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Sellheim, NikolasSellheim_Nikolas.jpg


Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law

Email: nikolas.sellheim(at)ulapland.fi


  • Legal Cultures in Transnational World (LeCTra) Doctoral Programme, Faculty of Law, University of Lapland
  • Master of Arts Polar Law, University of Akureyri, Iceland
  • Bachelor of Arts Scandinavian / Northern European Studies, Humboldt- University in Berlin, Germany
  • Bachelor of Circumpolar Studies, Bodø University College, Norway

Research Focus:

My research deals with the legitimacy of the European Union in Arctic Governance. The issue of 'legitimacy' is very broad and not easy to grasp. I therefore take a legal-anthropological approach and focus on the EU's anti-sealing policy and it's impacts on the commercial sealers in Atlantic Canada, the changes of rules and codes of conduct that have emerged around commercial sealing based on the EU seal product import ban. Therefore, my fieldwork will take place amongst the sealers to identify and document said rules and unwritten laws and the changes they are undergoing. The second stage of the research deals with the notion of animal welfare in EU policy-making and how the anti-sealing stance has found its way into EU laws. A crucial element is the understanding (or lack thereof) for Arctic living conditions, customs and rules that are of non-indigenous origin and the recognition of the impacts certain EU policies may have. This allows for a conclusion of the EU as a (il)legitimate Arctic actor based on human dimensions in the North.

My previous research looked at the legitimacy of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region (BEAR) and its environmental initiatives. Various approaches are taken to enable an understanding of the concept of ‘legitimacy’ and its application in a complex forum such as the BEAR. Aspects of ‘good governance’ like participation, accountability and transparency as well as legal aspects in national and international environmental law, problem-solving capabilities or goal-attainment strategies contribute to an overall understanding of the ‘legitimacy’ of the BEAR and its environmental initiatives.

Other research focused on land rights in Finnish Sámiland and the problems arising from adversarial interests over the usage of lands. In focus were Sámi reindeer husbandry and the forest industry, taking into account indigenous peoples’ rights internationally and nationally as well as Finnish reindeer husbandry, forestry and land-use legislation.

I also participated in the Arctic Footprint and Policy Assessment Project (AFPA) funded by the DG Environment of the European Commission and in the EU Competences affecting the Arctic funded by the European Parliament.


Sealing; Commercial Sealing; Newfoundland; customary law; EU law; law-making; Legitimacy; Arctic governance


  • Sellheim, Nikolas. (forthcoming). Problem-solving Capabilities, Goal-attainment and Effectiveness of the Barents Environmental Cooperation. In: Koivurova, Timo, Gudmundur Alfredsson and Jennifer Rhemann (eds.). The Yearbook of Polar Law. Vol. 4. BRILL Publishers
  • Sellheim, Nikolas. (forthcoming). The Establishment of the Permanent Arctic Council Secretariat – Challenges and Opportunities. In: Axworthy, Tom, Timo Koivurova and Waliul Hasanat (eds.).
  • Sellheim, Nikolas. 2012. BOOK REVIEW: Hannemann, Matthias. 2010. Der Neue Norden – Die Arktis und der Traum vom Aufbruch [The New North – The Arctic and the Dream of Progress]. In: Polar Record Online; Cambridge: Cambridge Journals Online
  • Sellheim, Nikolas. 2011. BOOK REVIEW: Manfred Sapper, Volker Weichsel, Christoph Humrich (eds.). 2011. Logbuch Arktis – Der Raum, die Interessen, das Recht [Logbook Arctic – Space, Interests and Law]. In: Polar Record Online; Cambridge: Cambridge Journals Online
  • Koivurova, Timo, Kai Kokko, Sébastien Duyck, Nikolas Sellheim, Adam Stepien. 2011. The Present and Future Competence of the European Union in the Arctic. In: Polar Record Online; Cambridge: Cambridge Journals Online
  • Sellheim, Nikolas. 2011. Master’s Thesis: The Barents Environmental Cooperation – A Legitimacy Analysis. University of Akureyri, Iceland
  • Sellheim, Nikolas. 2011. BOOK REVIEW: Hønneland, Geir. 2010. Borderland Russians – Identity, Narrative and International Relations. In: Polar Record Online; Cambridge: Cambridge Journals Online
  • Koivurova, Timo, Kai Kokko, Sébastien Duyck, Nikolas Sellheim, Adam Stepien. 2010. The EU and the Arctic: EU Competences affecting the Arctic. Briefing; European Parliament/TEPSA
  • Cavalieri, Sandra, Emily McGlynn, Susanah Stoessel, Jenny Troeltzsch, Martin Bruckner, Christine Polzin, Timo Koivurova, Sellheim, Nikolas, Kamrul Hossain, Sébastien Duyck, Adam Stepien and Annika Nilsson. 2010. Arctic Footprint and Policy Assessment Project – Final Report 2010. Berlin: Ecologic Institute
  • Sellheim, Nikolas. 2010. The Tradition and the State - Sámi Reindeer Husbandry and the Forestry Challenge in Northern Finland. In: Lögfræðingur (Lawyer). 2010. Vol. 1, Year 4. Akureyri: University of Akureyri. pp. 75-87