2008 Greenlandic self-government referendum

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Greenlandic self-government referendum, 2008
25 November 2008

Response Votes %
Yes 21,355 76.22%
No 6,663 23.78%
Valid votes 28,018 99.12%
Invalid or blank votes 250 0.88%
Total votes 28,268 100.00%
Registered voters/turnout 39,285 71.96%

A non-binding referendum on Greenland's autonomy was held on 25 November 2008 to support or oppose the Greenland Self-Government Act. It was passed with 75% approval (63% in Nuuk) and a 72% turnout.[1] The non-binding referendum was on expanded home rule in 30 areas, including police, courts, and the coast guard; gave Greenland a say in foreign policy; provided a more definite split of future oil revenue; and made the Greenlandic language the sole official language.

The referendum was announced by Prime Minister Hans Enoksen on 2 January 2008.[2] Enoksen also announced the launch of an information and discussion campaign on the issue of self-government. This included town hall meetings throughout the country.[3]


Greenland became a Denmark–Norway colony in 1775 and was made a province of Denmark in 1953. In 1979, it was made an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, with a parliament and local control of health care, schools, and social services. In 1985, it withdrew from the then European Economic Community (now known as the European Union) to maintain control of fishing in its waters. There has been some movement towards independence, encouraged by Denmark but held back by Greenland's need for economic subsidies.

A 2003 report from the Commission on Self-Governance outlined six possibilities for the future of Greenland.[4] These were:

Proposal and expansion of home rule[edit]

Although it was a non-binding referendum, the Danish parliament supported it and promised to honour its results. The expansion of home rule took effect on 21 June 2009, the 30th anniversary of the establishment of home rule, when the Act on Greenland Self-Government took affect.

Greenland gained greater control of the police, coast guard, and courts.[5] In addition, the Greenlandic language became the sole official language.[5]

Oil revenues will be divided differently, with the first 75 million Danish kroner (US$13.1 million) going to Greenland, and the remaining revenue split evenly with Denmark.[5]

Greenland's subsidies from Copenhagen will be phased out. The subsidy is currently[when?] 3.5 billion kroner ($588 million) per year,[6] which accounts for about one-third of the island's gross domestic product of 10.5 billion kroner[7] and almost two-thirds of the total income of the home rule government of 6.1 billion kroner.[8]

Greenlanders are also recognized as a separate group of people under international law.[9]

The changes were met with skepticism from some Danish politicians. Per Ørum Jørgensen, who helped negotiate the agreement, said that it may be "30–40 years" before Greenland is ready to take charge of itself. MP Søren Espersen from the Danish People's Party controversially claimed that Greenlanders had been "brainwashed with unprecedented propaganda" and that he believed "huge problems are waiting in the future".[10]


The referendum passed.[11] The Greenlandic government was pursuing future independence,[12] and the result was seen by some observers as a "major step" in that direction.[13]

Referendum results
Choice Votes %
Referendum passed Yes 21,355 75.54
No 6,663 23.57
Invalid or blank votes 250 0.89
Total votes 28,268 100.00
Registered voters and turnout 39,285 71.96
Source: Valg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cowell, Alan (26 November 2008). "Greenland Vote Favors Independence". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2009-04-17. Retrieved 30 November 2008.
  2. ^ Ukiortaami oqalugiaat 2008 Archived 2007-06-20 at archive.today Namminersornerullutik Oqartussat, 2 January 2008 (in Greenlandic)
  3. ^ Namminersorneq pillugu paasititsiniaaneq[permanent dead link] Namminersornerullutik Oqartussat, 7 January 2008 (in Greenlandic)
  4. ^ "Report from the Commission on Self-Governance, March 2003" (PDF).[permanent dead link] Namminersornerullutik Oqartussat
  5. ^ a b c McSmith, Andy (2008-11-27). "The Big Question: Is Greenland ready for independence, and what would it mean for its people?". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2008-11-27.
  6. ^ "Facts and figures about Greenland". International Herald Tribune. 2008-11-26. Archived from the original on 2008-11-26. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
  7. ^ Greenland in figures 2008 (PDF) (5th revised ed.). Statistics Greenland. Greenland Home Rule Government. July 2008. p. 19. ISBN 9788798678724. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 30 November 2008.
  8. ^ "Offentlige finanser 2008:2" (PDF) (in Danish). Statistics Greenland. 2008. p. 6. Archived from the original on 2008-11-18. Retrieved 30 November 2008.
  9. ^ Cowell, Alan (2008-11-26). "Greenland Vote Favors Independence". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2014-12-16. Retrieved 2008-11-27.
  10. ^ "Danish doubts over Greenland vote". BBC News. 2008-11-27. Archived from the original on 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
  11. ^ Referendum set to give Greenland more autonomy Archived 2009-06-27 at the Wayback Machine Trend News, 8 November 2008
  12. ^ McSmith, Andy (2008-11-27). "The Big Question: Is Greenland ready for independence, and what would it mean for its people?". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2008-11-27.
  13. ^ Greenland votes for more autonomy Archived 2008-11-27 at the Wayback Machine BBC News, 26 November 2008

External links[edit]