Greenland and Iceland seek closer cooperation | Polarjournal
Economically, the two islands are further apart than geographically. Nevertheless, they are both closely intertwined and a free trade agreement would benefit both Arctic nations. Image: Michael Wenger via Google Earth

As Arctic nations, Iceland and Greenland have both become very much the focus of a world whose interest is focused on the Arctic for a variety of reasons. Traditionally, the relations between the two islands are very good and stable. However, in view of the increased international interest as well as common threats from climate change, political situations due to their own position, closer cooperation would be appropriate. Last week, Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdottír visited the Greenlandic head of government Muté B. Egede.

After 24 years, it was once again time to pay a visit to the larger neighbor in terms of area and to reaffirm the traditionally good relations between Iceland and Greenland. During a total of three days Prime Minister Jakobsdottír stayed in Nuuk and discussed various aspects of Iceland-Greenland relations with her head of government Egede. At the concluding press conference, both sides made it clear that the visit was only the starting signal for a new and closer cooperation between Iceland and Greenland and that they had to discuss further concrete plans. It was stated that they want to cooperate mainly in the areas of economy, tourism, environment, energy and gender issues and are now working out the details. Prime Minister Jakobsdottír also visited the University of Greenland Ilisimatusarfik, where she met with Naaja Nathanielsen, Minister of Justice, Natural Resources and Gender Equality, and discussed the topic of gender equality. Iceland’s Prime Minister Jakobsdottír also invited Muté B. Egede to Iceland.

On the economic side, a free trade agreement is a priority for both Greenland, which is larger in terms of natural resources, and Iceland, which is economically stronger. This is because Iceland is a hugely important trading partner for Greenland, resulting in trade growth of around 67 percent over the past five years. Especially in the fisheries sector, which is the most important industry in Greenland and also an important share of GDP in Iceland, the figures have been increasing for years. And since Greenland wants to broaden its trade relations internationally, a free trade agreement would be a win-win situation for both sides. But the two countries also want to cooperate more closely in the field of tourism. As a hub for flights, Iceland is now an important stopover for tourists to Greenland. But they want to learn even more from each other, especially in the areas of “sustainability” and “environmental compatibility”, to avoid the mistakes of the past and to ensure that the local population can derive maximum benefit from the lucrative nature and cultural tourism.

The University of Greenland in Nuuk is the only such educational institution on the island. Around 750 students are enrolled here, with courses of study that are especially important for Greenland, such as health, economics, culture, language and history. Image: Sowwiki – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

In addition to talks on business and tourism, Iceland and Greenland also want to cooperate more in the areas of research and education. This makes a lot of sense, especially in terms of closer cooperation in the tourism sector, since both countries are very dependent on nature and the corresponding nature tourism, and at the same time are much more affected by climate change than many other nations. The aim is also to explore the possibilities of a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy supply for the Greenlandic population, something in which Iceland already has a great deal of experience. The two countries also want to cooperate even more closely in the area of gender equality. Because Iceland is one of the countries with the highest equality rate between men and women on the international average, from which Greenland can definitely benefit even more, the corresponding Minister Nathanielsen is convinced. This will probably allow Greenland to shape its future even better, all thanks to its geographically smaller neighbor.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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