The Right to National Self-Determination: The Faroe Islands and Greenland

By Sjúrður Skaale | Go to book overview

7 - A Phrase Loaded with
Dynamite
Impressions from Walking the Corridors of the UN

Sjúrður Skaale

States do not have friends. States have interests.

Winston Churchill

A great number of international conventions, resolutions and declarations talk of the right to national self-determination. Furthermore, the right to self-determination is one of the most discussed concepts in the theoretical literature on international relations.

Our quest has been to find out more about the issue by going straight to the horse’s mouth. Walking the corridors of the UN buildings, chatting and meeting with officials and ambassadors, one gains the impression that it is all a question of taking a leap of faith — having secured the appropriate safety net first.

The UN is a club of states. A club of the mighty. If you are mighty enough, you may join. If someone claims to represent you already and considers you a mere subdivision, you may have your work cut out for you convincing the club that your might will suffice.

On this last point, Denmark claims to represent The Faroes and Greenland today. Therefore, one safety net to tie up is resolving whether the state of Denmark belongs to the more liberal or the more restrictive states when it comes to deciding whether to let a subdivision of potential might try its wings.

There have been some official Danish Government statements that have totally ruled out the possibility of Faroese or Greenland sovereignty, thus making it absolutely clear that the two countries do not have the Danish blessing to exercise the right to self-determination.1 But during the last years of heavy debate on Faroese sovereignty, Danish Prime

1 In an official pronouncement on December 23, 197§, the Danish Prime Minister’s Office, e.g., said it agreed fully with the following statement: “A home rule arrangement within the framework of the Danish “ rigsfœllesskab “ excludes the possibility that the area

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