Dear Ministers, Excellences, Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen – friends and colleagues.
Let me start out by expressing my warm welcome to all of you at this annual New Year’ gathering and wish you a very happy New Year. I would like to extend my congratulations to the newly appointed Ministers of the Danish government.
I think that we all have noted that New Years’ statements from government heads around the world focused on the difficult state that most of the world’s economies are in. Though, our economy has fared relatively well, we have not been left completely untouched by the downward trends of the global economy. Therefore, my New Years’ address to the Greenland people also contained a call for prudence in order to secure the welfare of future generations.
But all is not bleak. Towards the end of 2011, new figures showed that the value of our exports had risen almost by 25 % - with a DKK value amounting to 376 million. This rise is due to favorable world market prices for various fish species.
However, these favorable world markets prices should not be an excuse for not continuing the reforms within the fisheries’ sector. Fisheries will remain the mainstay of Greenland economy for many years to come. Therefore it is a priority that we continue harvesting the ocean’s living resources in a sustainable, yet efficient manner. We have high expectations that we will be able to obtain MSC’s certification for our fish products in 2012 and thereby gain global recognition as a nation that do take the principles of sustainable fisheries seriously.
2011 was also a year, which brought optimism in regard to the well being of our children and youth. A Children and Youth conference, sponsored by my government and UNICEF provided many good recommendations. The Youth had made the enhancement of opportunities and quality in education a priority. As the effort of reforming and improving education is a joint Greenland national enterprise, we are also extremely pleased to see that new statistics show a high increase in the number of youth seeking further education and not least a high increase in completion rates.
In this context, I would like to recognize efforts by civil society, both at home, in Denmark and in other countries for their invaluable contributions to the education and well being of our children and youth. Without the generous contributions of philanthropic foundations, of staff and volunteers in organizations for child welfare and sports, and the like, we would achieve much less.
In regards to securing the future economy, prospecting and exploration of carbon resources continue to be high on my government’s agenda. The results of the first few exploration drillings have given us indications that our agenda is worth pursuing. We have also noted with satisfaction that many Greenlandic companies and communities have benefitted from engaging in those activities. But as we cannot expect large-scale returns from this field in the near future, we must also pursue the potentials of our minerals.
We have a diversity of mineral resources spread through out the vast landmass that Greenland represents. In the very near future, we anticipate to receive a number of applications for prospecting as well as for exploitation of different sites.
There should be no doubt that we intend, and in fact are bound by law to examine these applications with utmost care and scrutiny. Requirements for safeguarding the environment and the sustainability of local communities have to be met. The exercise of highest standards of corporate social responsibility is fundamental to sustainable development. We welcome and encourage a lively and informed public debate in order to ensure participation in the many crutial decisions that we need to take.
In May of 2011, my government hosted the Arctic Council Ministerial Conference in Nuuk in cooperation with our Danish and Faroese colleagues. At this Ministerial, Ministers agreed to strengthen Search and Rescue (SAR) cooperation in the Arctic. We look forward to work with the Danish government and other Arctic states on the implementation of this important agreement – also in the context of the Kingdom’s Arctic Strategy. I believe that this agreement, which is very important in its own right, is also a promise of an increasingly dynamic, though still highly pacific, cooperation among Arctic nations.
To the people of Greenland, the Arctic Ministerial was a concrete evidence of the sense of interconnectedness that we have with, not only the circumpolar Arctic, but also the world at large. The tragic events of the deadly tsunami, which hit Japan last spring, and the cruel massacre of innocent young people in Utøya, Norway in the summer affected us immensely and like many others we sent messages of condolence and words of consolation to the affected people.
We were also immensely saddened by the death of Vaclav Havel. As a true democrat, he inspired his fellow countrymen and women as well as the entire world to believe in standing up for democracy and human rights.
By the turn of the year, Denmark took over the Presidency of the European Union. Greenland is highly appreciative of the partnership that we have with the EU and the values that we share. As our current agreements with the EU expire by the end of 2012 and of 2013, respectively, we are now negotiating new agreements and looking at the possibilities of broadening the areas of cooperation. I wish the Danish government the best of luck with the Presidency and the daunting tasks that will be theirs for the next 6 months.
Concurrent with Danish EU Presidency, Greenland will assume the Chairmanship of the OCT association and host the annual OCT ministerial as well as the trilateral OCT forum between the OCT’s, EU member states and the Commission, which will be held in Greenland in the fall of 2012. A constructive dialogue between the parties is important and we look forward to promote the interests of the OCT’s during our Chairmanship.
As can been seen we are already in full working mode, but sometimes, we also get an opportunity to combine work with fun, and for me this reception is one such opportunity. In closing, allow me to express, my own and my government’s gratitude for the good cooperation and friendship in the year that has passed.
I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year and may we all be able to continue the good cooperation and the friendship in 2012.
Thank you, qujanaq!
Government of Greenland, 3900 Nuuk, Phone: (00299) 34 50 00