The Faroe Islands, which are strategically situated in the heart of the North Atlantic, continue to cooperate in fishing with Russia and are moving away from Denmark. Due to pressure from Copenhagen, the administration is also considering canceling the Russian pact.
By renewing the agreement with Russia, the former Faroese administration allowed Russians to visit the ports on the islands and Faroese fishermen to fish for cod in the Russian portion of the Barents Sea until the end of 2023. Both the European Union and the Ukrainian government in Copenhagen expressed their disapproval of the ruling.
“Fishing drives our economy, it gives us the opportunity to play an important role in the North Atlantic.”Høgni Hoyda, Faroese head of diplomacy
Hoyda is the deputy prime minister in charge of commerce and fishing, and the deal with Russia has been very beneficial for the Faroe Islands, which are not a member of the EU.
95 percent of all exports from the country are made up of fish and fish-related products. The Faroese harvest 700,000 tonnes of fish and seafood annually and consume the most fish in the world—13 tonnes—per person.
In 2021, Russia is a buyer of more than a quarter of all exports. According to a government statement, the government’s fisheries agreement with Russia “does not allow” limiting the entrance of the vessels to the ports.
The head of diplomacy showed during the presentation that between 2008 and 2011, Faroese GDP growth was 2.6%, above both the 1.5% OECD average and the 1.2% of Denmark. This is just another argument in favor of the archipelago’s independence. Starting on June 1, 2024, the Faroe Islands will be in charge of overseeing marine navigation in their waters.
The income from fishing has also allowed for the accumulation of capital “for worse times when fish prices fall”, modeled on the Norwegian Pension Petroleum Fund.
The Nordic public television stations’ investigative documentary “Shadow War,” which aired at the end of April, revealed that the Russians might also exploit Faroese land to plan sabotage attacks.
It was found that between 2015 and 2022, two Russian fishing boats with military radio equipment on board moored more than 200 times in Faroese harbors. These ships may have been used for espionage and the transportation of weapons.
According to the Faroese Foreign Minister, “The Faroe Islands are fully capable of assessing what is happening in their territory.” In response to claims that Russian fishing ships moored there were being used for espionage. He simultaneously issued a warning to Copenhagen.
According to the Faroese Foreign Minister, “The Faroe Islands are fully capable of assessing what is happening in their territory.” He simultaneously issued a warning to Copenhagen, in response to claims that Russian fishing ships moored there were being used for espionage.
He emphasized that “Faroese authorities control Russian ships, and Denmark is in charge of security and secret service matters.” After the invasion of Ukraine, “We do not see Russia behaving suspiciously in our waters,” he declared. Due to cooperation with Moscow, the lawmaker further acknowledged that he is not concerned about a boycott by Faroese consumers of seafood.
The Faroese are strongly divided on Russia. They also have different views on independence from Denmark, it was decided to analyze the costs of giving up Russian fisheries in the Barents Sea.
Several Social Democrats who support the administration of Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen have advocated for the termination of the agreement with Russia, including Sjurdur Skaale of the Faroe Islands. In the meantime, the Faroese Fishermen’s Association is waging a campaign to caution against severing collaboration with the Russians out of concern for the loss of employment for its members.
The little archipelago in the center of the North Atlantic has big goals. Hoyda asserts that when the Arctic ice melts, it will open up new maritime lanes, with Faroese ports playing a significant part. The Faroe Islands are strategically situated between Iceland, Norway, and the United Kingdom in the North Atlantic.
The Faroe Islands have established diplomatic missions in Copenhagen, London, Tel Aviv, Reykjavik, Moscow, and China. In addition to starting direct flights to the United States this fall, there are plans to establish an outpost in Washington, DC, in 2024.
Even though they don’t belong to the EU, the Faroe Islands, which have a long-standing commercial relationship with Russia, supported the sanctions put in place against that country after it invades Ukraine. Governments can exclude food trade from sanctions, and the Faroe Islands, unlike Denmark and the EU, allowed the biggest Russian fishing vessels to enter their harbors.
Hoyda claims that Faroese authorities have tightened rules regarding all fishing, product transport, and related activity. He continued by saying that any illegal activities in Faroese waters would result in legal action.
The claim that Russia is mapping the infrastructure of offshore wind farms, gas pipelines, power lines, and internet cables in the Nordic region was rejected by Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian presidential office.