Intense Airport Debate in Greenland

Tre nye flyplasser planlegges på Grønland, i hovedstaden Nuuk, i Ilulissat innerst i Diskobukta og helt sør, i Qaqortoq. Kartet er dreid øst/vest. (Google maps, ill. fra Pixabay).
The debate regarding Greenland’s plans for construction of three new airports rages on, with a decision scheduled for the fall of 2018.

The debate regarding Greenland’s plans for construction of three new airports rages on, with a decision scheduled for the fall of 2018.

The construction of three new airports in Ilulissat, Nuuk and Qaqortoq is a project that will be the largest investment in the history of Greenland.

During Monday’s extraordinary session in the Inatsisartut, the parliament, the new coalition government presented a proposal for a rushed process regarding the airport investment decision, a proposal strongly opposed by the opposition parties (Danish only). The coalition government wanted to call an extraordinary session of the parliament on short notice in order to make the final two decisions that are required on the matter.

Fear of the Chinese

The result following Monday’s meetings among the parties was that the second and third processing rounds of the case (i.e. the normal procedure in the Inatsisartut) will take place when the parliament reconvenes in the fall.

The plans about constructing three new airports has sparked a series of debates in Greenland. There have been warnings, in particular from the Danish side, against letting Chinese state corporations build these airports.

The state-owned Chinese giant China Communications Construction Company is one out of a total of six suppliers that have been pre-qualified to submit tenders for the construction.

Outstretched arm from Denmark?

The head of the Danish Defence Academy, Rear Admiral Nils Christian Wang, is one of the voices who has spoken out against (Norwegian only) admitting the Chinese company in to the project.

He refers, amongst others, to the fact that defence, foreign and security policy still is the responsibility of Denmark, while (a.o.) transport and infrastructure policies are the responsibilities of the Greenlandic self-rule authorities.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has later followed up with what he himself refers to as “an outstretched arm” – a signal that may be interpreted to mean that Denmark might want to contribute financially towards the construction.

More than half the state budget

Greenland’s Head of Government Kim Kielsen has publicly stated that the Danish should keep their hands off the table, however, that was during the election campaign in April.

Preliminary figures indicate that the construction of three new airports will cost approximately DKK 3.6 billion (appr. €480 million). The figures are only indicative.

There is no doubt that the financial side of the plans cause insecurity. As stated by the Danish PM, the project requires 20 percent of Greenlands GDP or, in other words, just over half of Greenland’s 2018 accumulated state budget, which encompasses some DKK 7 billion.

Runway length

The three new airports are not, however, to be funded over just one state budget. Nevertheless, the funding of this major initiative remains a key debate in Greenland’s politics.

The debate may not be made easier by Partii Naleraq’s introducing new questions regarding the runway lengths (Danish only) of the new airports during yesterday’s debate in Inatsisartut.

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