Greenland 1999

Yearbook 1999

Greenland. In February elections were held for the Greenlandic autonomy parliament, the county council. Despite a slight decline, the Social Democratic Party Siumut was able to retain the leadership of the self-government, the national government. The head of government, Siumut’s leader Jonathan Motzfeldt, also remained in his post. New coalition partner to Siumut became the left-wing Inuit Ataqatigiit, IA, who made a good choice with their demands for increased taxation of high incomes and independence from Denmark. The former government partner, Liberal Atassut, lost a fifth of its support and was allowed to go into opposition. IA made its mark on the new government’s program, which included promised action against the obvious shortcomings in education, health care and the housing sector. The government also said it wanted to consider Denmark’s independence in foreign policy matters.

In August, the Supreme Court of Eastern Denmark, Ă˜stre Landsret, ruled that after 46 years, the Danish state would pay damages to 30 Inuit families in northern Greenland who were forcibly removed from the US military base Thule in 1953. The Danish government accepted the verdict and made a written apology. However, some of the forced displaced appealed against and demanded higher damages.

During the year, it was revealed that during the Cold War, the United States was secretly placing nuclear weapons in a number of countries, including on Greenland. This was evidenced by previously secretly stamped defense documents in Washington.

Gradually, the administration of natural resources was moved to Greenland (though with shared ownership) and Greenland gradually built up a decisive influence over the parts of Denmark’s foreign and security policy relating to the island. The Home Rule held its own referendum on the EC in 1983, and in 1985 Greenland left the EC, the only region to date to do so. Greenland instead signed an agreement on duty-free exports to the EC, which also agreed to pay for limited fishing in Greenland waters.

In 2000, the Home Rule appointed a commission of Greenlandic politicians who, with the help of external experts, would investigate at what points the Home Rule could be strengthened. In practice, a formalization of the far-reaching development of the Home Rule was sought since 1979. The Commission issued a report in 2002, and in 2004 a new commission was set up with Danish and Greenlandic politicians. The task was to consider and propose how the Greenland authorities could take on additional competence within the framework of the national constitution. The work would be based on the principle of consistency between rights and obligations and it would aim at a new order of the economic relationship between Denmark and Greenland. The starting point was that only the Greenlanders should decide whether Greenland should ever become fully independent. The work culminated in 2008 in a proposal for a new law on increased self-government. Three-quarters of the Greenlanders voted in a referendum yes to the bill, which was also adopted by a large majority in the parliament.

The significance was to some extent symbolic since Greenland already controlled almost everything. The Greenlandic became the official language and not, until now, just “equated with the Danish”. Greenlanders were recognized as people in international law. The most important concrete content was that if and when Greenland would take over the last state functions such as weather service, mapping, police and coastguard, Greenland itself must bear the expenses. Last but not least, Greenland gained ownership of all natural resources in the land. However, if the exploitation of these resources leads to economic gain for society, it should be shared with Denmark in such a way that Denmark’s contribution to Greenland is reduced by the corresponding Denmark’s share. This means that if the annual profit for the authorities amounts to seven billion Danish kroner, it goes uncircumcised to Greenland.

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