Independence from Denmark was a major platform in former Greenlandic premier Aleqa Hammond’s campaign.
Many believe her promise of an independent Greenland “in her lifetime” helped the Siumut leader take control of the country’s self-rule government in March 2013.
Now that a financial scandal has forced Hammond from office, and an election to replace her is scheduled for later this month on November 28), the independence rhetoric has cooled considerably.
Although autonomy remains the ultimate objective, Greenland’s two largest political parties both agree the dream will not come true in anytime resembling the near future.
Both parties are focusing their rhetoric on homegrown issues and the enormous economic challenges facing Greenland.
Opposition party IA currently leads in the polls, and party leader Sara Olsvig told the Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq that while independence is always on the back of everyone’s mind, other issues need to be addressed before the idea becomes realistic.
“We are more pragmatic because we can see that Greenland's economy is under pressure and we have great social problems in several places in the country,” she said. “We must ensure a strong community before we can become independent.”
Independence begins at home
Olsvig said that while autonomy was a goal for her party, she did not want to “pull the wool over the eyes of the population in terms of the timing”.
A Siumut spokesperson sounded similar notes for his party.
“The most important task for Siumut is that Greenland has a self-sustaining economy,” Kenneth Rasmussen told Sermitsiaq.
Both parties stressed that should independence day actually come, they would still need to co-operate with Denmark on many fronts, including defence.
More brun sovs, please
Hammond’s more confrontational approach to Denmark definitely ruffled feathers in Copenhagen.
She was quoted in Information as saying that the best thing she had ever received from Denmark was brun sovs (brown gravy) and that Greenlanders had never asked Denmark to “colonise us”.
“The tone has not been productive and prevented any joint solution to the challenges facing Greenland,” Venstre spokesperson Claus Hjort Frederiksen told Berlingske. “It is encouraging that there is now more realism in the Greenlandic debate.”
Dansk Folkeparti spokesperson Søren Espersen was even more direct, saying that Danish politicians should be directly involved in discussions regarding Greenland’s future.
“I do not think the climate has been this bad between the Danish and Greenlandic governments for a long time, so it is good that a rethink is underway.”
Flemming Møller Mortensen, Socialdemokraterne's Greenlandic spokesperson, rejected the idea of direct involvement and advised against taking the Greenlanders' wishes for independence too seriously.
“The desire for independence has been expressed in recent years by virtually everyone in Greenland,” he told Berlingske. "That longing is part of Greenland’s DNA, providing opportunity and economic sustainability make it possible.”