Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic May 15, 2013 - 6:01 am

Greenland’s premier boycotts the Arctic Council in “drastic” protest

Premier Aleqa Hammond wants vote, chair at the negotiating table for Greenland

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Premier Aleqa Hammond says Greenland needs a voting role at the Arctic Council. (PHOTO BY LEIFF JOSEFSEN/ SERMITSIAQ AG)
Premier Aleqa Hammond says Greenland needs a voting role at the Arctic Council. (PHOTO BY LEIFF JOSEFSEN/ SERMITSIAQ AG)

The premier of Greenland, Aleqa Hammond said May 14 that she is boycotting the May 15 Arctic Council gathering in Kiruna, Sweden, saying several countries in the Arctic Council are opposed to Arctic indigenous peoples being involved in the high-level government negotiations within the council.

That’s what she told Greenland’s Sermitsiaq AG newspaper May 14.

Right now indigenous organizations, like the Inuit Circumpolar Council, sit at the main table as non-voting permanent participants during council meetings.

But Hammond says until she sits down to negotiate a new voting role for Greenland, she won’t participate in the council.

Hammond did not go to Kiruna, Sweden, where the Arctic Council’s ministerial meeting takes place May 15.

Until Sweden took over the presidency in 2011, Denmark had three chairs at the table — with a representative from each part of the Danish commonwealth, the Faroe Islands, Denmark and Greenland, she said.

But when the Swedes took over, Denmark had the only chair, and Greenland and the Faroe Islands were allowed to sit behind, but not directly at the negotiations,” she said.

“We fear that this situation may continue during the next Canadian presidency. Therefore, I believe that we have to do something drastic,” Hammond said..

Denmark’s delegation needs two chairs at the negotiating table, one for Denmark and another for Greenland, she said.

That was to be be announced in a joint statement on May 14.

“We believe it is of great importance for the population of Greenland and Greenlandic society that we are directly involved in the negotiations on conditions in Greenland. The work of the Arctic Council is very important to us, and we will not settle for being on the sidelines. Until then, we’re putting our involvement in of the Arctic Council on hold,” Hammond, who headed to Copenhagen in protest.

Hammond hopes that this move will help to get Canada to the negotiating table on Greenland’s future participation.

Greenland’s former premier Kuupik Kleist said the move was “unwise of Aleqa,” while ICC president Aqqaluk Lynge, who went to Kiruna, suggested to Sermitsiaq that the situation could have been handled through Denmark’s foreign ministry — or through Greenland becoming independent, he said, which would guarantee Greenland a voting seat at the council along with the other nations.

When asked if it would be better to be in meetings and talks with leaders including the new United States Secretary of State John Kerry and the other countries’ representatives, Hammond said “it is not enough for Greenland to be able to eat canapés with other countries’ politicians, smile kindly, and be figureheads.”

“We want to be the place where decisions that affect our daily lives are taken. And that is at the negotiating table, where ministers meet.”

Hammond told Sermitsiaq that she expects her open revolt against the conditions in the Arctic Council will be the basis for new negotiations on Greenland’s seat at the negotiating table.

with files from Sermitsiaq AG

Read more later from Kiruna where Alex Boyd, a Canadian graduate student in journalism, on internship with the Barents Observer web news service in Kirkenes, Norway, is covering the Arctic Council ministerial for the Nunatsiaq News.

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