The European Union's (EU's) intention of becoming a permanent observer in the Arctic Council and the reluctance of Arctic actors to grant it that status have made the union's aspirations in the Arctic the subject of a continuing debate. The discussion appears to be dominated by geographical considerations and the EU's gradually emerging Arctic policy. This article puts forward a different view of the EU's presence in the region, one drawing on an analysis of relevant EU competences. As a complex international actor, the EU has acquired a broad array of decision-making powers from its member states, powers that partly extend to Iceland and Norway via the EEA Agreement. Moreover, the EU has in many cases become a relevant actor in international negotiations and treaty making processes the outcomes of which are of crucial importance for the governance of the Arctic. Our argument in the third and concluding section is that only by including the EU in Arctic governance can the international community provide better prospects for the union to sensitise its policies and discourses to the Arctic realities and for other Arctic actors to understand how the union functions. This argument is supported by an analysis of the EU's restrictions on the import of seal products and the ensuing litigation.