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Greenland premier laments tensions with Copenhagen over new minister

Nuuk, Greenland
Nuuk, Greenland Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AFP
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A newly appointed Arctic ambassador sticks out for his lack of connection to the region.


The head of Greenland's local government on Thursday deplored tensions with Copheghan over the appointment of a new ambassador to the autonomous territory.

"The Danish government is not in a good place right now," Greenlandic Prime Minister Mute Egede told Danish daily Politiken.

At issue is Copenhagen's appointment of a new Arctic ambassador, Tobias Elling Rehfeld, with no connection to the region. He is a specialist in international law and the current Danish ambassador to South Africa.

The Arctic ambassador is tasked with representing Greenland and the Faroe Islands in Denmark's overall Arctic foreign policy, with particular emphasis on environmental matters and problems affecting indigenous people – an area in which tensions with the Danish government go back centuries.

Greenland, an immense territory of nearly 2.2 million square kilometres, is home to some 55,000 people and sits some 2,500km away from Denmark. It has its own flag, language, culture, institutions and prime minister, and has been autonomous since 1979.

His appointment flies in the face of an agreement that no Danish decisions concerning Greenland and the Faroe Islands can be taken without their agreement, according to Egede. 

"The procedure shows what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs thinks of us and how it does not include us, even though we are the kingdom's Arctic country," he said. "The picture speaks for itself."

The Danish minister of foreign affairs, former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, has insisted that the appointment is in line with proper process. 

"For the time being, [Greenlandic] foreign policy is the responsibility of the Kingdom of Denmark," he said, adding that Copenhagen is "trying in many areas to help Greenland play a more important role in terms of foreign policy."

Language politics

Another point of tension between the two is a recent incident in which one of Greenland's representatives in the Copenhagen parliament, Aki-Matilda Høegh-Dam, addressed the chamber in Greenlandic and was asked to repeat her speech in Danish. 

She refused to abide by that request.

"It is a relic from the colonial era that we still only speak Danish in the hall," Høegh-Dam remarked. "If Denmark were in reality a commonwealth, we would also be able to accommodate each other's languages."

At the end of April, its government presented a new draft constitution which could be used in the event independence from Denmark is achieved.

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