Greenland, Denmark and the Faroe Islands sign terms of reference for committee on foreign affairs and defence

From left to right: The Faroe Islands’ Prime Minister Bardur a Steig Nielsen, Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Greenland’s Prime Minister Mute Bourup Egede. The three leaders signed the terms of agreement for a new contact committee on foreign affairs and defence on October 4. (Government of Greenland)

Greenland and the Faroe Islands took another step towards greater autonomy on foreign affairs and defence on Monday, signing the terms of reference with Denmark for the creation of a special contact committee. 

The committee was earlier announced June 10 after after the last meeting of the realm between Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Greenland, along with the Faroe Islands, are autonomous territories within the Kingdom of Denmark, with Denmark responsible for foreign affairs and defence. 

But both governments have long argued the need to pursue their own foreign policy interests and policies.

More “elbow room” says Greenland PM

Greenland’s Prime Minister Mute Bourup Egede said the terms of reference were an important step to improving the partnership between the three governments. 

“The establishment of the committee testifies to our common interest in strengthening cooperation across our countries,” Egede said in a news release.

Not least to deal with the diversity of the countries’ own interests and common interests. At the same time, it will strengthen Greenland’s active participation in international relations in the globalized world, and create more elbow room which I have high expectations for.

Committee makeup

The contact committee between Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Denmark will be made up of people in the following roles:

Denmark: Prime Minister, minister of Foreign Affairs, minister of Justice, minister of Defence

Greenland: Prime Minister, minister of business and trade, minister of housing, infrastructure and gender equality

Faroe Islands: Prime Minister, foreign minister, finance minister

Also announced after the June 10 meeting, was to give Greenland and Faroe Islands a greater voice on the Arctic Council, an international forum of the eight circumpolar countries, with Denmark saying Greenland would now speak first at ministerial meetings, followed by the Faroe Islands, with Denmark speaking last.

‘Arctic increasingly in the spotlight’

A file photo of Torshavn, the Faroe Islands’ capital city, in an undated photo. “The new contact committee reflects a clear will to coordinate and address foreign, security and defence policy issues across the parties in the Commonwealth,” the Faroe Islands’ Prime Minister Bardur a Steig Nielsen says. (iStock)

The Faroe Islands’ Prime Minister Bardur a Steig Nielsen says the terms signed Monday are another step towards a greater voice on Arctic affairs. 

“The North Atlantic and the Arctic are increasingly in the spotlight of security policy, and therefore the active participation of the Faroe Islands and Greenland is also of growing importance,” he said.

I’m sure it’s going to benefit us all and I’m looking forward to getting started. I regard the new contact committee as a necessary modernization of the Commonwealth.”

Items outlined in terms of reference
  • a structured exchange of foreign policy and security issues of particular relevance to Greenland and the Faroe Islands
  • create a common understanding by taking into account the interests of all three countries
  • discuss foreign and security policy areas that intersect with areas taken over by Greenland and the Faroe Islands
  • discuss foreign security and defence in light of technological developments

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says the increasing importance of the Arctic on the world stage makes the creation of the contact committee more important than ever.

“In recent years, foreign, security and defence policy has taken on a completely different dimension in the Arctic and the North Atlantic,” she said. “It’s important for the government that cooperation between Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland on these issues is strengthened. 

“Today, with each of our signatures on the terms of reference of the new Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy Contact Committee, we have created the framework for this important cooperation.”

A file photo of Kangerlussuaq Airport in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. “[The contact committee] will strengthen Greenland’s active participation in international relations in the globalized world, and create more elbow room which I have high expectations for,” Greenland’s Prime Minister Mute Bourup Egede said on October 4. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The chairmanship of the contact committee will alternate annually between Greenland the Faroe Islands and Denmark.

Meetings will be held in the country that currently holds the chairmanship.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Royal Canadian Navy ship completes Northwest Passage journey for first time since 1954, CBC News

Finland: Arctic Finland to see biggest military exercise of the year, Yle News

Greenland: Greenland’s more prominent role on Arctic Council important signal to int’l community says foreign minister, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Nordics should aim for common approach to China’s Arctic involvement says report, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Nordic fighter jet exercises underway inside Arctic Circle, The Independent Barents Observer

RussiaNational security chief says Russia must bolster its Arctic military, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden inaugurates new regiment in sub-Arctic Arvidsjaur, Radio Sweden

United States: Norway ambassador visits Alaska to talk climate, Russia and, yes, Norwegian dog mushing success, Alaska Public Media

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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