An interview on Arctic issues with Thomas Østrup Møller, Danish ambassador to Poland


•    Which parts of the arctic region does Denmark want to control?

The Kingdom of Denmark – Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland – has sovereignty over its territory, including the territorial sea, and sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zones (EEZs) in accordance with international law.

In accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) we have the possibility of extending our continental shelf beyond 200 M if we can document to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf that a number of scientific criteria are met. To document such claims the Kingdom of Denmark has launched a continental shelf project. The Kingdom has already submitted documentation to the UN Commission relating to two areas near the Faroe Islands and by 2014 plans to complete the submission of documentation on three areas near Greenland. 
•    Are those claims overlapping the ones made by other arctic states?

That remains to be seen, but it is highly probable. In case of overlapping claims by other Arctic states we will enter into negotiations with the other part(s) to ensure an orderly settlement of the question in accordance with UNCLOS and the Ilulissat Declaration adopted by the five Arctic Ocean coastal states – the Kingdom of Denmark, Canada, Norway, Russia and the United States – in May 2008. 
•    What are the Danish government arguments supporting those claims?

The arguments will be the scientific documentation submitted to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
•    What is the Danish view on the size of the arctic underwater mineral resources?

It has been estimated that 31 billion barrels of oil and gas off the coast of Northeast Greenland and 17 billion barrels of oil and gas in areas west of Greenland could be discovered.

In addition, Greenland is also rich in mineral deposits, including zinc, copper, nickel, gold, diamonds and platinum group metals, and has substantial deposits of critical metals, including rare earth elements.
•    Does Denmark possess the technology required to start drilling? If not, is it trying to develop such?

Yes. Among the present licensees you find NUNAOIL (Greenland), DONG (Denmark) and Maersk Oil (Denmark). Several foreign companies are also licensees.
•    What is the Danish view on possible cooperation with other states/ multinational companies in the process of extracting the arctic resources?

Any licensee must ensure that safety, environmental and health risks are identified, assessed and reduced as much as practically and reasonably possible in accordance with the Greenland mineral resources Act.
•    When would it be possible to start the exploitation of the arctic resources and to what extend should it be done in order to make the whole process profitable?

The many licensees are evidence that they believe it will be possible to make a profit within their economic horizon.
•    How do you see the process of transporting the resources to the mainland? How expensive could this process occur?

I am not in a position to answer these questions, but I take it that the means of transportation will be similar to the ones employed elsewhere in the world in northern seas.
•    What is the Danish position on a theoretical armed conflict over controlling the arctic deepwater resources?

An armed conflict in the Arctic region is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future. It has been estimated that 97 percent of the resources in the Arctic Ocean have already been allocated among the five Arctic Ocean coastal states and they are in accordance with the Ilulissat Declaration committed to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and to the orderly settlement of any possible overlapping claims.
•    Do you think that the militarization of the arctic region by particular states is possible? Which states would lead this process?

I refer to the previous answer. Quite another question is a possible presence of coast guard or defence forces that enforce the sovereignty and sovereign rights of the states in Arctic waters that so far have been inaccessible because of ice, but are increasingly becoming navigable as the ice retracts because of global warming.
•    What is the level of Danish military presence in the arctic region? Does Copenhagen have any plans to enlarge that level?

The Danish military presence in the Arctic region is relatively modest. The ability of the armed forces to conduct operations in the Arctic environment will be strengthened, however, through the establishment of an Arctic Response Force. The response force will not be established permanently, but designated from existing armed forces and emergency preparedness units with Arctic capacity. 
•    Could Demark cooperate in the military sphere with other NATO-member states?

Denmark is cooperating with other NATO states in the Arctic. In May 2010 we signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on enhanced operational defence cooperation in the Arctic with Canada, focusing on joint military exercises, staff exchanges and cooperation in rescue operations, and we expect that the close Danish-Canadian military cooperation will be further enhanced over the coming years.
•    What is the Danish timetable for examination of the arctic seabed, which is required by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf?

We must submit data and other material to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf as a basis for the extension of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles before 16 December 2014.
•    What is the Danish view on the recent territorial agreement between Russian Federation and Norway about the EEZ delimitation on the Barents Sea? Would it encourage other arctic states to resolve their territorial disputes with omission of UN institutions?

We welcome the agreement between Norway and Russia. As previously mentioned all the Arctic Ocean Coastal states have agreed to act in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and to solve any overlapping claims by way of negotiations.
•    How will the Danish arctic policy look in the nearest future (up to four-five years)?

The main goals of the Arctic policy of the Kingdom of Denmark are a peaceful, secure and safe Arctic, with sustained economic growth and development, with respect for the vulnerable Arctic climate, environment and nature, and close cooperation with our international partners.
•    What is the Danish position on the internationalization plans for the Northwest passage and the Northern Sea Route? 

These are highly complex matters which merit further legal study. Denmark has not defined its position.
Polityka Wschodnia