Greenland enjoys a large degree of self-regulation within the Danish Realm through the “Self-Government Act”, which has been in force since 2009. At the same time, calls for full independence have also been voiced within Greenlandic politics for some time. But the issue is sensitive and how a sovereign Greenland is to be achieved is a matter of disagreement between the various parties. Fact is, however, that since the last government under Kim Kielsen, Greenland’s self-confidence has risen sharply, which has in part also led to increased nationalist tones. Now, statements by Foreign Minister Pele Broberg have led to his removal and a major shake-up in the Greenlandic government.
In a rapid succession of communiqués and statements since the beginning of last week, it was first announced that Premier Muté Bourup Egede had decided to strip Pele Broberg, a member of the Naleraq party, of the foreign policy portfolio and leave him only in the Ministry of Business and Trade. Afterwards, it was announced that Egede, who is the leader of the ruling party Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA), would take over the foreign and climate ministries himself. At the same time, in order to accommodate the Naleraq party and not endanger the governing coalition, Broberg’s successor in the Greenlandic parliament Inatsisartut, Paneeraq Olsen, was appointed Minister for Children, Youth and Family in another statement. This post had become vacant anyway due to the resignation of the previous minister.
Broberg’s expulsion from the Foreign Affairs Ministry was announced after an interview Broberg gave to the Danish newspaper Berlingske in mid-September. In it he had stated that there should be a discussion on whether only Greenlanders of Inuit descent should be allowed to vote in any referendum on Greenland’s independence. He also declared that Greenland and the Faroe Islands were not equal partners in the Danish Realm, but were dominated by Denmark. These statements led to strong criticism from the other government parties and a clear statement from Premier Egede, who stated, among other things, that only in cooperation with the Danish government under the 2009 Self-Government Act could there be talk of an independent Greenland and that this was the responsibility of the head of government. Already in an internal party meeting of the IA, various party members had complained about Broberg’s work as foreign minister, as the newspaper Sermitsiaq writes. With his statements to Berlingske, Broberg had thus finally sidelined himself as a reliable partner in matters of foreign policy. Premier Egede had little choice but to remove the polarizing politician from office and take it over himself.
For Premier Minister Egede, who has only led the government in Greenland since April 2021, the affair involving his former foreign minister is a first important test in the governing coalition. Besides, it comes at an inopportune time. His IA party is also in favour of Greenland’s independence, but is not aiming for confrontation, but for dialogue with the Danish government. After all, a lot of money from the Danish coffers is at stake, more precisely around US$ 740 million per year. And Denmark has already reacted to a motion in parliament by Greenlandic MP Aaja Chemnitz Larsen. In it Larsen, who like Premier Egede is a member of the IA, wanted to know whether Denmark would continue to support Greenland financially even after independence. The Danish Foreign Minister replied that Greenland no longer had any legal basis for any help. This means that Denmark is not committed to continuing to support or automatically cooperate with an independent Greenland.
The affair surrounding Broberg’s statements has also brought attention to another aspect in Greenland and in Denmark. Because some circles see Broberg’s statements as a tendency toward xenophobia and division. Broberg had explained to Berlingske that residents of Greenland with a foreign background should not be allowed to vote on such a sensitive issue as Greenland’s independence, as it had no significance for them. But with his statement the Naleraq politician strikes a similar tone as already in Norway the former government of Erna Stollberg had expressed when it came to voting in Svalbard. There is a bill on the table that would allow only residents of Svalbard with a Norwegian background and a connection to the mainland the right to vote. The issue of who should have a say in the future of the Arctic thus takes on new dimensions.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
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