The “whisky war” is over: Canada and Denmark share Hans’ island in the Arctic

The “whisky war” is over: Canada and Denmark share Hans’ island in the Arctic

by Andrea Marinelli

The small, uninhabited and inhospitable rocky island lies a thousand kilometers from the North Pole, halfway between Greenland – an autonomous Danish territory – and a Canadian island: since 1973 it was disputed between the two countries, which they eventually shared.

For half a century, Canada and Denmark have been fighting over a rocky, uninhabited and inhospitable island in the Arctic, so small at 1.2 square kilometers it’s difficult to find even on maps. Hans Island is located a thousand kilometers from the North Pole in the Kennedy Channel, a sea passage that is part of the Nares Strait and lies between the northern end of Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, and the Canadian island of Ellesmere. . There’s no vegetation or animals, just rocks and ice, which Ottawa and Copenhagen have long — and not always politely — argued about, writes the Washington Post — over who has sovereignty on the island, exactly 11 miles (18 kilometers) from either coast For the few days of the year when it is not frozen over, but which are increasing due to climate change, it receives navigation rights in the fairway and the associated submarine rights. Except that there are so many icebergs in the canal that even extracting any mineral resources – gas or oil – would be impossible. It would be very expensive oil, Arctic expert Michael Byers told the New York Times. If we had drilled at this depth for ten years, we would have lost the fight against climate change.

Despite this, the battle between the two countries went on for a long time, with a constant exchange of blows. It all started in 1973 when the Danish and Canadian diplomats were tracing the Arctic sea borders that ran straight across the island: unable to find an agreement, they decided to leave the issue unresolved, which escalated within a few years. Versions differ – attributing the first platoon to one country, then to the other – but the most accepted one claims it was Canada that caused the crisis that started the Whiskey War, or the flag that planted the white and red leaving one with the maple leaf on Hans Island and a bottle of Canadian whiskey. The Greenlandic minister in Copenhagen responded with his own flag, a bottle of Akvavit – the Scandinavian liquor – and a letter welcoming the Danish island. Since then, a peaceful and ironic struggle began, fought mostly with flags and alcohol – sent back to their respective countries of origin or drunk – but also through advertising on Google. Episodes occurred in 1988, 1995, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Then, in 2005, after a walk on the island of Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham, who infuriated the Danish government, the two contenders decided to start a peace process. Now, 17 years later, Canada and Denmark have finally reached an agreement – ​​on which 26 foreign ministers have worked in the past, those involved noted with a laugh – to end what Canadian Foreign Minister Mlanie Joly called the friendliest war of all: ca. 60 % of Hans’ island goes to Denmark, the rest of Canada gets a tiny one kilometer land border with Europe. The deal now has to be voted on by both parliaments, but is an encouraging sign at this time of great international tension. While we are here, we see major violations of international law in other parts of the world, said Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod, making a clear reference to the invasion of Ukraine, before exchanging a bottle with the other side for the last time. Instead, we have shown that even protracted international disputes can be resolved peacefully and within the rules.

June 15, 2022 (change June 15, 2022 | 17:25)