Greenland PM laments tensions with Copenhagen over new minister
A newly appointed Arctic ambassador stands out for his lack of connection to the region.
Greenland’s local government leader on Thursday lamented tensions with Copheghan over the appointment of a new ambassador to the self-governing territory.
“The Danish government is not well placed at the moment,” Greenlandic Prime Minister Mute Egede told Danish daily Politiken.
At stake is Copenhagen’s appointment of a new Arctic ambassador, Tobias Elling Rehfeld, with no ties to the region. He is a specialist in international law and the current Danish ambassador to South Africa.
The Arctic Ambassador is responsible for representing Greenland and the Faroe Islands in Denmark’s overall Arctic foreign policy, with particular emphasis on environmental issues and issues affecting indigenous peoples – an area in which tensions with the Danish government date back centuries.
Greenland, a huge territory of almost 2.2 million square kilometres, is home to some 55,000 people and is about 2,500 km from Denmark. It has its own flag, language, culture, institutions and Prime Minister, and has been autonomous since 1979.
His appointment goes against an agreement that no Danish decision regarding Greenland and the Faroe Islands can be taken without their agreement, according to Egede.
“The procedure shows what the Foreign Office thinks of us and how it does not include us, even though we are the arctic country of the kingdom,” he said. “The picture speaks for itself.”
Danish Foreign Minister, former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, insisted the appointment followed proper procedure.
“For now, [Greenlandic] foreign policy is the responsibility of the Kingdom of Denmark,” he said, adding that Copenhagen “is trying in many areas to help Greenland play a bigger role in terms of foreign policy.”
Another point of tension between the two is a recent incident in which one of Greenland’s representatives in the Copenhagen parliament, Aki-Matilda Høegh-Dam, addressed the chamber in Greenlandic and was asked to repeat her speech in Danish.
She refused to comply with this request.
“It’s a relic from colonial times that we still only speak Danish in the room,” Høegh-Dam remarked. “If Denmark were actually a Commonwealth, we would also be able to accommodate each other’s languages.”
At the end of April, his government presented a new draft constitution which could be used in the event of independence from Denmark.