Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Greenland independent?

by Kathryn Hadley

Greenland’s 39,000 voters are participating, today, in a referendum on a proposal for the expansion of self-rule. According to recent polls, it is expected that 61% of voters will answer in favour of the proposal. The plan provides for the expansion of home rule to 30 new areas, including the police, courts of law and maritime environment, and includes guidelines for the division of Greenland’s potential revenue from oil and mineral resources between Denmark and Greenland. If it is approved, self-rule would be introduced as of June 19th 2009, the thirtieth anniversary of the current home rule government.

Greenland’s colonial history began in 1721 when Denmark-Norway claimed the territory and launched a missionary expedition to convert Greenland’s allegedly pagan population. It became a specifically Danish colony when Denmark was separated from Norway in 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars. In 1953, Greenland’s colonial status was lifted and became similar to that of the members of the British Commonwealth. Greenland became part of the Danish Kingdom and was granted representation in the Danish parliament, the Folketing. Moves towards independence began in the early 1970s following Greenland’s joining of the European Union, alongside Denmark. Greenland’s membership sparked opposition and local parties promoting independence emerged. Greenland’s position vis à vis Europe has historically been unclear and it has often tended to be drawn towards North America rather than Europe. Links with the United States and Canada notably developed during the Second World War when a treaty was signed granting the US the right to establish airbases in Greenland. Following the voting of the Home Rule law, in May 1979, Greenland became a special community within the Kingdom of Denmark. In 1985 it left the European Union. It adopted its own flag and Danish town names were replaced.

The recent discovery of oil and mineral resources as a result of global warming has rekindled hopes of independence. If Greenland can successfully exploit these resources, it may be able to become self-sufficient and put an end to its current economic dependence on Danish subsidies. 85% of the country, which is six times the size of Germany, is iced over and fishing is the main source of revenue. Danish subsidies currently represent 60% of Greenland’s GDP.

1 comment:

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