Monday

21st May 2018

Focus

Greenland votes with eye on independence

  • The Artic island is not only the world's largest, it is also one of the world's smallest democracies with only 56,000 inhabitants. (Photo: David Stanley)

Greenland has had home rule since 1979, and self-rule since 2009, and all political parties but one have campaigned for full independence from Denmark ahead of Tuesday's (24 April) parliamentary elections.

But the parties do not agree how fast the independence process should roll. Some want it to happen as early as 2021, 300 years after Danish-Norwegian missionary Hans Egede embarked on a first colonial mission to Greenland.

  • Incumbent social democrat prime minister, Kim Kielsen, has made better education of Greenland youth a top priority before the country is able to become fully independent from Denmark (Photo: Johannes Jansson/norden.org)

Others are more reluctant, wanting Greenland economy to be stronger before ties to Copenhagen are finally cut.

The Artic island is not only the world's largest, it is also one of the worlds smallest democracies with only 56,000 inhabitants.

The parliament is based in capital Nuuk and has only 31 seats. But despite its miniature size, the far-north elections are followed with much attention from around the world, because of Greenland's geopolitical position and it's rich resources.

Investors are watching Greenland's election for signs of the political will to get oil and mining programmes back on track.

Greenland took over control of its natural resources from Copenhagen in 2009, but due to an extremely harsh climate and environmental concerns, the much-hoped arrival of Chinese investors, big oil companies or British, Canadian and Australian miners has failed to boost the economy.

It has forced Greenland to postpone their dream of independence and focus instead on more pressing daily issues such as shortage of social housing and a high school drop-out rate. Still, the country is depending on Denmark contributing up to half of its state budget needs.

The real issue is not only independence from Denmark - but also the risk of increasing dependence on China.

Greenland's state-owned Kalaallit Airports last month shortlisted the Chinese construction company, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), to help expand three airports despite concerns in the Danish government that Chinese involvement could upset its ally, the United States.

Greenland is strategically important for the US military as the shortest route from North America to Europe goes via the Arctic island.

Fishing and tourism

Fisheries remain the most important source of income for Greenlanders, with a deal struck with Brussels allowing EU fleets to keep fishing in its waters until 2020. But growing appetite among Asian consumers could make a good business for Greenland itself to catch the fish, process and export it.

Also tourism is a potential new source of revenue, with Nuuk watching how Icelandic tourism has boomed. The neighbouring island went bankrupt during the financial crisis but has managed to pull it self out of the economic disaster by, among other resources, exploiting a trend in tourism for great nature experiences.

Polls ahead of the elections show that the ruling social democrat Siumut and the left-leaning IA both stand to lose support, but they would still be able to govern in coalition. The two parties have traditionally been careful to protect Greenland's Arctic sensitive environment from industrial exploitation, oil and mining.

Incumbent social democrat prime minister Kim Kielsen has made better education of Greenland youth a top-priority before the country is able to become fully independent from Denmark.

He wants English taught as the second language in school, arguing that it will be more useful for the new generations than learning Danish.

Kielsen, a former policeman, became prime minister when Aleqa Hammond was forced to resign after a scandal involving spending of public money on hotels and flights.

He might however lose the post to Sara Olsvig, who leads the left-leaning Inuit Ataqatigiit party (IA). Her party will come first with 31 percent of the vote, according to a HS poll published on 20 April by Greenlandic Broadcasting Corporation, (KNR). Siumut will be backed by 27.4 percent according to the same survey in which 723 voters participated during the days 11-15 April.

The third largest party, the Democrats, stand to get 18.8 percent support. It is a pro-mining party and agree on this with the new Nunatta Qitornai party lead by Vittus Qujaukitsoq, a former social democrat foreign minister.

While Greenland is responsible for airports, the Danish state still holds responsibility for foreign and security policy.

Danish foreign minister Anders Samuelsen has been reluctant to comment on the airport projects out of respect for the ongoing election campaign in Greenland. But the vice-president of the Danish government-supporting party, the Danish People's Party, Soeren Espersen, has openly argued for a slow down on the Chinese company, CCCC, offers to build airports in Greenland.

"Get it stopped now, rather than the humiliation that Americans demand that it be stopped," he told Finans, a Danish newswire service.

Supported by

News in Brief

  1. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  2. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  3. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  4. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row
  5. EU takes six countries to court over air pollution
  6. New Catalan leader sworn in without reference to Spain
  7. Merkel and Putin revive dialogue in troubled times
  8. European companies putting Iran business on hold

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  2. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  3. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  4. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  5. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  6. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline
  7. Italian populists to defy EU debt rules
  8. Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight