Greenland's Foreign Minister: Arctic attention means a lot

Vivian Motzfeldt and Anders Samuelsen – Greenland’s and Denmark’s respective Ministers for Foreign Affairs – co-hosted the Ilulissat Declaration’s 10-year anniversary. It was Motzfeldt’s first international event in her new job, which she was appointed to last week. (Photo: Marc Jacobsen).
High North News met Vivian Motzfeldt, Greenland’s Naalakkersuisoq (equivalent to Minister) for Foreign Affairs, for an exclusive interview in Ilulissat.

Vivian Motzfeldt, Greenland’s Naalakkersuisoq (equivalent to Minister) for Foreign Affairs, is co-hosting the Ilulissat Declaration’s 10-year anniversary. High North News met her for an exclusive interview about the importance of the declaration, the purpose of celebrating the anniversary and about Greenland’s international agenda.

HNN: How can Greenland use this event to position herself internationally?

Motzfeldt: It means a great deal that it is taking place in Ilulissat. Us, who live in the Arctic, are the ones in focus; that’s important to remember whenever one is talking about the region. It is necessary to focus on ‘the good life’ in the Arctic and sustainable development, because the people inhabiting the Arctic needs economic development.

HNN: Do you think that you have managed to put this on the agenda during the past two days?

Motzfeldt: I think all the countries’ speeches this morning mentioned something about people in the Arctic, for which I am very grateful. So, focus on human beings living in the Arctic is now more visible on the agenda.

HNN: This morning, we heard that Denmark/Greenland and Canada are going to find a new solution for the Hans Island problematique. What does it mean exactly?

Motzfeldt: It is just yet another example of how important it is to have good cooperation between the countries – and it is always important to bear in mind that at some point, the different parts need to find an agreement. That is the purpose. Also for the Ilulissat Declaration which focuses on the importance of having a common understanding and a peaceful Arctic, which many people perhaps take for granted as it has always been peaceful.

HNN: How do you think that Greenland can use the significant attention regarding the Arctic to enhance its international profile?

Motzfeldt: It is especially in terms of drawing attention to the fact that people are living in the Arctic. That people from the rest of the world are getting pictures from our meeting here in Ilulissat means a great deal. Yesterday, we were in Ilimanaq where it was evident how life there is both vulnerable and strong because the conditions are hard during winter and fantastic during summer. People there manage to survive and have a wish for further development.

HNN: Are there anyone special during these two days whom you have had a special interest in talking with?

Motzfeldt: Every country has contributed with something in their own way. To meet physically and to put a face to the name means a lot for the relationships between the countries. I am of course happy to have met the Danish and the Faroese Ministers of Foreign Affairs. It is also very positive that we have had Americans and Russians sitting together at the same table discussing the developments of the Arctic. There are frictions between the two countries, but they still meet in this forum which is very positive.

HNN: How has your first meeting with Anders Samuelsen (Denmark’s MFA) been?

Motzfeldt: I think it has been a positive experience. He is a positive and vivacious person.

HNN: So hosting the anniversary together has been as you had hoped for?

Motzfeldt: Yes, I think so. We have both contributed with something, but it is important to remember that the area in focus is the Arctic. That is always important to emphasize.  

HNN: Does it mean that the co-hosting has been equal?

Motzfeldt: It has to be an equal relationship, if one wishes a good relationship. That is very, very important.

HNN: One thing is that it should be equal, another thing is whether it actually is. Is that the case?

Motzfeldt: I prefer not to comment on this issue.

HNN: In Naalakkersuisut’s (the Government of Greenland) new coalition agreement it says, that Greenland wants her own seat in the UN, own membership of NATO and to participate in the Olympic Games under own flag. How will you achieve that?

Motzfeldt: As everybody knows, we have established a Constitutional Commission, which means that we are about to write our own constitution. We are on our way to become a sovereign state, like every other country in the world, and every sovereign state has its own seat in the UN.

HNN: Is it the criteria for ‘Free Association’ – like for instance the Cook Islands have with New Zealand – that Greenland is striving for?

Motzfeldt: I don’t want to comment on the work of the Commission. They will find out which construction they wish for. Ultimately, it is the people of Greenland who will have the final word.

HNN: More generally, what are Greenland’s most important foreign affairs interests?

Motzfeldt: To be a part of the Arctic has immense significance. Our geopolitical location between two great powers is extremely important.

HNN: Are there any security threats in that regard?

Motzfeldt: Since the Thule Air Base has been established, and the radar facility there still being very important, it is clear that there are. Everybody knows that there can be developments which can go both ways.