  • Economic development – Coal-mining to Tourist industries
  • Environmental concerns
  • International disputes
  • Security and military concerns

Case Study 3 – Yamal Peninsula and the Northern Sea Route. Participants will examine:

Oil and Gas in Yamal

  • Current projects
  • Effect of sanctions/ restrictive measures
  • Foreign investors / Clients
  • Environmental Impact
  • Climate concerns
  • Energy industry as a strategic political tool

Northern Sea Route

  • Current and projected transit and destination shipping
  • Application of UNCLOS – internal waters versus transit passage?
  • NSR Militarization

Based on the three case studies, the seminar will start discussing methods to achieve sustainable development while balancing the strategic interests of the national players.


  • Analyze and evaluate the geopolitical, geo-economic and environmental risks, challenges, and opportunities for three cases (Greenland, Yamal, Svalbard)
  • Understand competing demands in the Arctic region based on the three case studies and discuss methods to achieve sustainable development while balancing strategic interests
  • Assess options and recommendations for further cooperation

Expected Accomplishments

This seminar will be conducted by subject matter experts from the George C. Marshall Center along with adjunct professors and guest lecturers offering diverse perspectives and expertise.  Participants are representatives of Arctic stakeholders, to include leading Arctic research institutions, security professionals, policymakers from Arctic Council member and observer states, industry, indigenous communities, and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations with Arctic interests.

The ESS-N is designed to promote discussion amongst participants. It further offers a unique forum to effectively capture the insights of participating professionals. This seminar will thus enable stakeholders to contribute to the Arctic policy debate and further discuss the role of the Arctic in the context of global security matters.

Main Activities

ESS-N provides four platforms for the exchange of ideas, discussions, networking, and strategy development: conference-style format of lectures, panels and plenary discussions; outcome-oriented, product driven and complementary workshop format (workshops led by SMEs, supported by rapporteurs with input from seminar-group leaders and guest presenters); night owl session held in the format of a “fireside chat”; and participants’ panels. To support ESS-North, we provide academic literature in our Lib-Guide.

Impressions from Our Workshop

European Security Seminar-North 20-06 Interview with Neil O’Rourke
Published on Apr 24, 2020
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany – The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies hosted the European Security Seminar-North from March 2 to 6, 2020. In this video, German Navy Cmdr. Andreas Hildenbrand, the ESS-N director, talks with Neil O’Rourke, assistant commissioner for the Arctic Region for the Canadian Coast Guard, on the importance of the Arctic and the role of this seminar. (DOD video by U.S. Army Master Sgt. Corey T. Dennis)
European Security Seminar-North 20-06 - Interview Rear Adm. Lars Sanes
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies
Published on Apr 24, 2020
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany – The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies hosted the European Security Seminar-North from March 2 to 6, 2020. In this video, German Navy Cmdr. Andreas Hildenbrand, the ESS-N director, talks with Norway retired Rear Adm. Lars Sanes, professor at the U.S. Naval War College, on the importance of the Arctic and the role of this seminar. (DOD video by U.S. Army Master Sgt. Corey T. Dennis)

Course Details

George C. Marshall Center - European Center for Security Studies
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
How to Register

For application and deadline information, contact Marshall Center Registrar, your ministry point of contact, or the U.S. or German Embassy in your capital city.

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