2008 Greenlandic self-government referendum

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A non-binding referendum on Greenland's autonomy was held on 25 November 2008. It was passed with 75% approval (63% in Nuuk) and a 72% turnout.[1] 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 Danish 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 European Economic Community to maintain control of fishing in its territorial 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:


Although the referendum was non-binding upon the Danish parliament, the parliament supported it and promised to honour its results.

The proposals were to expand home rule in 30 areas, including police, courts, and the coast guard, give Greenland a say in foreign policy and a more definite split of future oil revenue, and make Greenlandic the sole official language. Under the proposal, Greenland's subsidies from Copenhagen would be phased out. The subsidy is currently 3.5 billion kroner ($588 million) per year,[5] which accounts for about one-third of the island's gross domestic product of 10.5 billion kroner[6] and almost two-thirds of the total income of the home rule government of 6.1 billion kroner.[7] If enacted, Greenlanders would become a separate people under international law.[8]


The referendum passed and the results took effect on 21 June 2009, the 30th anniversary of the establishment of home rule.[9] The Greenlandic government has stated that this is a "major step towards independence".[8] The referendum gives Greenland control of the police force, coastguard, and courts.[10] In addition, Greenlandic will become the sole official language once the referendum is enacted.[10] Oil revenues will be divided differently, as well. The first 75 million kroner (US$13.1 million) will go to Greenland, and the remaining revenue will be split evenly with Denmark.[10] Greenlanders are also recognized as a separate group of people under international law,[11] and the island will also receive fewer Danish subsidies, which currently account for about 30% of Greenland's GDP.[8]

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

The result was met with some skepticism by 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".[12]

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.is 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. ^ "Facts and figures about Greenland". International Herald Tribune. 2008-11-26. Archived from the original on 2008-11-26. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Offentlige finanser 2008:2" (PDF) (in Danish). Statistics Greenland. 2008. p. 6. Archived from the original on 2008-11-18. Retrieved 30 November 2008.
  8. ^ a b c Greenland votes for more autonomy Archived 2008-11-27 at the Wayback Machine. BBC News, 26 November 2008
  9. ^ Referendum set to give Greenland more autonomy Archived 2009-06-27 at the Wayback Machine. Trend News, 8 November 2008
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Cowell, Alan (2008-11-26). "Greenland Vote Favors Independence". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2014-12-16. Retrieved 2008-11-27.
  12. ^ "Danish doubts over Greenland vote". BBC News. 2008-11-27. Archived from the original on 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2008-12-05.