Ávarp á rafrænum fundi Hringborðs norðurslóða 22. febrúar 2021.
It is with great pleasure that I open this Arctic Circle Virtual dialogue on the report of the Greenland Committee, its analysis and recommendations. It is unfortunate that I am not joined by my Greenlandic colleague due to recent political developments in Greenland. I hope that instead we will together be able to present the status of our joint efforts for increased cooperation between the countries at the next Arctic Circle Assembly.
I want to use the opportunity to thank the Arctic Circle and its founder, former president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, for the great interest in the Greenland report. It is important to widely discuss the opportunities described in the report to make the cooperation with our next-door neighbors even stronger. If I am honest, I had hoped that the Greenland Report would create interest, but the reception has gone far beyond my expectations. As an example, I had an on-line meeting with Foreign Diplomatic Missions to Iceland both in Reykjavík and non-resident. The meeting was attended by almost 100 representatives, who had many questions and had clearly read the report.
I commissioned the three-person Greenland Committee in April 2019, under the chairmanship of Össur Skarphéðinsson, the former Minster for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, as well as Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir, previous chair of the West Nordic Council and Óttarr Guðlaugsson, a board member of the Icelandic Greenland Fund. The committee had the wide mandate to recommend actions intended to increase and make the cooperation between Greenland and Iceland stronger. The Committees report, Greenland and Iceland in the New Arctic, published last month, marks a turning point being by far the most comprehensive analysis of bilateral relations and cooperation between the countries ever done.
In total, the report contains 99 recommendations on how to increase cooperation between government, local authorities, agencies and institutions, private sector, non-governmental organizations, academia, and in sports, arts, and culture. The report contains a detailed analysis of the countries bilateral relations and the status of the region in the new Arctic. Iceland and Greenland already have great many common interests, including in fisheries, airline services, air traffic control, tourism, search and rescue, and Arctic affairs. Increased co-operation on healthcare, education, and support services for the mining industry could become important areas of collaboration in the future.
Internationally the countries are already co-operating closely where emphasis is on Nordic and West Nordic co-operation and the close co-operation in the Arctic Council. Before the report was published, I met with Steen Lynge, the former Greenlandic Minster of Foreign Affairs and Energy, to discuss the report. We agreed to work on a framework agreement between the countries where the objectives of co-operation in prioritised areas would be defined. Minister Lynge also proposed that we would jointly present the report and the status of our joint work at the next Arctic Circle Assembly this autumn. In that regard I believe it is crucial to start as soon as possible a dialogue and collaboration with Greenlandic authorities on the implementation of the recommendations. Despite the changes that are underway in Greenlandic politics I do not expect that will impact our collaboration to strengthen our bilateral relations.
Regarding the bilateral relations I have noted with interest the result of the first survey on foreign relations in Greenland, where 90% of Greenlanders support increased cooperation with Iceland much more than with anyone else and I am confident that the interest is not less in Iceland.
I have already initiated work on a Parliamentary Resolution that I intend to introduce during the current Parliamentary Session. The resolution will outline Iceland´s aim and objectives of increased co-operation between the countries based on the work of the Greenland Committee.
The report mentions more than forty possible Icelandic collaborators. Already many of them, as well as many that were not directly mentioned in the report, have been in contact and expressed interest in working on strengthening cooperation with Greenland.
Finally, I would like to emphasize the importance of Greenland and Iceland working closely together on addressing the challenges climate change brings to the Arctic. There we have common interests and both countries have a significant role to play in the Arctic. There are exciting times ahead in the bilateral relations of Iceland and Greenland, the possibilities of cooperation are many and will make both of us stronger!