Voters in the three countries making up Kingdom of Denmark would be excused for thinking that a proposal put forth this week by Det Konservative Folkeparti, a Danish political party, calling for the establishment of a Commonwealth Ministry is something they have seen before.
From 1960, and until 1987, Denmark had a Greenland Ministry to administer what during the period was first a Danish county and, after 1979, a semi-autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Today, Greenland is responsible for much of the former ministry’s remit, and sets its own course in areas like education. The powers that have not been devolved to Nuuk — such as law-enforcement — remain under the management of Copenhagen, but Greenland has the right to assume responsibility for them (barring defence and foreign affairs) whenever it feels ready to do so. The Faroe Islands have a similar arrangement.
Few in Danish politics want to change any of that, and, as such, the Konservative proposal is not looking to return to the past. But, Danish governments, the party argues, have been content to let the three countries each go their separate ways. As long as the three countries remain together, it believes Copenhagen should be paying more attention to commonwealth issues.
Rasmus Jarlov, a party spokesperson, told KNR, a Greenlandic broadcaster, that, rather than taking responsibility away from Greenland and the Faroe Islands, the aim would to place responsibility for commonwealth issues in one ministry, headed by someone from either Greenland or the Faroe Islands. As the proposal states: “The commonwealth is too important not to have its own ministry — but it is important that a ministry be viewed as something that works on all of our behalves, not just Denmark’s.”
Konservative would also set up six offices in Greenland and the Faroe Islands to provide residents with information about education and commercial opportunities elsewhere in the commonwealth. In politics, it would give Greenlandic and Faroese members of the Danish national assembly more of a say in foreign policy. The state-funded public broadcaster would be told to carry more Greenlandic and Faroese-themed programming.
Konservative’s proposal is nothing new. The Danish prime minister holds regular consultations with the premiers of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, and indeed, last year, this was expanded in scope and in the number of cabinet members from all three countries taking part. Prior to the 2019 general election in Denmark, the idea of an Arctic minister was put forward by Danish and Greenlandic parties. None of those parties wound up in position to decide the makeup of the cabinet, but, with Konservative looking strong in the polls ahead of a general election that must be called within the next 11 months, change — even if it is to something familiar — may be in the air.
Kevin McGwin, PolarJournal
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