Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 249

249 Arctic Yearbook 2015 exclusion (active barring of issues from the policy agenda).2 Moreover, as leaders of individual sessions, chairs open and close meetings, structure their agenda, allot the right to speak to participants and summarize the results of sessions (Tallberg 2010: 246). Brokerage, rather than involving a formal concession of powers to the chair by the other parties, refers to the situation where a chair serves as a channel of information among states who, for tactical reasons, conceal their true preferences but share information about them with the chair who thus gets privileged access to information that may then be used to construct compromise. In addition, oftentimes the chair’s mandate gives it a right to produce a single negotiating text as a basis for consensus. Finally, representation involves the chair being empowered by the other parties to speak on their behalf, since institutions typically cannot be represented by all their constituent members in relations with the outside world (Tallberg 2010: 245). According to Tallberg, “the office of the chair, once vested with power of process control, offers a political platform for influencing outcomes of the process” (Tallberg 2010: 245). Even though the chair is usually expected to conduct assigned functions with a view to promoting collective gains, holding a chairmanship may be seen by certain actors as a ‘window of opportunity’ to shift the agenda and distribution of gains in pursuit of their national interests. Additionally, a comparison study carried out by Tallberg on three alternative ways of organizing the office of the chair - rotation between states (like the Presidency of the European Union), appointment of a supranational official (as in the case of the WTO Trade Negotiations Committee) and election of one state’s representative (UN environmental conferences) - points to the rotating chairmanship (like the Arctic Council one) as a model particularly open to distributional influence and generating a process of logrolling, strengthened furthered in situations where the state in office controls multiple chairs of sub-groups within the organization and where the chairmanship of all or most of those sub-groups shift from one state to the other at the same time (Tallberg 2010). Yet chairs do not operate in a world without constraints and the mere fact that a chairmanship rotates between state representatives is not a guarantee for patterns of distributional impact. Blavoukos, Bourantonis and Tsakonas differentiate between three groups of parameters that affect the chair’s ability to perform the assigned roles and tasks.3 First, they point to the international environment and the nature of the issue under consideration. Since international institutions do not operate in a vacuum, “the systemic power configuration creates an international climate within which the chair operates” (Blavoukos et al. 2006: 150). A polarized, conflictive climate constraints not only the chair’s resources (e.g. privileged access to information) but also limits its assigned roles to merely procedural tasks and formalities. As for the nature of issue under consideration, its salience and the degree of controversy associated with it both affect the chair’s ability to perform its functions. In general, the more salient the issue is for the parties, the more difficult it is for the chair to succeed. The same is true with the degree of controversy. For example, matters of ‘hard’ military security and sovereignty are usually more sensitive and therefore more difficult to handle than ‘soft’ matters such as economic cooperation or environmental protection, with the Arctic Council being an excellent example of this. The second group of parameters affecting the chair is institution-specific and involves the institutional design of the chairmanship, the resources available to a chair, and the formal and informal constraints put upon it. The institutional design of the chairmanship – the three alternative ways of organizing Smieszek & Kankaanpää