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Danes Confused as New Greenland Self-Governance Cancels Years of Idealist Policies

The village of Kulusuk viewed from a nearby hill, Greenland, July 2006. Photo by wili_hybrid via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Danes can’t have their cake and eat it too. Anti-colonialism shuts down environmental and social concerns as mining industry booms in Greenland.

For decades Denmark has held on to a zero tolerance stance on nuclear power, nuclear weapons and uranium trade. A country shaped by social-democratic ideals, Denmark has long boasted world class labour rights. Top-notch human rights, freedom of speech, near equality of men and women and early decriminalisation of pornography – Danes really don’t have much to complain about. Except perhaps that lingering bad conscience about the old colony up north, Greenland – but Greenland has increasingly taken self-governance.

What if the Greenlanders use their new-found independence in conflict with the existing nuclear policy? What if the Greenlanders sign mining contracts with Chinese companies rather than Danish ones? And in the process strip workers of rights that have been won through a century of union struggle?

“I hope we can soon change the zero tolerance [towards nuclear industries] and have the uranium that we have extracted, instead of being an Arctic open-air museum.”
- Doris Jakobsen, Greenland politician, June 2012 to Danish newspaper Information.

Greenland is eager to begin mining and exporting uranium. The leftmost party, Enhedslisten – Red-Green Alliance, has long accused Danish policy of being colonialist towards Greenland. They have demanded more rights and self-governance for the huge ice-covered island for years. Except now, as the 56,744 inhabitants can’t wait to mushroom-cloud the Danish tradition of abstinence.

“In this context it’s incredible to see Enhedslisten as a new colonial master wanting to rule over Greenland.”
- Mogens Jensen, Social Democrat, December 2012 to Danmarks Radio.

Some members of Denmark’s currently largest party, Venstre – Liberal Party of Denmark, have raised criticism of the new law to be passed which will allow mining companies to hire foreigners at below minimum wages. That is a bit odd, as most would expect that party to be more likely to raise criticism of the minimum wage itself. Early in February this year, Birthe Rønn Hornbech resigned from her position as Venstre’s spokesperson on Greenland issues in protest of the party line on the new law.

In the light of Danish ambitions on climate change targets, why have we seen no Danes protesting against off-shore drilling concessions? Perhaps that decision is easy. Perhaps the hypocrisy would be too blatant as Danish waters are already being drilled as fast as possible. Do we, Danes, think we are keeping the cake even as we’re eating it?

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About The Author(s)



Benno Hansen

Benno Hansen

M.Sc. degree in horticulture, thesis on bioinformatics. Office assistant at multinational corporation.

Info-tech biologist writer. Inclined towards environmental precaution. Science fiction, fantasy, popular science and comic books reader. FC Copenhagen season ticket holder. Sports analysis visualizer. Cyclist and Linux user.

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