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Faroese independence is suddenly back on the table

Faroese independence is suddenly back on the table

| Text: Rólant Waag Dam, photo: Gwenael Akira Helmsdal Carre/

The Faroe Islands would like to become a full member of the Nordic Council. But since the Swedish Minister for Nordic Cooperation has dismissed that possibility, more Faroese politicians argue that the islands should review their role as part of the Danish realm and in the Nordic Council.

“It makes me angry to hear the Swedish minister talk like that. It is arrogant.” That was the blunt response from the Faroese Prime Minister Aksel V. Johannesen when asked to comment on Jessika Roswall’s statement that Faroese membership in the Nordic Council was not going to happen. 

Roswall is the Minister for Nordic Cooperation at the Nordic Council and was very categorical in her rejection of the Faroese desire when interviewed by Faroese television, Kringvarp Føroya, in connection with the Nordic Council's theme session in the Faroese capital on 8 and 9 April. 

Jessika Roswall

Jessika Roswall, Minister for Nordic Cooperation at the Nordic Council, rejects full Faroese Nordic Council membership. 

This happened in the wake of a working group’s proposals to amend the Helsinki Treaty, which would make the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland members of the Nordic Council on an equal footing with the other member countries. 

Today, they are not, which means they do not have voting rights, among other things. And they will not get it either, according to Sweden and Finland. This should end the debate because such a change – an amendment to the Helsinki Treaty which sets the framework for the Nordic Council – presumes unilateral agreement from all member countries. And that does not exist. 

Unusual independence rhetoric

But if Sweden and Finland thought this was the end of the saga, they were sorely mistaken.

“Jessica Roswall has reignited the Faroese independence debate which has been on the backburner for 20 years,” wrote Rógvi Olavson, a PhD student at the University of the Faroe Islands, in an opinion piece in the Danish online publication Altinget after the theme session in Thorshavn.

Erling Eidesgaard

Erling Eidesgaard from the independence Tjóðveld party during the Nordic Council.

He could write that because after Roswall’s statement something happened that is rarely seen in Faroese politics – the two parties Sambandsflokkurin (the conservative-liberal Union Party) and Tjóðveldi (the left-wing Republic Party) suddenly began to speak the same constitutional language. 

Erling Eidesgaard, the Faroese member of the Nordic Council from the separatist party Tjóðveldi, was the first to address this when he wrote on social media that he saw a momentum: 

"I have not yet met anyone who votes Sambandsflokkurin who does not support the idea of independence, if only in close cooperation with Denmark. And if that's what it takes to get the sceptics on board, let's try it." 

This form of soft independence rhetoric is highly unusual. The timing is also extremely interesting because this outstretched hand from Tjóðveldi to Sambandsflokkurin came soon after the opposition party Sambandsflokkurin signed a rather remarkable agreement with the coalition parties Javnaðarflokkurin, Framsókn and Tjóðveldi which among other things addressed the taxation of the fish farming sector.

The content is irrelevant in this story, but the fact that it was entered into is a breach of the block politics that has been the norm in the Faroe Islands for many years – and that, it would seem – was an opportunity that Eidesgaard apparently did not want to miss. 

It is important to remember that Tjóðveldi and Sambandsflokkurin are diametrically opposed. Tjóðveldi is a left-wing independence party working for Faroese independence, while Sambandsflokkurin is a conservative party that wants to maintain and strengthen relations with Denmark by being part of the Danish realm. 

Denmark will not decide

At first glance, what Eidesgaard is doing may seem quite unique. But in reality, he is simply seizing the opportunity presented by the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during the opening of the Danish parliament in October 2023, when she spoke about how the realm should develop. 

"Once upon a time, there was Denmark, and then there were two other countries in the realm. That's over now. It's not Denmark that should determine the future of either Greenland or the Faroe Islands. That decision belongs to Nuuk and Tórshavn. 

Aksel V. Johannesen during Nordic Council

"The Danish government is absolutely open to dialogue," said Faroese Prime Minister Aksel V. Johannesen.

"And as long as we have a realm – and personally I hope we will have it for many years to come – it should be an equal partnership between three countries, three peoples, three nations," said the Prime Minister in her speech on 3 October.

Roswall swept the desire for equal partnership in the Nordic Council off the table on the first day of the April session in the Faroe Islands. So it was perhaps not so surprising that the usually calm Prime Minister raged on Faroese radio the same day – and here we are back at the start of this story; the day after, Eidesgaard joined in with his soft rhetoric of secession.

"The Danish government is absolutely open to dialogue. They want us to receive the resources we need to maintain the community that we have today between the Faroe Islands, Denmark, and Greenland," Aksel V. Johannesen said on Faroese television, among other things. 

This statement aligned well with Prime Minister Frederiksen's message in October, which she reiterated during a debate about the realm in the Danish parliament on 19 April, when Anna Falkenberg, a Faroese member of the Danish parliament from Sambandsflokkurin, asked whether the Prime Minister and the Danish government were willing to consider the structure of the realm if asked by the Faroe Islands or Greenland.

“Yes, if there is a request from the two other countries in the realm to sit down and look at a different framework, we will enter into that dialogue in a positive and proper fashion,” answered Frederiksen, meaning a request must come from the Faroe Islands or Greenland.

Exiting the Nordic Council

So, discussions revolve around the development – not dissolution – of the realm. The countries seem to agree on this. The parties in the Nordic Council have different opinions, however. Iceland, Denmark and Norway recommend full membership for the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland, while Sweden and Finland are against it.

 Johan Dahl

Johan Dahl, Faroese member of the Nordic Council from Sambandsflokkurin, during the Nordic Council.

The final decision on this matter is set for 28 October, and according to Johan Dahl, a Faroese member of the Nordic Council from the Sambandsflokkurin, there are two options:

Either the Faroe Islands become full members, or the Faroe Islands should completely withdraw from Nordic cooperation. Greenland's Prime Minister, Múte B. Egede, has threatened the same. 

Angry at Sweden

The Faroese Prime Minister Aksel V. Johannesen being interviewd during the Nordic Council. Photo: Gwenael Akira Helmsdal Carre/


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