Shakeup at Greenland’s foreign ministry continues

By Kevin McGwin, The Arctic Journal - May 3, 2017

In the span of a week, Greenland’s foreign minister and the head of the foreign ministry have stepped down.

Yesterday, Kai Holst Andersen, the deputy foreign minister since 2013, resigned his position, a week to the day after his former boss, Vittus Qujaukitsoq left the cabinet rather than be removed as foreign minister.

Mr Andersen had worked closely with Mr Qujaukitsoq, and, before that, with Aleqa Hammond, the previous premier, both proponents of declaring independence sooner rather than later.

Lawmakers holding such a position have fallen out of favor with the premier, who takes a go-slow approach on the issue, preferring to address education and social issues first, while at the same time keeping on good terms with Copenhagen.

Such was not the approach Qujaukitsoq or Hammond took during their tenures: both challenged Copenhagen openly on a number of issues, including accusing Denmark of being complicit in the American pollution of sites it had used as military installations.

The brief announcement issued by the Self-Rule Authority on Monday stated only that the two parties had agreed that Andersen would resign, effective immediately, and that no further comments would be made.

So far, this has held, but Qujaukitsoq, speaking with, our sister website, bemoaned the development, describing it as a “loss” for Greenlandic diplomacy. Others, though, suggested Andersen’s departure was overdue, not least because he was at the center of negotiations that, in 2014, led to a US-controlled firm winning a tender to provide contracting services at Thule Air Base, a U.S. military installation.

The value of the contract, 70 million kroner ($10 million) in direct payments, and perhaps double that when indirect payments were tallied up, had for four decades, been viewed in Nuuk as just compensation for the Americans’ being permitted to use Greenlandic territory rent-free. Copenhagen and Nuuk have held agonising negotiations with Washington, but they have failed to change the result of the tender.

A 2016 review appeared to place the blame on Andersen’s shoulders, but his former boss reckoned it was the system that had failed.

His supporters would say it has done so again.