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Greenland - Politics

Few in Greenland oppose eventual independence from Denmark, leaving the debate over how quickly the process should proceed. Politically, the Greenland Home Rule Government has sought increasing autonomy since the acquisition of home rule in 1979. In May 2003, the Danish and Greenland Home Rule governments reached agreement on a set of power-sharing principles on Greenland's involvement in Danish foreign and security policy. The so-called Itilleq Declaration provides that Greenland will have foreign policy involvement with a view toward having equal status on questions of concern to both Denmark and Greenland.

Denmark's 600-year old rule over Greenland gave way to home rule on 01 May 1979. The fact that the installation of the new Landstyre (Greenland's cabinet) was attended by the Queen but not by the Prime Minister, who chose to remain in copenhagen for the traditional may day celebrations, provides a clue that from Denmark's point of view the event had more ceremonial than political significance.

For Denmark, Greenland's home rule may well have had its greatest significance already in ridding the danes of the moral liability implicit in the rule over an alien and distant people. Danes have never felt at ease with this relationship or been fully persuaded that their evangelicalism had in the final analysis been to the advantage of the natives. And if home rule has served the purpose of moral ablution, this was attained at small cost, for the essence of Denmark's relationship to Greenland has remained intact. Neither defense nor foreign relations have become in any degree less Denmark's prerogative, and the benefits of exploiting Greenland's oil and mineral resources are realistically seen as such a distant promise that the division of the potential spoils creates no sense of renunciation in Denmark.

For Greenlanders, little of substance has changed with home rule and certainly none of the elemental facts of their lives: their povery and isolation, the inadequacy of their fish quotas and of their housing, or the emotional confusion and conflicts caused by their introduction - thanks to the danish welfare state - to modern civilized life. "What do you expect of home rule?" Is a question that evokes no response whatever from ordinary people in Greenland. One has the impression that they are scarcely aware of the fact of home rule, that life in Greenland is too hard and its problems too immediate to think in terms of such sophisticated abstractions.

Greenland's dream of eventually achieving independence led the parliament, the Inatsisartut, in 2017 to establish a commission that is to write a proposed constitution for the country. A Danish-Greenlandic Commission, established in 2005 with the aim of preparing measures that would grant Greenland additional autonomy, issued its recommendations in early 2008 and set the conditions for a new legal framework, "Self Rule," between Greenland and Denmark. The Self Rule agreement was overwhelmingly approved by Greenlandic voters in a referendum in November 2008 and was passed by the Danish parliament; it entered into effect on the 30th anniversary of Greenlandic Home Rule in June 2009. The new Self Rule agreement allows for the transfer of additional authorities, such as justice and police affairs, to Greenland's government as it is able to assume financial responsibility for these new portfolios. The Self Rule agreement also provides formal international legal recognition to the Greenlanders as a people under international law, and provides a formula for division of potential oil and gas revenues between Denmark and Greenland.

Self rule is widely viewed in Greenland and Denmark as the penultimate step to Greenlandic independence, but the road to independence is far from smooth, straight, or short. In Greenland, political aspirations for sovereignty are weighed down by the economic reality of precarious finances and dramatically different levels of development, both compared to Denmark and within Greenland itself. The Self Rule Act implicitly recognizes this, in that it grants Greenland the ability to take on new authorities like the administration of justice and home affairs, but does not require Greenland to do so until Greenland is able to finance these new responsibilities. Greenland's economy is a struggling enterprise, still largely dependent on fishing and Denmark's generous annual block grant subsidy, which constitutes nearly half of the Greenlandic government's revenues.

Greenland has various formal connections with other parts of the world. Greenland is an independent member of the Nordic Council. Special cooperation with Iceland and the Faroe Islands is organised through the Nordic Atlantic Cooperation and the West Nordic Foundation. Greenland withdrew from the European Union in 1985, thereafter basing its relations with the EU on a special agreement. In 2006 Greenland and the EU agreed on a comprehensive partnership for the sustainable development of Greenland. The Partnership Agreement is a political declaration stating the parties' intentions to continue and expand their cooperation within various areas. As a result of regional cooperation regarding environmental issues (The Finnish Initiative), the eight countries in the Arctic, ie Russia, Canada, USA, Iceland, Denmark/Greenland, Sweden, Norway and Finland, founded the Arctic Council in 1996.

The Siumut party had dominated politics in Greenland since 1979. Kim Kielsen began his four-year term in a snap election on November 28, 2014 after a period of chaos in Greenlandic politics. The resignation of Aleqa Hammond as the country's leader came amid questions about her use of public funds for private expenses. Despite winning the same number of seats in the national assembly as the second largest party, Kielsen and Siumut earned 1 percent more of the popular vote and governed as part of a three-party coalition until 2016, when it broke up over internal disagreement. Since then, Kielsen headed a unity coalition that controls 25 of the 31 seats in the national assembly.

The new government put independence high on its agenda, in part by creating a ministry specifically to manage such issues, including the drafting of a constitution. But a go-slow approach held sway in Kielsen's leading Siumut party, after he survived a challenge to his leadership in the summer of 2017 by Vittus Qujaukitsoq, a former foreign minister, and a vocal proponent of a rapid break from Copenhagen.

Voters on the world’s largest island focused on the mundane when they headed to the polls on 24 April 2018. General elections must be held on or before 27 November 2018, after either the dissolution or expiry of the current Parliament. According to the Danish Constitution, the election will have to be held no later than 26 November 2018, as the last election was held on 27 November 2014. The Prime Minister is able to call the election at any date, provided that date is no later than four years from the previous election. All 31 members of Parliament will be elected.

Candidates for Greenland's general election were urged to campaign on issues that can bind the country together, rather than continuing a divisive debate about independence. "Independence is also a matter of identity and liberty. Think what we could achieve by being more inclusive, instead of digging divides. Think of what we could achieve by praising each other, rather than by pointing fingers," said Kim Kielsen, the premier, during his 2018 New Year's address.

A plunge in commodity prices cut iron ore and uranium extraction investments to less than $80 million in 2016, down from more than $850 million five years earlier. Greenland’s 40,000 eligible voters had to postpone dream of greater autonomy, and focus on more immediate issues such as the shortage of social housing and a high school drop-out rate. The campaign also focused on the $600 million needed to build an international airport and improve existing facilities in a bid to replicate the tourism successes of Iceland.

Voters facee the familiar choice between the social democratic Siumut and the socialist Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA). The outgoing prime minister, Siumut’s Kim Kielsen, faced competition from IA’s popular leader, Sara Olsvig, with a pre-election poll showing the two parties running neck-and-neck.

Prime Minister Kim Kielsen's ruling center-left Siumut party won the most votes in an election on April 24th The Siumut party claimed a narrow victory with 27.2 percent of the votes in the election ahead of its main rival the left-green Inuit Ataqatigiit party which won 25.5 percent. Both the two main parties favour independence.

More radical pro-independence parties did well. One such party, Naleraq, wants to see Greenland become independent. A centrist political party that championed the mining industry and has a more moderate take on independence made gains in the Greenlandic general election this week. Demokraatit,which won 19.5 percent of the vote, doubled its voter share and increased its representation in the Greenlandic parliament at the expense of the two largest parties in the previous governing coalition. Among the seven parties participating in the elections, the newly created “Party cooperation”, which received 4,1% of the votes, is the only party against independence.

Greenland’s 06 April 2021 snap election on the 56,000-strong island could be a deciding factor in determining the fate of the rare earth metal deposits which are vital to Greenland’s economic future. Kvanefjeld in southern Greenland is home to one of the world's largest undeveloped deposits of rare earth elements outside of China. Greenland Minerals Limited (GML), the Australian company developing the mine, said that the country would receive $240 million (€201 million) in taxes and royalties annually over the mine's planned 37-year lifespan. GML's biggest stakeholder is Shenghe Resources Holding, a Chinese rare earths processing company.

For an economy largely dependent on fishing, tourism and a $600 million annual subsidy from Denmark, resource exploitation is seen as a way to boost government coffers and provide a path to independence. Polls indicate support for secession from Denmark. One carried out in 2018 by researchers from the University of Copenhagen found around 67% of respondents supported an independent Greenland at some point in the future. Some 88% of the island's population is Inuit or Danish-Inuit.

The pro-mine Siumut party, which has had an almost uninterrupted hold on power since 1979 when the country gained home rule from Denmark. For just the second time in its 40-year history as a self-governing country, Greenland would be led by a party other than Siumut. After the quitting of a junior coalition partner over the mining project at Kuannersuit, or Kvanefjeld, Greenland’s parliament called an election which opinion polls projected the Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party to win.

IA's victory cast doubt over the future of the controversial Kvanefjeld mining complex, which lies towards the southern tip of the Arctic island. IA opposed the major rare earth mining project on the basis of the presence of radioactive materials. Although the party was not completely against mining, they campaigned against the project to dig up rare earth metals from what is one of the world's largest deposits.

Election results announced 07 April 2021 declared Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) the winner of Tuesday’s general election with 37 percent of the vote. IA and its leader, Muté B. Egede, must seek to form a coalition that will give it a majority of the 31-seat Inatsisartut, the country’s national assembly. The IA party wants to achieve independence over time by allowing Greenland to grow economically and by improving livelihoods with a "respect for the environment". The country now largely relies on food imports.

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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 14:01:13 ZULU