Sunday

17th Dec 2017

Focus

Faroes look at self-determination and closer EU relations

  • Torshavn, the capital of Faroe Islands. Fishing and aquaculture accounts for around 95 percent of the archipelago's exports. (Photo: Arne List)

The Faroe Islands will vote on a new constitution next year that could overhaul its 70-year old status as an autonomous part of Denmark.

Faroese prime minister Aksel Johannesen announced on 12 February that the constitutional proposal will be submitted to the local parliament next summer and put to referendum on 25 April 2018.

The Faroe Islands - an archipelago of 50,000 people in the north Atlantic, situated between Iceland, Norway and Scotland - have been an autonomous nation within the Kingdom of Denmark since 1948.

They have their own parliament and government, but decisions on defence, police, justice, currency and foreign affairs are still made in Copenhagen.

They are not part of the same customs area as Denmark, which allows them to have their own trade policy and possibility to establish trade agreements with other countries.

The new constitution "will define our identity as a nation and our fundamental rights and duties as a people, including our right to self-determination", prime minister Johannesen said in a statement when announcing the referendum.

He added that the new constitution would include a clear statement saying that “the Faroese people must be consulted by referendum on questions related to further independence from, or further integration with, Denmark” as well as “in relation to membership in supranational organisations, such as the EU.”

Divergent views

Johannesen, a unionist Social-Democrat, leads a coalition government made up of both unionist and separatist parties from left and right.

He admitted that parties "have divergent views on certain aspects of the proposed constitution", which has been under discussion for several years.

Under independentist pressure, finalising the text was included in the government’s coalition agreement in 2015.

But unionist parties believe that the Faroe Islands can have a constitution without it being a preamble for independence from Denmark.

“We do believe in our current constitution - the constitution of the Danish Realm – and if people want a new ‘steering ship’ that is okay, but we do not find it necessary,” Bardur a Steig Nielsen, the leader of the opposition conservative Union party, told EUobserver.

He said his party "cannot accept the wording of the draft constitution as it is at the moment,” but that it was part of the negotiations because they "would rather be in than out".

'Not entirely happy'

The islands held an independence referendum in 1946 where a narrow majority of yes to secession won. But a split from Denmark was never carried out and the vote led to the current home government arrangement that entered into force in 1948.

Like Greenland, another Danish autonomous territory, the Faroes are not in the EU. But they have three separate bilateral agreements with the 28-member bloc: a fisheries agreement; a trade agreement; and a cooperation and research agreement that allow them to be an associated country in the EU Horizon 2020 science programme.

In parallel to the constitutional overhaul, the Faroes have been trying to "modernise" their relationship with the European Union.

“We’re not entirely happy with the trade agreement because we feel it is asymmetrical," Kate Sanderson, the head of the Faroese mission to the EU, told EUobserver.

"The EU pretty much has full access to the Faroese market, but we don’t have full access for all our products to the EU. So we would like to see a modernisation of [the trade agreement] based on the kind of resource base we have."

The warm waters of the Gulf Stream have helped the Islands with its main industry, fishing and aquaculture, which accounts for around 95 percent of its exports. Around 50 percent of the country’s total export goes to the European Union.

The Faroes would like to process more of their fish products before selling them to the EU market as it would create jobs on the isolated Atlantic islands, Sanderson said.

Strategic outlook

"We’re a provider of raw products to the EU, which provides the EU with opportunities to add value to that produce and to create jobs. There are restrictions on how much processed fish products we can sell without duty to the EU market," she pointed out.

The diplomat added that she would like the EU to look at the Faroes in a more strategic way.

"Regardless of our status, whether we are autonomous or fully independent, we desire to modernise our relationship with the EU and to create a discussion with the EU that is broader and more strategic in terms of the developments in the north Atlantic and the Arctic," she said.

The Faroe Islands is also keeping a close eye on the Brexit negotiations. The UK is its closest neighbour and currently the biggest country in the EU market regarding Faroese exports, receiving 21 percent of all Faroe exports to the EU.

Opinion

Faroese face illegal EU fishing sanctions

The battle over Atlantic fishing rights is to reach new levels this week, with EU expected to vote through economic sanctions against the Faroe Islands.

Faroe Islands seek closer EU relations

The Faroe Islands are seeking a stronger and more structured relationship with the European Union and membership of the European Free Trade Association - but full EU membership is not on the political agenda.

Opinion

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

Supported by

News in Brief

  1. EU adopts 'track-and-trace' tobacco system
  2. Luxembourg appeals Amazon tax decision
  3. EU leaders agree to open phase 2 of Brexit talks
  4. Juncker: May made 'big efforts' on Brexit
  5. Merkel took 'tough' line on Russia at EU summit
  6. EU leaders added line supporting 'two-state' solution
  7. EU leaders agree to 20 European Universities by 2024
  8. Belgian courts end legal proceedings against Puigdemont

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Catalonia, Brexit, and Uber on EU agenda This WEEK
  2. Macron and Merkel take tough line on Poland
  3. Eurozone future needs structural reforms, EU leaders told
  4. Showdown EU vote on asylum looking likely for next June
  5. EU stresses unity as it launches next phase of Brexit talks
  6. Polish PM ready for EU sanctions scrap
  7. Dutchman to lead powerful euro working group
  8. EU mulls post-Brexit balance of euro and non-eurozone states

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives