Due to Greenland Danish parliament changes its speech policy | Polarjournal
In the future, speeches will echo through the Parliament Hall Denmark not only in Danish, but also in Greenlandic and Faroese. Image: Heye, Wikicommons CC BY-SA 3.0

Greenland goes its own way, not only at home due to its extensive autonomy rights. Meanwhile, the country has also become increasingly self-confident nationally (and internationally) and increasingly sees itself on a par with the Danish homeland. And although represented in the Danish parliament by only two MPs, Greenland has now managed to make a historic change there as well.

In the Folketing, the Danish parliament, speeches will no longer be made only in Danish. Instead, the two deputies each from Greenland and the Faroe Islands can now give their speeches first in their native language and then again in Danish. This was decided by the Presidium of the Danish Parliament after months of discussion. Annual reports and the opening speeches of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (and all her successors) will also be available in all three languages in the future.

The significance of the decision can certainly be described as historic. For since 1849, when the first session was held, Danish had been the official language in the halls of Christiansborg Castle and all 179 deputies, of whom 175 were from Denmark and 2 each from Greenland and the Faroe Islands, had to abide by it.

All deputies? Not quite, because on May 12 this year, Greenlandic MP Aki-Matilda Høegh-Dam stood at the Folketing’s rendering desk and delivered her speech in Greenlandic, including to Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who had been present. Additionally, the 27-year-old Greenlandic politician also answered the questions of her Danish colleagues in Greenlandic. “As Greenlanders, we have watched submissively for many years as the Danes decided and drafted laws for us from the Folketing and in their language, which Greenlanders cannot understand,” she explained her motives in an interview.

Her intention was clear: a country that sees itself as a federation of three equal partners, each speaking its own language, should also display this linguistic diversity in parliament. Otherwise, there would be no equality between the partner countries. But with her demand, Høegh-Dam stirred up a hornet’s nest. Especially from the side of conservative forces, she earned a lot of criticism for her statements and her demand. There was talk of undermining Danish democracy and disrespecting parliament.

Denmark is actually clearly committed to equal rights for Greenland and the Faroe Islands (in the picture the three heads of government Mette Frederiksen, Múte B. Egede, Aksel Johannesen). Nevertheless, Greenland in particular still feels strongly patronized and the voices for complete independence keep getting louder. Image: Government of Greenland

Fortunately, the majority of the Folketing did not share this view. But it was not clear how the requirement could be implemented at all for all MPs to understand what was being said in as timely a manner as possible. “The majority of the Presidium wants to accommodate the members elected in Greenland and the Faroe Islands by finding a solution to the language issue that can work in practice,” said Søren Gade, the parliament’s spokesman. After months of discussions and deliberations, a solution was found: The Greenlandic and Faroese MPs will be given double speaking time to make their speeches first in their native languages and then in Danish. In addition, transcripts of all major speeches will be available in Greenlandic and Faroese in the future. Overall, they are confident that this solution will work in the future. Because Denmark is not the only country with a multilingual population and MPs. In Switzerland, for example, there are four official national languages with equal rights, and in parliament members can make their speeches in any language.

But what is just as important in the whole discussion as the decision itself is the fact that the former colony of Greenland is growing up and is now really on a par with the Danish homeland and the latter is not resisting it. The question now is whether this eye level will still rise and whether Greenland will then leave the home nest.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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