The World's Friendliest Territorial Dispute Could Finally Be Over

Toubletap, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Toubletap, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 / Toubletap, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The dispute between Canada and Denmark over Hans Island, called the world's "most civilized conflict," could finally be coming to an end, according to Radio Canada International.

The island, which lies in the Arctic on the maritime boundary between Canada and Greenland (which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark), has been in a tug of war between the two countries that doesn't involve armies or weapons, but does involve alcohol. In what has been dubbed a "whisky war," the Canadian and Danish militaries alternately leave bottles of Canadian whisky or Danish schnapps along with their respective flags to assert their sovereignty. But the countries are finally ready to put the pranks behind them and get serious: On May 23, officials from Canada and Denmark announced that they plan to create a joint task force to resolve three outstanding boundary issues in the Arctic, including that of Hans Island.

The island isn't much to look at: It's basically a 0.5-square-mile rock. But to Denmark and Canada, it's a matter of principle. "It doesn’t concern the water or the seabed, it only concerns this tiny rock,” Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, told Radio Canada International. “But it has attracted a lot of media attention over the years, just because of the fact that it has a certain symbolism being an Arctic sovereignty dispute and being the only Arctic dispute over land.”

It remains to be seen what the task force will come up with, but Byers suggests an entirely reasonable fix: Just draw a line down the middle.

[h/t Radio Canada International]