Every one of us has heard of Greenland and has a certain perception, which might be – or not – in accordance with the reality on the ground. This island, seventy times the size of Belgium, is passing at the moment through a crucial development – linked to a broad and intensive debate – which might be a forerunner of the future of Europe.
1. Climate Change
If we cannot stop it considerably, we all know that it will change our surrounding landscape as well as biodiversity and the conditions of human life. In Greenland that will mean a change of a white landscape with kilometre-thick ice sheets to a sort of Rocky Mountains area with sediments, grey-coloured basalt and other very brownish rocky formations with lakes and flown through by some rivers. That is a much more intensive change, compared to the one we are (possibly too positively) predicting for our landscape: replace some tree species by others and malaria flies migrating to our regions as well.
The Greenland population is still haunted by the trauma that in medieval times suddenly nearly the entire population had been wiped off by the black death, the pest. The development around Covid-19 is therefore bringing up subliminal existential fears that not only one’s individual life is threatened, but the existence of the whole community is at stake.
3. Economic future
The global depletion of some key raw materials and – much more important – the shift to replace hydrocarbons by renewables is confronting a territory like Greenland with an increasing pressure to open-up for mining in order to export some special components of their territorial crust – especially rare earths. The decision of the Greenland Parliament in 2013 to lift a ban on the extraction of mineral resources opened a Pandora’s box with the consequence that a myriad of international corporations expressed their interest in exploiting those metal resources (including aluminium, copper, iron, nickel, platinum, titanium. tungsten, uranium and zinc) and gemstones (including amazonite, diamond, kornerupine, lapis lazuli, peridot, quartz, ruby, sapphire, topaz, tourmaline and tugtupite and spinel). The experience in other Northern territories and countries (Alaska, Siberia, Mongolia etc.) has shown us that especially opencast mining under extreme conditions is a threat to livelihood. It will treat the landscape in a way that a recovery will need hundreds of years. Therefore a public debate about general values arose in Greenland: should we destroy our ”raft”, anchored in the middle of the Northern Atlantic for short term profits for some or should we look for more long-term values, which have future benefits for all?
4. Political consequences
That debate contributed to a shift in parliamentary voting. The elections this April for the Inatsisartut, the unicameral Parliament of Greenland, resulted with 37.42% (+11.64%) in a landslide victory of Inuit Ataqatigiit, a left-green party, which will now govern the country in a coalition with Naleraq (centrist-populists) and supported by Atassut (liberal-conservatives). The coming four years will therefore see a new policy, taking into account the environment and health aspects in mining, a rejection of uranium mining, stronger focus on soft tourism, an inclusive social policy and the admission of refugees. As the public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays a dominant role in Greenland’s economy, the implementation of that shift towards a greener and more social future will happen quite quickly.
5. And we in the EU?
With climate change at our doorsteps as well, a pandemic which destabilises as well public life and an increasing debate about values (responsibility, solidarity, sustainability) there will certainly be a modification of the composition of our political landscape as well. The tendency is already there: a Green as a President in Austria, Green mayors in several big cities in France, Green majors in three of the 19 communes of Brussels, Greens governing in coalitions in nine of the 16 German states (Länder) and an EU Commission with a Green Deal as the main program.
6. Germany: Quo Vadis?
All of that is now topped by the last poll from Germany. A new government is predicted, led by the Greens – after the elections for the federal parliament (Bundestag) on 26 September this year. With 28% (+5%), the Greens are far ahead of the Christian Democrats with their 21% (-6%), the Social Democrats (13%), the Liberals (12%), Right Wing Populists (11%) and the Left (7%). What a perspective: the economically strongest EU Member State country led by a Green politician.
7. Brussels and the European Parliament
For the capital of Europe, it is an additional specific novelty: the two leading contenders have a political; past linked to the European Parliament and its 705 Members of Parliament (MEPs). The choice for the German electorate will be this autumn between the 40 year old Green Annalena Baerbock (former MEP assistant) and the 60 years old Christian Democrat Armin Laschet (former MEP). What other countries will follow that new wave?