When all members of the Arctic Council got together in Kiruna, Sweden, for the ministerial Arctic Council meeting on Wednesday this week, Greenland was missing.
Greenland’s prime minister Aleqa Hammond decided to not take part in the meeting. According to the Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq this is caused by the fact that Greenland didn’t have a seat on the negotiation table of the Arctic Council since the beginning of the Swedish chairmanship in 2011. Until then Greenland was involved in central proceedings in the Arctic Council from its founding in 1996.
Now Greenland has suspended its work in the Arctic Council until a satisfactory solution is found for the problem and will enter into a real negotiation process with the new Canadian presidency as soon as possible. However Per Berthelsen, member of the social-democratic party of Greenland, Siumut, doubts that Canada will be more open for a more direct participation of Greenland in the Arctic Council.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt rejected criticism of the Swedish chairmanship in this context. He points to an agreement with Denmark, which is consistent with how this problem was handled in the past and called the issue an internal problem between Greenland and Denmark. According to the Greenlandic Broadcasting Corporation KNR Bildt specifically named Greenlandic domestic politics playing a major role for the boycott, as well as the new Greenlandic government.
Danish Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal regrets the decision of the Greenlandic prime minister and hopes that there soon will be a basis for Greenland taking part in the Arctic Council again. Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s minister responsible for the Arctic Council remarked in the same direction but wanted to call Hammond after the meeting because “it’s important to make sure that the work that we do” is influenced by Inuit. This might be especially important as Greenland is the only Arctic nation with a majority of the population consisting of indigenous Arctic people.