Daily Post Column
October 11th 2016

Greenland is the biggest island in the world with a population of just 57,000. Flying over its vast ice cap two weeks ago was both fascinating and frightening. The melting of the Arctic ice is causing increasing concern.

I went to Greenland with the European Parliament for the EU-West Nordic Council meeting. Having effective partnerships between the EU and countries across the globe has always been crucial. For me, visiting a small country which chose to leave the EU provided particular interest.

Photo: Jill Evans MEP

Greenland is part of the Danish state but has wide-ranging powers and aspires to independence. When Denmark joined the EU in 1973 Greenland automatically took on membership. But they held a referendum in 1985 and a majority voted to leave the EU. Arrangements were made for them to do this in line with the will of the people. This is why you will hear "reverse Greenland" being suggested as a model for Scotland: the rest of the UK would leave but Scotland would stay in, as a majority there voted to remain.

There has been new tension between Greenland and the EU since the European import ban on seal products in 2009. Many of you lobbied in support of the ban. An exemption was agreed at the time for the products of the indigenous Inuit hunts, on which the population had been dependent for generations. This was not the mass commercial killing of seals that people in Wales protested against so strongly.

In Greenland, seal skin is used everywhere - from designer clothes to napkin rings to seat covers. As a major industry with a long tradition, its importance to the people is clear.

It was fascinating to meet the Arctic Commandos, the Danish army unit which patrols the Arctic. Despite their ships and aircraft they still relied heavily on the dog sleds. The dogs protected them from polar bear attacks.

Photo: Greenland signpost

The weather was unusual for the time of year. Summer was over and snow would usually have been falling. But although Nuuk was very cold, the sun was shining in a clear blue sky.

I was surprised at how brown and rocky the land was. Certainly not very green. In contrast, the wooden houses were painted in bright blues, yellows, pinks and greens and the sea was a beautiful turquoise.

Greenland is very different to Wales but we can learn lessons. They too receive a block grant from Denmark which comprises 55% of revenues. They are constantly working to reduce their dependence on that grant and move closer to their goal of independence.


Photo: Jill Evans