EU and Greenland clash over Arctic issues

The European Union has accused Greenland and other Arctic nations of failing to ensure the environment in the far north is properly safeguarded. Vice president of the EU, Diana Wallis, said she could imagine “people on the streets” protesting if wider international stewardship is not guaranteed.

Greenland’s foreign minister responded to the allegations by accusing European countries which are pushing for a ban on deep-water drilling of suffering “panic reactions” after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Wallis, however, said at the meeting at Cambridge University this week that wider participation in the Arctic Council must become a reality.

“It’s got to be widened out. If we don’t do things then people will take to the streets to make sure something is done over climate change,” she said in a report by the Guardian.

Interest in the Arctic region has increased in recent years as global warming has triggered a race for natural resources that have long been trapped under the ice. Oil companies have already started to drill in the area, including Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy which announced two new oil and gas “shows” of the coast of Greenland in the past month.

The EU has, however, been pressing for a ban on deep water drilling since the BP blow-out earlier this year in the Gulf of Mexico.

Greenland’s deputy foreign minister, Inuuteq Holm Oslen, said he is suspicious about the motives behind such “green” concerns.

“We welcome focus and attention on environmental issues […] What we don’t welcome is the notion that there should not be any industrial development in the name of environmental protection. What the rest of you have been benefiting from should not be denied to us in the Arctic,” he said.