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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

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Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

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Whilst the EU sacrifices political capital for Greenlandic whaling, what are Greenland and the Faroese doing?

So the EU Commission is extending itself to support Greenland’s demands for overturning the IWC’s accepted criteria for aboriginal subsistence whaling (ASW), but what is Greenland and the Faroe Islands, Denmark’s two North Atlantic overseas territories doing to help the EU Commission? Well, nothing it would seem.

The Arctic Journal reports that whilst ‘foreign policy in the Kingdom of Denmark is pretty simple: Copenhagen is responsible for the foreign affairs of Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.’ The Journal goes onto say that In reality, the situation is somewhat less clear. Copenhagen clearly handles top-shelf matters, such as foreign affairs and defence. But, both the Faroe Islands and Greenland have ‘representative offices’ – quasi embassies – in a number of key capitals.’

As we see in Denmark’s efforts at the IWC. where foreign relations are concerned it is Copnehagen diplomats that run the show but officials in the Greenland capital, Nuuk and the Faroese captital, Tórshavn, are consulted when areas of interest to their countries are affected. 

The Journal notes that ‘Typically, the set-up serves all three countries well, but it is not without its problems. Case in point, the International Whaling Commission, which only extends membership to states. Denmark, as an EU member, must support the union’s blanket opposition to whaling, yet on the other hand it must represent two pro-whaling countries.’

Denmark is trying to carve out almost exclusive relations with Beijing but it’s Greenland’s natural resources that China’s is really interested in and less so Danish bacon. Maybe this explains why Denmark and the EU is so keen to bend over backwards to support Greenland’s ever incraesing demands over its whaling.

Sanctions were recently applied by the European Commission against the Faroe Islands because of its decision to set independent fishing quotas that are far higher than the EU recommendations. Whilst the sanctions were lifted in August, angering Scottish fishermen amongst others, the EU sanctions had left Denmark struggling with Copenhagen having had to close its ports to Faroese vessels.

Further to Russian aledged aggression in Ukraine both the EU and Norway are recipients of Russian embargoes on fish but the Faroese have jumped on the opportuinty of Russian weapons in the Ukraine to sell more fish into the Russian market.

It appears that the Faroese want people to rally to protect their rights to slaughter whales, but it appears they are quite willing to ignore what Russian militia are doing to the rights of the people of Ukraine if it means they can sell more fish.

If I was cynical I might say that the measure of a State on the international stage is its ability to promote its own selfish interests before any others, and by this measure, the Faroese would be top of the pile if judged by this one act.

The Arctic Journal reports that ‘After Kai Leo Johannesen, the Faroese premier, visited Moscow to discuss expanding trade relations, Danish lawmakers accused the Faroe Islands of stabbing Europe in the back.’

At a time when Denmark is sending its young Danish pilots and their F16 fighter aircraft to eastern Europe to help ‘dampen fires’ in Ukraine, the Faroe Islands will be opening an office in Moscow on December 1st to build on the current opportunities.

Addendum

As Jage (please see below) has raised the argument that the EU sanctions were illegal, I thought I would add a link to an article by Prime Minister Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen arguing the Faroese case in the fishery dispute referenced above.