The spring session of Greenland’s legislature will be long. Mercifully, it may also be uneventful

With major issues behind them, or on hold, lawmakers will be taking up more mundane issues.

By Kevin McGwin - March 25, 2019
Greenlandic lawmakers meet last year during the autumn session of Inatsisartut (Inuit Ataqatigiit)

In the coming week, the spring session of Inatsisartut, Greenland’s national assembly, gets down to its first full week of business after holding its ceremonial opening on Friday.

Recent sessions have stood out for their drama over major issues, including the culmination, this past autumn, of a years’ long discussion of construction of new airports. The previous session, in the spring of 2018, was interrupted by a snap election.

It will come as a relief to legislators and voters alike, then, that much of the pre-opening discussions in the media have concerned themselves, first and foremost, with the length of the session. Running from March 22 until June 5, it will be the longest session in the assembly’s history. During that time, the assembly will vote on a total of 104 bills, the most ever.

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Few are expected to overly divisive. A reform of fisheries legislation, one potential source of conflict for the current session, was diffused earlier this year after the fisheries minister set up a commission to study a wholesale reform of the laws governing the country’s most important industry and give it as much time as it needs to sort things out, effectively putting on the back burner indefinitely.

Some pundits have suggested the calm stems from a gathering political storm in Denmark, which must hold an election to the Folketing, its national assembly, before June 17. Officially, the work of Inatsisartut will not slow down during the campaign, but Greenland has two legislators in the Folketing, and the seats will be hotly contested. For the handful of Inatsisartut legislators have already thrown their hat on the ring, a docket devoid of major issues will make it easier to moonlight as candidates.

KNR, one of two main news outlets, suggests that amongst the three bills making their way through the legislature three are worth keeping an eye on: a reform of disability legislation, changes to a controversial alcohol marketing law and the introduction of new regulations aimed at improving transparency.

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Similarly, Vivian Motzfeldt, the speaker, reckons that soft issues will dominate the spring session. In an interview with the Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq, she highlighted animal welfare and mental health as the two most important topics.

Beyond that, the biggest topic of discussion maybe an innovation in the form of an all-party debate, held towards the end of the session. The hottest topic of discussion may the discussion itself.