Greenland Premier Talks on Development and Ownership

Greenland Premier Kim Kielsen spoke at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland on October 10. His speech is reproduced in part here:

Kim Kielsen
Kim Kielsen

Published Oct 12, 2019 6:40 PM by Kim Kielsen

Greenland is the world’s largest island, and we are geographically located in the Arctic region. The Arctic and Greenland are two entities which are inherently inseparable. The Greenlandic people live on the island. The Arctic is our home.

The total area of Greenland is 2,166,086 square kilometers (836,330 square miles). In comparison Iceland is 102,775 square kilometers (39,768,5 square miles), which means that Greenland is 22 times larger than Iceland and 52 times larger than Denmark. The area of the Faroe Islands is 1.393 square kilometers (537,8 square miles), which means it could easily fit into one of our larger fiords. I regret to say that Canada with its 9,984,670 kilometers (3,855,000 square miles) is five times larger than Greenland.  

Greenland shares a unity of the Realm with Denmark and the Faroe Islands. 92 percent of the size of the Realm amounts to the size of our country Greenland, which is located in the Arctic. Greenland has self-rule within the Realm and is in charge of its own development. The cooperation and respect which exists within the Realm is an indicator of the mutual understanding and support of the fact that we are aiming toward becoming increasingly independent.    

We administer our own affairs, and we are responsible for our own development. I want to make it clear that in the cooperation among the Arctic nations, our country is a reliable, equal and responsible partner.

We have always been of the conviction that our country should play a natural and central role on topics that concerns the Arctic, and when the Arctic is on the agenda, it has already been established that Greenland is an essential element of the decision-making process, and we will always participate to carry on with this responsibility.

Whenever the Arctic is discussed within the Realm, Greenland always plays a central role. Thus we are of the conviction that it should be natural for Greenland to occupy a permanent seat in the Danish delegation to the Arctic Council.

Our country is centrally located between two of the world’s superpowers, and this is a fact which we can’t ignore. 

The significant attention Greenland has received from other countries in recent years is also something which hasn’t gone unnoticed by us. The media frenzy which arose this summer following the offer to buy our country certainly also caught our attention.

The offer to buy our country is a concept which is alien to us, and does not go in line with our culture. Our people have been able to roam freely in our country without limitations. We do not have a tradition in purchasing land, instead it is possible for the inhabitants to lease land in which houses can be built, since land is common property.

Having clarified this, I can add that we stood as one nation in response to this announcement by saying: “Our country is not for sale, but we are open for business.”

Greenland should be easily accessible. We find it important to cooperate and trade with other countries. Therefore we are working on improving access to our nation by sea and by air through several major projects, in order for us to advance the possibilities for business and trade with other nations.      

A new large airport is on the verge of being constructed in Ilulissat, Northern Greenland, our largest tourism destination, as well as in Nuuk, the capitol of Greenland and in Qaqortoq, Southern Greenland.  

In order to ease access by sea, we also have constructed a major container port in our capitol Nuuk. With this port, our products can be shipped directly and much faster to the countries we trade with.

A reform in the transport infrastructure is crucial to development and trade.

Significant development within our infrastructure has already taken place. Only a century ago, mail was delivered by using the kayak, depending on the weather conditions. In those days, only the most skilled kayakers were able to deliver mail.

At present underwater fiber-optic cables, by way of transformers and satellites, has revolutionized mail delivery at amazing speeds. 92 percent of all populated areas in our country have access to 4G networks. Development has been fast indeed.

Today no-one can do without these modes of communication, be it in the health sector, the schools, work places and in the many homes.

Our most important industry, the fisheries, has likewise undergone significant development. Over the last two years, seven new huge trawlers have entered our fleet, inshore fishermen using dinghies and smaller fishing vessels are also actively taking part in the development. Likewise Pinngortitaleriffik, the Greenland Institute for Natural Resources, is acquiring a research vessel in order to monitor our living resources. Indeed things are happening in Greenland.

Our country has undergone rapid development within the span of a few decades. This has had an impact on us as well.

We experience social challenges; all is not always positive. There is also a downside, but we are keenly aware of this situation, and we are taking action to counter this situation.       

Over the recent years we have achieved important steps through participation at international fora. One of these important steps is the Ilulissat Declaration which aims to promote a peaceful Arctic, and the Declaration was reaffirmed by the nations involved during its 10 year anniversary last year.

The Ilulissat Declaration is a good foundation for the future, and binds political stakeholders to promote development in the Arctic through the establishment of international rules and negotiations.

The overarching reason for the focus from the international community on the Arctic and Greenland is climate change.

The effects of climate change have a direct impact on our everyday lives, to our way of life and to our culture.

Our environment is visibly changing. Sea ice is no longer a guarantee during winter time, the migration patterns of wildlife and fish, to which we depend, are changing, and it is increasingly difficult to predict the weather.

Whenever we open fish and game that we catch from the sea, it becomes more frequent that we find plastic in their stomachs. What is worse however, is the fact that the animals now also contain micro-plastics which are invisible to the naked eye. As an example, research has been conducted on the Northern fulmar, and there is evidence of a drastic accumulation of micro-plastics in these birds over the span of only a few years.

I would like to stress that it is the responsibility of all of us to take care of the environment, where-ever we may live, whether we are citizens or working in the government sector. We must keep in mind that we have borrowed this planet from our descendants, and needless to say, they have been very vocal about this fact over the recent months.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.