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Faroe Islands agree to install radar to boost Arctic surveillance

Denmark reached a deal with the Faroe Islands to establish radar monitoring airspace around the Arctic and North Atlantic Ocean in its latest initiative to secure regional intelligence, which can benefit NATO and U.S. security.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CN) — Denmark and the Faroe Islands signed an agreement on Thursday to build a radar system that will monitor activities in the airspace between Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom.

“The radar will give an overview of the airspace and identify who operates around the unity of the realm. It will benefit our unity at a time where Europe’s security is threatened,” Denmark’s Minister of Defense Morten Bødskov said in a press release. The unity of the realm refers to the three parts of the Kingdom of Denmark - metropolitan Denmark plus two autonomous countries, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

A budget of almost $56 million is set for establishment of the radar, which has a reach of up to 400 kilometers (248 miles). It will take about five years before it is ready to use. The agreement comes just a day after Bødskov signed a deal with Iceland to share surveillance data with Denmark.

Despite the wait for the new radar, NATO allies will most likely be pleased with the system that will cover a previous blind spot in surveillance of airspace in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic region, which includes Russian territory. Surveillance data can be directly monitored in Denmark and shared with NATO.

But not everyone in the Faroe Islands is convinced that the radar system is a good idea. The Faroese opposition is criticizing their government for signing the agreement without consulting local politicians first.

“I am directly against this radar agreement. It is unfair that such an important decision to build a big military radar facility has not been taken by Faroese politicians,” Høgni Hoydal, leader of the Faroese Republicans, told Danish broadcaster TV2 on Wednesday.

“We are treated as a small piece in a big political powerplay, and that reminds us of colonial times, where we were not allowed to decide ourselves,” Hoydal said.

The Faroe Islands are part of the Danish realm, which also includes Greenland. Only Denmark is allowed to handle foreign policies and security within the realm, leaving the Faroe Islands and Greenland partially independent.

Denmark, a founding member of NATO, is also open to discussions with the U.S. and Greenland about the possibility of establishing surveillance radars on Greenlandic coasts.

All three governments wish to increase security and investigative possibilities to have more “presence” in Greenland, the American embassy in Copenhagen told Greenlandic broadcaster KNR.

The U.S. already has some military capacity at Thule Airbase, locally known, as Pituffik in Greenland. It is the only area in Greenland, that the American military can use relatively freely. The base also includes a radar system monitoring northern Greenlandic airspace.

Vivian Motzfeldt, Greenland’s representative for foreign affairs and member of the center-left party Siumut, is not opposed to the idea of introducing more radars if it will help develop Greenlandic infrastructure.

Aqqalu Jerimiassen, chairman of Greenlandic liberal-conservative party Atassut, felt the same.

“We will support it if it gives better opportunities within education and more workspaces. It could be service contracts like the one we have seen in Pituffik. That would be beneficial for Greenland,”  Jerimiassen said.

A Greenlandic-Danish company had a service contract with the US maintaining the base in Pituffik bringing close to a $29 million yearly income for Greenland until 2014 when the contract was transferred to American Vectrus Services.

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