Government negotiating with US on Thule contract

Efforts underway to ensure Greenlanders will still benefit from lucrative deal

The government says that it is working with the US to ensure that Greenland profits from the contract for the maintenance of the facilities at the Thule Air Base in Greenland.

Martin Lidegaard, the foreign minister, made that claim during an emergency parliamentary debate on the handling of the valuable contract.

The maintenance of the facilities at the US military base in Thule had been in Danish-Greenlandic hands for 40 years, supplying work, training and income to Greenland's struggling economy.

When the government was warned that the arrangement might be a violation of EU law, the contract was put out to tender and won by the Exelis group, which is headquartered in the US

Fears of lost jobs and revenue
Questions have been raised in the wake of the maintenance contract being taken over by the US company.

”We have discussed the matter at the highest levels with the US,” Lidegaard told DR Nyheder. ”To the best of my knowledge, and this all happened before my ministry took over, there is a very clear agreement with the Americans.”

Lidegaard said he had ”no reason to believe” that the US would not live up to the agreement.

The Danish-Greenlandic company Greenland Contractors, which had the contract for many years until October, has complained to the US government. Greenland Contractors is owned by MT Højgaard and Greenland's self-rule government.

Talking with Kerry
The company along with Greenlandic and Danish politicians fear that the loss of the contract to an American-owned company will cost Greenland's economy between 100 and 200 million kroner along with jobs, apprenticeships and internships filled by local workers.

Critics also said that the deal with the Americans breaks a long-standing deal that the contract be handled locally.

”The case is currently pending with the US appeals authority, and I expect a clarification later than mid-February,” said Lidegaard. ”It is not up to Denmark to interfere in such an appeal. Therefore I can not comment.”

READ MORE: Danish engineers lose profitable American air base contract in Greenland

Lidegaard said that he believes that the deal will offer the same benefits to Greenland. He is scheduled to meet with the US secretary of state, John Kerry, tomorrow to talk about the Islamic State and terrorism, but Thule is sure to come up.