Thursday May 25, 2017

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Denmark’s Arctic policy

No-so-great Danes

Arctic issues ought to play a much larger role in Denmark’s foreign policy, argue Copenhagen lawmakers
How Copenhagen views the Arctic (Image: DR2)

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Almost exactly a year ago, Peter Taksøe-Jensen, an influential Danish diplomat, put forward a list of proposals for how the Kingdom of Denmark (which includes Greenland and the Faroe Islands) could live up to its potential as an “Arctic great power”.

In some respects, Copenhagen can be said to have taken his message to heart: progress has been made in areas like promoting satellite technology and the creation of a research hub in Nuuk.

In other areas, not enough is being done to live up to Mr Taksøe-Jensen’s recommendations, according to an increasing number of legislators involved with foreign-policy issues.

SEE RELATED: The indispensable island

The most recent, Martin Lidegaard (pictured, above left), a former foreign minister, suggested in a TV appearance on Tuesday that Denmark was not making the most of its status as an Arctic country.

“Denmark could be more active,” he said. “We could use what we have together [with Greenland] better. And if we did that, it would be a huge asset for Greenland and for Denmark.”

Mr Lidegaard, whose party currently sits in opposition, suggested that, should he make a return to the foreign ministry, he would take steps to place more focus on the region, including making the Arctic a core foreign-policy issue and doubling the size of the staff working with such matters.

SEE RELATED: Ever looser union

One hindrance to a more active policy, he admits, is the relationship between Denmark and Greenland. A lack of co-ordination between Nuuk and Copenhagen, as well as outright suspicion of Danish motives, is something Mr Lidegaard said he had tried to overcome during his time in the cabinet by doing things like inviting Greenlandic cabinet members to relevant meetings with foreign leaders.

A recent report published by Danish academics about the role of Greenland in Denmark’s relations with the US also points out that Copenhagen often finds itself reluctant to take initiative to promote Danish interests in the region out of fear of appearing to be making decisions on behalf of Greenland.

Mr Lidegaard admited such considerations are made. Allowing them to prevent Copenhagen from placing more emphasis on the region will result in both countries missing out on investment and influence, he reckons. And, likely, the chance to make Denmark great again.