Learn About Greenland

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Since the eighteenth century, Greenland has been a territory controlled by Denmark. In recent years, however, Greenland has regained a considerable level of autonomy from Denmark.

Greenland as a Colony

Greenland first became a colony of Denmark in 1775. In 1953, Greenland was established as a province of Denmark. In 1979, Greenland was granted home rule by Denmark. Six years later, Greenland left the European Economic Community (the forerunner of the European Union) in order to keep its fishing grounds from European rules. About 50,000 of Greenland's 57,000 residents are indigenous Inuit.

Greenland's Independence From Denmark

It wasn't until 2008 that Greenland's citizens voted in a non-binding referendum for increased independence from Denmark. In a vote of over 75% in favor, Greenlanders voted to reduce their involvement with Denmark. With the referendum, Greenland voted to take control of law enforcement, the justice system, coast guard, and to share more equality in oil revenue. The official language of Greenland also changed to Greenlandic (also known as Kalaallisut).

This change to a more independent Greenland officially took place in June 2009, the 30th anniversary of Greenland's home rule in 1979. Greenland maintains some independent treaties and foreign relations. However, Denmark retains ultimate control of foreign affairs and defense of Greenland.

Ultimately, while Greenland now maintains a great deal of autonomy, it is not yet a fully independent country. Here are the eight requirements for independent country status with regard to Greenland:

  • Has space or territory which has internationally recognized boundaries: yes
  • Has people who live there on an ongoing basis: yes
  • Has economic activity and an organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money: mostly, although the currency is the Danish kroner and some trade agreements remain the purview of Denmark
  • Has the power of social engineering, such as education: yes
  • Has a transportation system for moving goods and people: yes
  • Has a government which provides public services and police power: yes, although defense remains Denmark's responsibility
  • Has sovereignty. No other state should have power over the country's territory: no
  • Has external recognition. A country has been "voted into the club" by other countries: no

Greenland reserves the right to seek complete independence from Denmark but experts currently expect that such a move is in the distant future. Greenland will need to try on this new role of increased autonomy for a few years before moving to the next step on the road to independence from Denmark.

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Rosenberg, Matt. "Learn About Greenland." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/status-of-greenland-1434963. Rosenberg, Matt. (2020, August 27). Learn About Greenland. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/status-of-greenland-1434963 Rosenberg, Matt. "Learn About Greenland." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/status-of-greenland-1434963 (accessed December 10, 2022).