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A more voluntary union

Greenland to remain close to Denmark

Independence remains on Greenlanders’ minds. But a new book suggests they may not be thinking what outsiders think they are
A relationship that is unlikely to go to entirely the dogs (Photo: Lieff Josefsen)

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Greenland, it is generally accepted, is on a course towards independence. But, even if the country, a self-governing member of the Kingdom of Denmark, does someday gain full control over its affairs, it is likely to remain close to Copenhagen, argues a book released this week.

“The new global spotlight on the Arctic has broadcasted Greenland’s desire for greater independence to the whole world, but important details got lost in translation,” says Martin Breum, a Danish journalist specialising in Arctic issues.

In The Greenland Dilemma, the first book in English about Greenland’s relationship with Denmark, Mr Breum explains that the Greenlandic vision of independence is characerised by two things: firstly, the timeline remains undefined, and, secondly, cutting ties with Denmark entirely is not on the cards.

DOWNLOAD an excerpt of The Greenland Dilemma

Based on interviews with Greenlanders, as well as leading lawmakers from Nuuk and Copenhagen, the book further explains the Greenlandic version of independence as one that involves a voluntary union with Denmark.

“But the questions of how, when, at what costs and to what degree they will eventually wish to replace the current constitutional arrangement are still very much unanswered,” Mr Breum says.

Aleqa Hammond, who stepped down as premier in October, is seen as the most ardent proponent of independence to date. Yet, in the book, she makes the case for continuing the special relationship between Denmark and Greenland.

“Our common history is very important,” Ms Hammond said in an interview for the book conducted before she resigned in October. “We have been partners for 300 years. We have built up a successful relationship and that is not something Greenland will ever develop with any other country. Denmark will still be our closest foreign relation after we become independent. Greenland wants a new political arrangement, but I am certain that we will continue to work together on all sorts of issues, for many years to come. Anything else would be strange.”

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Kim Kielsen, Greenland’s present premier and who was also interviewed for the book, recently reiterated his country’s goal of becoming independent, though at a somewhat slower pace than Ms Hammond’s now infamous “in my lifetime” timeframe.

That has angered some, but Mr Kielsen explained that Greenland’s economic woes needed to be sorted first. Redefining relations with Copenhagen, he said, was a task for the next generation.

Kuupik Kleist, who served as premier before Hammond, suggests in the book that future relations need to be built on past successes.

“Isn’t it time, after 300 years as partners, most of it perfectly amicable, that we now openly declare our love and mutual respect for each other? We are still not totally comfortable with each other, and at times we find ourselves stepping on each other’s toes, while we, therefore, neglect to make important decisions that will be of mutual benefit for all parties to the Kingdom of Denmark.”

SEE RELATED: Nuuk: minerals not a silver bullet

While Greenland’s political landscape has chanced since the Danish version it is based on was released last year, its underlying arguments remain relevant, Mr Breum argues.

“Greenland is looking hard for investments from abroad and increased international co-operation on many fronts. It is important that we don’t let misinterpretations of their desire to someday become fully independent and enter into a more voluntary binding arrangement with Denmark disrupt this search for new partners. Hopefully the book can assist in clarifying some of the complexity to readers who do not speak Danish or Greenlandic.”