Greenland. It was very much a turbulent year politically with a government crisis and new elections. The conflicts were resolved around the Chairman of the National Board Aleqa Hammond. In January, her representative Hans Enoksen left the Social Democratic Siumut (Forward) in protest against Hammond’s fisheries policy and against the fact that her partner was employed as an adviser to the Minister of Fisheries.
According to Countryaah.com, Greenland population in 2020 is estimated at 56,781. Enoxen’s departure from Siumut followed a series of political scandals, in which several heads of department and other senior officials left their positions or were dismissed under Hammond’s rule. When Fisheries Minister Karl Lyberth resigned following harsh criticism from the party, Hammond’s cohabitant followed out of the ministry.
Then the Left Party IA (Inuit Ataqatigiit) withdrew its parliamentary support for Hammond’s coalition, which then consisted of Social Democratic Siumut and Liberal Atassut (Sense of Community). The government’s majority had thus shrunk to an overweight position.
In September, the government crisis erupted after an audit report showed that Hammond used large sums of tax dollars for his own and his family’s private flights and hotels. She had then waited close to a year and a half to repay. Left Party IA’s new leader Sara Olsvig demanded new elections.
After angry protests against the government, Hammond resigned as party leader for Siumut. After the government partner Atassut and two Sium ministers left the coalition, the government was in the minority and decided to announce new elections until November 28. Acting head of government became Kim Kielsen, who was also elected new leader of Siumut.
At the same time as the government was shaken politically, Greenland attracted a growing interest from the world’s major oil companies who wanted to drill for oil in the Arctic, more specifically in the Greenland Sea off northeast Greenland. Geologists estimate that about one-seventh of the world’s oil reserves have not yet been proven and close to one-third of non-proven gas reserves are in the Arctic. The seabed outside eastern Greenland is estimated to hide oil and gas equivalent to over 30 million barrels of oil, but the area is one of the world’s most difficult to handle for oil companies’ ships and rigs. Most of the year is iceberg, pack ice drifting in from the north and icebergs are released from glaciers on the east coast.
Licenses were distributed to Shell, Chevron, Statoil and BP, among others. Greenpeace criticized BP’s participation, as the company was responsible for the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster in 2009. Among other things, Greenpeace and the insurance industry have warned of the consequences of any oil spill accidents in ice-filled Greenland waters.
Greenland’s plans for uranium mining created conflict with Denmark, where the government felt that the issue was part of the defense, foreign and security policy that the Danish government is responsible for. Greenland asserted its own right to decide on extraction and negotiate the export of uranium and other minerals. Despite disagreement on how the constitution and self-governing law should be interpreted, the parties agreed to negotiate a cooperation agreement.
Even mining of rare earth metals – important for iPhones, flat screens, solar energy, hybrid cars and cruise missiles, among others – sailed up as a battle issue, where Danish politicians claimed that it should be decided in the national community. The Kuannersuit (Kvanefjeld) at Greenland’s southern tip is estimated to be the world’s second largest reserve of rare earth metals and is believed to have the world’s sixth largest uranium reserve.
After lengthy negotiations, Greenland and Denmark agreed on a law that opens for the import of foreign labor in thousands to large-scale Greenland mining projects and the construction of hydroelectric power stations, aluminum industry, etc. operated by foreign companies. It is mainly Chinese, but also South Korean or Eastern European labor. Foreign employers do not have to comply with Greenlandic agreements but must pay Greenland’s minimum wage.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon visited Greenland in March together with the Prime Minister of Denmark to study the Earth’s climate change up close. The UN chief said he was deeply concerned about how quickly the glaciers are changing and the inland ice is melting and raising the sea level. He also emphasized that the Greenlanders who have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years now see their nature and their livelihood threatened.
In August, the government’s plans for a new parliament building for SEK 190 million (Danish) triggered some of the largest citizen protests in Greenland’s history. If the budget line for the building was converted to Danish conditions, it would correspond to SEK 19 billion. Critics have pointed to the pressured situation of the Greenland economy, where export revenue was lacking to cover rising costs for school, care and care. The budget had a deficit despite the Danish grant of SEK 3.7 billion, slightly more than half of the total budget. Expected income from mining and possible oil recovery are several years ahead.