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Rendering of Nuuk Airport (image: Kalaallit Airports)

Plan to fund Greenland airports causes crisis

Denmark’s seemingly generous €94 million offer, made amid worries about China, splits the territory’s coalition.

A seemingly generous offer by Denmark to funnel DKK 700 million (€94 million) into three airport projects in Greenland has instead provoked a political crisis in the autonomous Danish territory.

A small pro-independence party that is part of the ruling coalition in Greenland objected to the pledge from Copenhagen so much that it has abruptly pulled out of the government, leaving it with a parliamentary minority.

If the plan is approved, the Danish state would become a co-owner of the refurbished and extended airports in Nuuk and Ilulissat and a new one to be built at Qaqortoq, the Copenhagen Post reports.

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen says he hopes the pledge will be a milestone on the way to Greenland becoming more self-supporting.

He added that Denmark could also guarantee an additional loan of DKK 450 million from the Nordic Investment Bank at a low interest rate.

“The agreement will save money for Greenland,” he said. “Denmark will bear some of the financial burden and this will lessen the risk to the Greenlandic government.”

Coalition crisis
The deal needs approval from both the Danish and Greenlandic parliaments, but it has already caused deep controversy in Greenland.

The party that has withdrawn from the coalition with the social democratic party Siumut is the populist Partii Naleraq, which claims that any deal with Denmark would make its goal of independence less likely, not more likely.

Naleraq holds just three seats, but its departure leaves Siumut with a governing minority.

Another part of the Denmark-Greenland agreement is for Greenland to buy the Danish state’s 25% stake in Air Greenland. Greenland’s government already has a 37.5% stake, with SAS owning 37.5%.

Restraining China?
According to media reports, a major reason for the Danish government’s keen interest in the Greenland airport projects is a concern that China could have a major influence in Greenland in the future.

China Communications Construction Company has been selected as prequalified to bid on the construction of six major contractors.

But Rasmussen says the airport deal does not contain any restrictions on Chinese companies.

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