Greenlandic independence (Danish: Grønlandsk uafhængighed) is a political ambition of some political parties (such as Siumut, Inuit Ataqatigiit, Partii Naleraq, and Nunatta Qitornai), advocacy groups, and individuals of Greenland, an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, to become an independent sovereign state.
Norse and Inuit colonization
Greenland's present population are predominantly Inuit descended from the Thule people who migrated from the North American mainland in the 13th century AD, gradually settling across the island. The Danish claim to the island stems from Norse settlement of southern Greenland which lasted from the 980s till the 15th century.
Scholars believe that the earliest known Norse settlements in Greenland originated from Iceland. Scholars believe that Erik the Red founded an early colony in 985. Icelandic control of Greenland is estimated to have lasted until 1261. The Kingdom of Norway later claimed and controlled Greenland singularly from roughly 1261–1319.
These Norse settlements vanished during the 14th and early 15th centuries, with the Inuit people being the sole occupants of the island, expanding to the southern and western coasts, and being de facto independent for over 200 years until European colonization resumed. Despite this, a de jure continuing European possession of Greenland was assumed by European powers.
European colonization in the 18th – 20th centuries
European contact with Greenland was not re-established until 1721 with the mission of Hans Egede, which were followed by the Moravian missions. These established enduring colonies and — after failing to find the Norse peoples — attempted to Christianize the Inuit.
By this time Norway and Denmark had been unified under Denmark–Norway which considered Greenland part of its territory. This ended on 14 January 1814 after Norway was ceded from Denmark as a result of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. As a result of the Treaty of Kiel, Denmark gained full colonial control of Greenland soon after. From 1814 to 1953, Greenland was a colony, not independent and not part of Denmark, but directly controlled by the Danish government.
American protectorate and occupation
During the Second World War, Denmark was occupied and controlled by Nazi Germany between 1940 and 1945. As a result, the Danish and US governments signed an agreement to hand over defense and control of Greenland to the United States on 9 April 1941. (The Danish government was represented by the Danish ambassador to the US, as the US did not recognize the Nazi government of Denmark). The first troops arrived in Greenland on 7 July 1941. The US built two airports with full-length runways, which as of 2018 still are the main international airports of Greenland; however, they are located far away from any traditional settlement.
Greenland was effectively independent during these years and allowed the United States to build bases on its territory, in spite of the Danish pre-war neutrality. After the war the pre-war situation was restored, the US bases remained and Denmark, with Greenland as a part of the Kingdom, joined NATO.
Moves towards independence
In 1953 a new Danish Constitution incorporated Greenland in Denmark, the island thereby gained representation in the Danish Parliament and was recognized as a Danish province known as the County of Greenland.
In 1972, at the request of the Provincial Council, Knud Hertling established a committee of Greenlandic members to study the possibility of increased local power. In 1975, the committee recommended a shift to home rule as quickly as possible. Hertling responded with the creation of a Commission on Home Rule in Greenland with 14 members divided evenly between Greenlandic and Danish representatives. The commission's work submitted its final report in June 1978 with proposals for a Home Rule Act.
In 1979 the Danish government granted Greenland home rule, with Denmark keeping control of a number of areas including foreign relations, defense, currency matters and the legal system in Greenland.
In 2008 Greenland's citizens approved the Greenlandic self-government referendum with a 75% vote in favor of a higher degree of autonomy. Greenland took control of law enforcement, the coast guard, and the legal system. The official language changed from Danish to Greenlandic on 21 June 2009, Greenland national day. The act gives control of foreign relations of Greenland to the island in trade and other areas it is responsible for. Greenland has representatives in Copenhagen, Brussels, Reykjavik, and Washington, D.C.
As part of the self-rule law of 2009 (section §21), Greenland can declare full independence if they wish to pursue it, but it would have to be approved by a referendum among the Greenlandic people. A poll in 2016 showed that there was a clear majority (64%) for full independence among the Greenlandic people, but a poll in 2017 showed that there was a clear opposition (78%) if it meant a fall in living standards.
Greenland's former prime minister, Kuupik Kleist, has repeatedly expressed the need to diversify Greenland's economy, which mainly relies on fishery, tourism and a substantial annual block grant from the Danish state. The block grant equals about two-thirds of Greenland's government budget or about one-quarter of the entire GDP of Greenland. Economic stability is seen as a basis for full political independence from Denmark. When Kim Kielsen was reelected with a strong majority as the leader of the largest Greenlandic pro-independence party Siumut in 2017, observers considered it a win for the "slow-independence" faction instead of the "now-independence" faction. (His opponent, Vittus Qujaukitsoq, had argued for independence even if it meant losing the large annual block grant from the Danish state.) During a debate in the Danish Parliament (which also includes members from Greenland) in 2018, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke said that Greenland needs to make it clear if they wish to remain a part of the Kingdom or become independent. If Greenland were to become an independent country, the annual block grant from Denmark to Greenland would cease.
In 2008, independence campaigners touted the year 2021 (the 300th anniversary of Danish colonial rule) as a date for potential independence.
The issue of Greenlandic independence features heavily in the eight-episode Swedish–Icelandic television series Thin Ice (2019–2020), written by Søren Stærmose and Lena Endre, which was predominately filmed in Greenland at the height of the Greenlandic winter. By the end of the first season, Greenland achieves independence, with covert backing from the United States. The political system of the newly independent Greenland is not given, although the country is shown to have awarded an unnamed American oil company offshore drilling rights to a large deep sea oil deposit.
- History of Greenland
- 1979 Greenlandic home rule referendum
- Faroese independence movement
- Icelandic independence movement
- Norwegian independence movement
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Danish use of these terms was somewhat peculiar, as Greenland was already regarded a part of Danish-Norwegian territory since the independent Norse medieval communities in Greenland had agreed to pay taxes to the Norwegian king about AD 1260 (Norlund 1934:25). Iceland had also agreed to this status as a tributary country in the same period (Norlund 1934:24). From 1380 to 1814, Denmark and Norway formed one kingdom (Kirkegaard and Winding 1949:62; Gad 1984:206).
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With the Treaty of Kiel (January 14, 1814), Denmark gave up all its rights to Norway to the king of Sweden. It did not, however, relinquish its rights to the old Norwegian dependencies of Iceland, the Faroes, and Greenland, as England strongly opposed any buildup of Swedish power in the North Atlantic. The Danes did not intend this agreement to end the union with Norway.
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The U.S. and Danish governments signed an agreement whereby the American government agreed to take over the defense of Greenland in exchange for the right to construct air and naval bases on the island. On April 10th, the U.S. established a protectorate over Greenland.
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In 1953, Greenland was established as a province of Denmark.
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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).
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With regard to a moratorium in the Arctic for oil drilling, he argued that Greenland needs to diversify its economy and in this aspect the mineral resources of Greenland subsoil is one possibility to create an economy, which is not entirely dependent on the annual block grant from Denmark.[permanent dead link]
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'We’re trying to develop a more diversified economy, we’re looking at tourism, we’re looking at mineral resources and of course we’re still looking at developing the harvesting of living resources," Kleist said. "As it is today, we are very vulnerable.'
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