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Denmark plays a dangerous game at the IWC

I remember as a child learning never to threaten to do something without the will to see it through. 

So what is Denmark playing at in threatening to leave the IWC if it does not get a compromise for Greenland on its demands for an increasied quota? In a report from Flensborg Avis online, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Sovndal is quoted as having informed the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee of the threat of Danish IWC withdrawal.

But is the target Greenland itself? Is Denmark trying to bring Greenland to the table, or is the real target the rest of EU?

Denmark failed to persuade the rest of the EU of the merits of the case at the last IWC meeting and yet then went and crashed the Greenlandic request for more whales when it knew it could not hope to win the vote.

The situation is complicated further within the IWC as Denmark claims not to be bound by EU decisions when it comes to whaling as it uses the so-called ‘opt-out’, or, ‘we are not voting with the rest of you’ ,clause of ‘Declaration 25’.

Declaration No. 25 was appended to the Final Act of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), which agreed the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty). It is on the “Representation of the Interests of the Overseas Countries and Territories Referred to in Article 227(3) and (5)(a) and (b) of the Treaty Establishing the European Community” [now Article 355 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union]: 

The Conference, noting that in exceptional circumstances divergences may arise between the interests of the Union and those of the overseas countries and territories referred to in Article 227(3) and (5)(a) and (b), agrees that the Council will seek to reach a solution which accords with the position of the Union. However, in the event that this proves impossible, the Conference agrees that the Member State concerned may act separately in the interests of the said overseas countries and territories, without this affecting the Community’s interests. The Member State concerned will give notice to the Council and the Commission where such a divergence of interests is likely to occur and, when separate action proves unavoidable, make it clear that it is acting in the interests of an overseas territory mentioned above. [Emphasis added]

In practice, the Declaration has been used to further the interests of the Greenlandic people (non EU members) to the detriment of the majority of EU citizens.

Denmark and the EU Commission have applied differing methodologies for decision making within EU coordination depending on the situation at hand.

Denmark has been allowed to participate in EU negotiations (beyond being at the table and actively engaging in policy debate and setting) whilst also indicating that it would invoke Declaration 25 to avoid being bound by the EU final decision.

Whilst Greenland struggles with its perceptions of its position in the world, it seems Denmark may have had enough of its politicing on the IWC stage, and has finally said okay, ‘Go it alone’.

However, with Denmark currently under review for illegal sales of whale meat in Denmark to WDC and the UK’s Sunday Times, it may be a last ditched attempt by Denmark to bludgeon the EU into accepting the bind it finds itself in with Greenland.

What Denmark should really be looking at is the facts.

1. The number of people actually reliant on hunting whales in Greenland is diminishing not increasing.

2. Whale meat is inceasingly been sold to tourists and so commercial pressures are coming into play in the demands for more whales to kill.

3. Whale meat is available on sale in Denmark for tourists and so is stoking the commercial whaling interests in Greenland

It’s time for Denmark to represent the millions of Danish people who are opposed to commercial whaling and not just be a mouthpiece for Greenland’s emergent commercial whales and their aspirations to be the next Loftsson.

There are people in Greenland living in remote areas that rely on their Governments (both Greenlandic and Danish) acting responsibly within the IWC – maybe they should be in the minds of the politicians and not their own grandstanding prowess.