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  • Jade Jones

Constitutional Commission Present Draft Constitution for an Independent Greenland

As reported by Sermitsiaq on April 28, the Constitutional Commission officially handed a draft constitution for Greenland to the Inatsisartut, the legislative branch of Greenland’s parliament. Still in a draft form, the 49-paragraph document written in Greenlandic and supplemented by explanations of the constitutional provisions and annexes, was also published for public distribution. As an autonomous territory Greenland could rely on its draft constitution when negotiating future independence from Denmark. (Sermitsiaq)

Credit: Nuuk city below Sermitsia in Greenland CC0 Public Domain

Greenland’s draft constitution is a natural extension of the 2009 Self-Government Act, a legislative Act which recognized the Greenlandic right to self-determination and only reserved issues related to currency, the justice system, foreign and security affairs to Danish jurisdiction. The Act also included a provision that, negotiations are to commence between Nuuk and Copenhagen should Greenland's people decide in favour of independence. The resulting agreement would then have to be approved by a public referendum in Greenland.

The publication of the draft constitution is meant to encourage public and political discourse on independence, it does not mean an immediate decision will be taken on initiating the decoupling process. Criticism that the draft fails to address key issues has already been expressed, key issues including Greenlandic passport access, the administration of justice, areas still managed by mainland Denmark, and whether the Danish monarch would remain head of state. Nevertheless, there are some innovative features of the draft. For example, the draft includes references to the natural environment and creates an explicit right ‘to live in a clean and healthy environment that is protected on a sustainable basis.’

It remains to be seen whether politicians and the public will pursue independence in the immediate future. It is also unclear what model of independence Greenland would choose. Wording in the draft creates the opportunity for Greenland to enter into a free association agreement, essentially becoming independent but retaining a connection with their former colonial power. Whatever the future direction, the completion of the draft constitution is an unmistakable milestone in Greenlandic history. (Arctic Today, Danish Institute for International Studies, Foreign Policy, Sermitsiaq, VOA News)


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