Greenlandic party calls for Danish ‘Arctic minister’

IA wants the self-styled “Arctic great power” to place a Greenlander in charge of Danish policy toward the region.

With Danish politics increasingly polarized, Greenland’s elected representatives in Copenhagen are finding themselves with a decisive vote in the Folketing (pictured) (Christoffer Regild/Folketinget)

Eying a potential role as kingmaker after Denmark’s general election on June 5, Greenland’s second-largest party, IA, will seek to leverage its influence to install a Greenlandic lawmaker in the cabinet as Arctic minister.

IA currently holds one of two seats reserved for Greenland in the 179-member Folketing. The party leans well to the left, but should it hold on to the seat, it may find itself invited to join a right-of-center coalition.

The Folketing race involves 13 Danish parties, and with neither the left nor the right appearing to hold a decisive lead, the two Greenlandic seats, as well as the two seats reserved for the Faroe Islands, may be necessary for one side to secure a majority.

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Greenland has a considerable degree of autonomy, but foreign policy, including Arctic policy, remains under Copenhagen’s control. Nuuk is consulted on decisions related to the region, but a Greenlandic Arctic minister would, according to IA, place an “Arctic expert” in charge of regional issues.

“If Denmark is going to call itself an Arctic great power, it should also have an Arctic minister, and that minister should come from the Arctic,” Aqqalukkuluk Fontain, one of the party’s four candidates, said in a statement.

A similar proposal to create a junior minister for North Atlantic affairs was introduced last year by a Danish lawmaker, but was roundly criticized as a step backward for Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which are both seeking to cut as many ties as possible to Copenhagen.

However, Aaja Chemnitz Larsen, IA’s current representative in the Folketing, considered a cabinet seat as Arctic minister to be fair compensation, should its support be necessary.

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Typically, Greenlandic and Faroese parties agree to abstain from votes in the Folketing that relate only to Denmark. But as politics in the Folketing have become more polarized, the value of their vote is becoming increasingly apparent.

In 2016, for example, the current administration, holding just a single seat majority, struck a deal that made Aleqa Hammond, who currently holds Greenland’s other seat, chair of the assembly’s Greenland Committee, in exchange for her pledge not to cast a deciding vote against legislation introduced by the administration.

A majority lawmaker later described the deal as “buying a Greenlander” to secure the administration’s survival, but Hammond stood by her decision to accept the offer.

“My most important job in the Folketing is always to look out for Greenland’s interest,” she said at the time.