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Resumé af Sofie Prip og Natuk Fleischers speciale

Specialetitel: Meanwhile: Impacts of state-centric paradigms on Greenland’s paradiplomacy and de facto international legitimacy | Roskilde Universitet

Research question: How does the general state-centric paradigm in the international society and in the Danish Constitution shape Greenland’s room for maneuver in its paradiplomatic activities within foreign affairs?

  • Denmark does not allow Greenland to assume full legal responsibility for the field of foreign affairs as long as the country is part of the Community of the Realm. How does this affect the country’s legitimacy in the international society?
  • In which ways does this structure influence the sense of authority of Greenlandic actors within foreign affairs?

Theoretical basis

The analysis of this thesis is based on theories of paradiplomacy by Alexander S. Kuznetsov (2015) and David Criekemans (2020), legitimacy in international organizations by Ian Hurd (1999), Ian Clark (2003), and Edward Keene (2002). As well as Anibal Quijano (2000), Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh (2018) and Robert Petersen’s (1995) take on colonial structures with theories on coloniality and decoloniality. The theoretical approach of the thesis is based on a review of existing literature on the topic.

The term paradiplomacy is part of the theoretical field of international relations. However, the field of literature on paradiplomacy in general is somewhat limited with the concept being relatively new (from 1990). Alexander S. Kuznetsov offers a cornerstone on the term paradiplomacy in his book Theory and Practice of Paradiplomacy (2015). Based in the field of international relations and diplomacy, Kuznetsov seeks to define paradiplomacy and systematize the ideas he has observed in studies of paradiplomacy. Furthermore, juris Doctor from Canada Emily Tsui (2020) has identified an Arctic gap in the field of paradiplomacy. And indeed, not a lot of focus has been brought to the study of the sub-state entities of the Community of the Realm. 

When working with the concept of sub-state entities through the lens of paradiplomacy, defining statehood naturally follows. Studies of statehood can take many directions and we therefore decided to base our understanding on the aforementioned authors’ discussions of the judicial frameworks of what it means to be a state and thus a sub-state entity. The thesis found that the problem of state recognition mechanisms within theories of international law is the fact that the leading powers have their own interests which often hinders the implementation of legal norms. According to Kuznetsov (2015), it results in the fact that the transformation from de facto to de jure independence often depends on deals and agreements between key players, rather than through international law. Thus, perspectives on statehood from theories of international law could only cover parts of our investigation into Greenlandic foreign affairs, since their rigid frameworks cannot explain the many nuances and gray areas that exist in the Greenlandic case.

The literature on the term legitimacy offers a less rigid framework that acknowledges the constantly changing identity of the international community and the criteria actors need to live up to in order to become part of it. Exploring Ian Hurd’s (1999), Ian Clark’s (2003), and Edward Keene’s (2002) underlying ideas of legitimacy being something that can be changed, achieved, and developed constantly, plays an important part in this thesis’ understanding of Greenland’s legitimacy in international organizations. This approach offers a description of the international society as a community which Greenland, through norm-challenging, can maybe become a greater part of than it is today, as the mere characteristics of Greenland might influence the general membership-requirements as well as the values of different international institutions. The approach thus offers an alternative to theories of international relations that tend to reduce Greenland’s power based on the country not living up to characterizations of a sovereign state. Furthermore, IR scholar Edward Keene offers a new perspective to the legitimacy debate. In his book Beyond the Anarchical Society, he argues that one cannot discuss the international society of today without considering its colonial past. 

This connection between colonialism and legitimacy brought our attention to the fact that such a connection is very scarce in the literature on paradiplomacy. However, when studying the case of Greenland’s room for maneuver in foreign affairs, it is essential to consider the country’s colonial past, and how it affects its present. Therefore, we also investigated the literature on decolonization, with a focus on how remnants from the colonization of Greenland are still infused in the present. We looked into how Greenlandic scholars utilize perspectives on this issue (Berthelsen 2021; Dyrendom Graugaard 2021; Jensen 2020; Lynge 2006; Marcussen-Mølgaard 2020; Petersen 1995). Furthermore, we looked into the theory of coloniality developed by Anibal Quijano (2000) and further developed by Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh (Mignolo 2007; Mignolo & Walsh 2018).

Methodological basis

Through semi-structured research interviews, we collected data from relevant actors within Greenlandic foreign affairs. This included previous Greenlandic Ministers of foreign affairs, current Greenlandic Ministers, Permanent Secretaries in Naalakkersuisut, Heads of Greenlandic
Representations, Greenlandic members of the Danish Parliament and other specialists within the topic of Greenlandic foreign affairs.

The theory of science of the thesis is hermeneutics as explained by Michael Hviid Jacobsen, Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen and Peter Nedergaard (2010), which focuses on the interaction between understanding and explaining. The approach values understanding a topic before being able to explain said topic, which was a valuable approach for this thesis since the topic was beforehand only sparingly accounted for. Following the hermeneutical circle, we were able to understand statements in their situational reality as well as including the wider theoretical, historical, and political reality in which they exist. In this thesis, that meant focusing on how specific statements are rooted in Greenland’s historical background, in the current political climate of Greenlandic foreign affairs, and in the interview situation specifically. Doing hermeneutical research entails understanding our own presumptions as researchers as these presumptions might influence our choice of sources, questioning, etc. Therefore, we have briefly presented ourselves, our relations to Greenland and Greenlandic foreign affairs, as well as our research background and what this means for the shaping of our research question, interviews, and interpretation in the thesis.

The choice of performing semi-structured research interviews was based on several different factors. For example, examining Greenland’s de facto room for maneuver in foreign affairs required a departure from document analysis alone and a dive into the many gray areas that might exist in day-to-day work with Greenlandic foreign affairs. In order to identify relevant interviewees, we began mapping any potential peoples of interest. Reconsidering the literature we found on coloniality and  decoloniality, as well as our own ethical roles as researchers we decided to not include actors and officials from the Danish system, as the story of the marginalized is far too often told by outsiders. Thus, we wanted to hear from Greenland’s officials and actors only. Our data collection coincided with the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík, Iceland, and this conference brought together many of our potential interviewees, such as Heads of Representations who are otherwise located around the world. Thus, we decided to join the conference. Furthermore, we decided to go to Nuuk, Greenland, as most previous Ministers of Foreign Affairs as well as Ministers and Permanent Secretaries of other policy areas are located here. The thesis includes 13 interviews with relevant actors.

As described by Brinkmann and Kvale (2015) the semi-structured research interview does not come with any clear course of action. This reality allowed us to utilize the hermeneutical circle to its fullest and thus go back and forth during our interview process to reevaluate our research questions and our focus of study based on any new information we collected through each interview. The semi-structuredness of our interviews allowed us to follow new leads during interviews and move our research in directions we would have maybe otherwise missed. In the thesis we have included our ethical considerations in regard to briefing and debriefing before and after interviews, the (im)possibility of anonymity for our interviewees, and the revision process for interviewees.

In combination with hermeneutical semi-structured interviews, we used document analysis to do a triangulation of our data and corroborate our results with evidence from document sources. As a supplementing method, document analysis allowed us to contextualize the data we collected in our interviews and provide background information and historical insight to Greenland’s decolonization, foreign affairs practices, judicial positions, and more. We used a variety of documents such as legal documents, official government websites, news articles and opinion pieces by Greenlandic foreign affairs actors. Thus, document analysis supported the knowledge base of our case, suggested directions for the questions we asked in our interviews, and helped us verify and back up claims made by our interviewees.

Analysis, results, and conclusion

In order to answer our research question, we began by looking into the constitutional framework of the Community of the Realm. We showed that the rigidity of the Danish Constitution has been
disputed leading to a political discussion on room for maneuver. Secondly, we described the motives Greenland has for conducting paradiplomacy, utilizing the theory of paradiplomacy’s view on statehood. Thirdly, we analyzed how Greenland’s non-statehood influences the country’s legitimacy and representation in the Arctic Council, and how the state-centric paradigm of international organizations affects Greenland. Finally, we analyzed how all of these factors affect our interviewees’ sense of authority and the mandate they enter into international cooperation with.

We have shown in our analysis, that the judicial framework of the Danish Constitution has been debated, with some arguing that the framework of the constitution has been ‘blown up’ or at least expanded by the Greenlandic Self Government Act of 2009 (Hannestad 2016; í Dali 2015; Olsen 2001). However, the Constitution is still brought up as the most cementing factor as it prevents Greenland from taking home five areas of responsibility; foreign affairs, security and defense, the Supreme Court, citizenship, and monetary policy. But as the inescapability of the Constitution is being judicially questioned it allows for a political discussion of the validity of the framework of the Community of the Realm and the Danish Constitution, and this fundamental discussion is one that we have encountered in most of our interviews. One topic that was raised recurrently throughout most of our interviews was a critique of the principles of the judicial setup of the Realm, where the Danish  Constitution ultimately constrains the Greenlandic room for maneuver in foreign affairs. Interviewees raised concerns over the fact that the Danish Constitution was not made for Greenlanders, that Greenlanders were not included in its making, and pointed to the many differences of the two countries as problematic when they are coupled together under one constitution. The scope of Greenland’s room for maneuver in foreign affairs has, by and large, been set by Denmark and not by Greenland.

Greenland has assumed responsibility over the field of fisheries and mineral resources and therefore the country has the last say in the majority of cases, even when these areas include international cooperation. Through interviews with Permanent Secretaries of the Ministry of Fisheries and the Ministry of Mineral Resources, we found that Greenland is accepted as an independent unit and actor by the international society and the international society is, in most cases, able to separate and understand the complexity of the Greenland-Denmark constellation. The mere existence of these home taken areas and the fact that they are widely accepted internationally, questions the validity of the argument that the Realm can only act as one unit under international law. Furthermore, the Danish Constitution is generally not viewed as a hindrance for home taken areas. However, problems can occur when Denmark classifies a case as a security matter and intervenes in Greenland’s home taken areas. The principle of Denmark’s ability to overrule the politics of home taken areas, with a constitution that Greenlanders in our interviews expressed does not feel like their own, is problematic.

By virtue of the Self Government Act and ‘Fuldmagtsloven’ which is implemented to the Act, Greenland is able to effectuate foreign affairs to some extent. However, Greenland is a case that is difficult to put in one box. It is a non-sovereign salt-water colony, with a state-like system, the majority of the population are indigenous, and it has the right to assume sovereignty over most areas, except for the five mentioned above. Because of Greenland’s position as an ‘almost but not quite’ sovereign state, it is difficult to place the country in a state-centric paradigm and an either-or approach in questions of agency of states/non-states in the international arena. The theory of paradiplomacy advances a more nuanced picture of non-state actors and their place in the international arena. It focusses on non-central governments’, or sub-state entities’, foreign policy. We have shown in our analysis that Greenland has interests in engaging itself in high politics. With its position in the midst of the Arctic Ocean, Greenland is placed in the center of geopolitical issues. And in a time where China wishes to partake in projects in the Arctic, where Russia is upgrading its military sites in the Arctic and where the US wishes to further establish its demands on the Arctic (DIIS 2021), it makes it difficult to avoid ‘high political’ issues and national security matters. This interest in high level politics should thus not be interpreted as a wish to challenge Denmark’s monopoly, but rather as a necessity for Greenland amongst others due to geopolitical placement. 

We have shown that Greenland has increased its independent agency in foreign affairs, and during our interviews we gained an insight into some of Greenland’s motives for conducting paradiplomacy. The overall motive in the long run is to be fully liberated from Denmark; a point that is very openly declared by Naalakkersuisut (Naalakkersuisut 2016a, Naalakkersuisut 2021). However, we identified many nuances in this picture. First of all, Greenland expresses a wish to clarify its messages to the international society and distance itself from Denmark – a wish based on the understanding that the differences between the three units of the Realm are too great to place under one foreign affairs hat. Furthermore, the inability to control Denmark and Danish officials’ upholding of their promise in informing Greenlandic officials in matters that are important to Greenland is another important motivator for conducting more paradiplomacy.

Many interviewees expressed the view that it is natural for Greenland to take a leading role in Arctic matters, and that the process of gaining more self-determination in the field of foreign affairs is a natural part of Greenland’s decolonization-process. In the case of Greenland, paradiplomacy should therefore be considered a natural stage of a country working towards independence. Indeed, we have shown a great connection between Greenlandic paradiplomacy and the theory of coloniality with a general understanding amongst our interviewees that you cannot ‘write off’ the history of the colonial period as something that has no influence on Greenlandic foreign affairs today. In exploring this, we have focused on the more personal level of Greenlandic actors within foreign affairs. Our interviews show a disconnection between these actors’ official statuses, as Danish diplomats or Danish citizens, and their personal identity which is Greenlandic. Although we found that Greenland’s de facto room for maneuver in foreign affairs in many cases is greater than what the Danish Constitution and the setup of the Realm allows for, the lack of a corresponding de jure power still affects actors’ sense of authority when conducting themselves in international settings. Here we do not take a stance on whether Greenland should become independent today or assume full responsibility over the foreign affairs area.

The wish for a higher degree of sovereignty in foreign affairs also depicts a wish to reduce Greenland’s democratic deficit. We have shown that there is a perceived lack of Greenlandic representation in relevant international fora, notably the Arctic Council. Greenland’s scope of agency in the Arctic Council stems from the state-centric paradigm of the global order. Members of the Arctic Council must be sovereign states, and though the council does offer some power for non-state actors, this membership requirement means that Denmark represents the Realm, even though Greenland is the only Arctic country in the Realm. Our interviews show that Greenlandic actors within foreign affairs express an urge to gain a greater voice in Arctic matters through the Arctic Council, as they worry that the people who actually live in the Arctic are not sufficiently represented by Denmark. The fact that an Arctic country like Greenland must share its vote with two non-Arctic countries on matters that affect Greenlandic life directly is considered unjust, and here it is worth questioning whether the involvement of indigenous groups, working groups and observers to the Arctic Council can really make up for the democratic deficit that exists in the council in the case of Greenland? 

The thesis’ contribution in relation to the Community of the Realm: 

With an increased geopolitical interest in the Arctic, the Greenlandic room for maneuver within the field of foreign affairs becomes more and more relevant to discuss within the Community of the Realm. Our thesis offers a thorough analysis of Greenland’s already existing paradiplomatic activities as well as some of the issues on the topic raised by actors within Greenlandic foreign affairs. First of all, the framework of paradiplomacy suggests that the issues that can occur out of a sub-states’ paradiplomatic activities, in most cases, should not be considered the cause of conflicts, but rather a reflection of already existing challenges. We show that paradiplomacy offers an obvious way forward for the decolonization, democratization and international legitimization of sub-state entities such as Greenland. We propose a greater focus on the remaining colonial structures in the present, also when researching international relations.

With this thesis we also wish to challenge some of the views that seem to have become the norm - that the control of Greenland’s room for maneuver within foreign affairs is justified by the fact that Denmark grants Greenland the block grant, which is roughly 3.9 billion DKK. Based on our analysis and interpretation, our stance is that the principle of the five locked areas is a product of colonial thinking. Our analysis corresponds with the view that the Self Government Act is already a violation of the Constitution, and Denmark's insisting that foreign affairs cannot be assumed by Greenland is based on Denmark’s interest in staying an ‘Arctic’ state. We are not assessing whether Greenland can manage the changes in economic circumstances or work burden in assuming responsibility over an area like foreign affairs, but we are critically assessing the premise and principle of Greenland not having the free choice to do so. We have consistently emphasized that the interviewees are not criticizing the cooperation between Danish and Greenlandic officials and politicians, and that is not our stance either. Many interviewees expressed the belief that there will always be ties and cooperation between Greenland and Denmark, but that the current framework is not sustainable for the future.

We have recognized a challenge in the systemic constellation within the Greenland-Denmark relation and the overall framework of the Realm. However, we have also shown that it is not only the framework of the Realm that can inhibit Greenland from increased influence in institutions, such as the Arctic Council. The Arctic has gained an increasing geopolitical significance in recent years, and thus the Arctic Council ministerial meetings seems to have become a much more important geopolitical fora for member states. The theoretical direction of legitimacy, that we have presented in the thesis, focusses on the legitimacy of members in international organization, which is based on the perception of other members (Clark 2003). As we have explained, Greenland is generally accepted as an actor by its international partners when it comes to home taken areas, despite the complicated setup of the Realm. Seeing that the international society is fully capable of respecting and accepting Greenland as an actor within these areas, it is not hard to imagine that a similar acceptance of Greenland is possible when it comes to foreign affairs and international organizations as the Arctic Council, maybe even without Greenland becoming a recognized sovereign state. 

Based on our research, it is our conviction that Denmark and the international society should be able to encompass the complexity of Greenland’s status, and that state sovereignty should not be a precondition for real agency in the international sphere. In conclusion, it is our belief that the accommodation of Greenland’s wishes, in increased self-determination in the field of foreign affairs, will foster a more sustainable relation for the future Greenland-Denmark cooperation.

Specialet er indstillet til specialekonkurrencen 2022.

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Senest opdateret 16. november 2022