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Is Greenland ready for independence?
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 5:18 pm    Post subject: Is Greenland ready for independence? Reply with quote

Why is this story not more reported in the UK media?

I think it's fair enough to say the place has less going for it
economically than Scotland, or Cornwall... Its population is a fraction of either.

"Home rule was a compromise," Helms said. "It's a simple fact that
home rule has reached its limit and there's a need for more room for

* Not quite European, but connected with it...

Greenland: Further cracks in ties with Denmark?

Greenland, the world's largest island, is to vote Tuesday on whether
it wants greater independence from Denmark, which colonized it nearly
300 years ago.

Greenland - 2,200,000 square kilometers, or 850,000 square miles, some
80 percent of which is covered by ice - has steadily been gaining more
autonomy for decades and has had its own home-rule government since
1979. But it still depends on Denmark for much of its budget and is
bound by Danish decisions in a variety of policy areas.

If it passes, the referendum on Tuesday will pave the way for
Greenland's eventual independence from Denmark. The measure would
allow Greenlanders to be recognized as a separate people under
international law; make the Eskimo-Inuit tongue known as Greenlandic
the island's official language; and give the home-rule government the
option of taking more responsibility over areas like justice, defense
and foreign affairs.

Perhaps more importantly, a "yes" vote would allow Greenland the
opportunity to wean itself from its annual grant of $550 million by
giving it control of the revenues from potential oil, gas and mineral
finds. Experts say that huge quantities of natural resources are
lurking offshore and under Greenland's melting ice cap, but it remains
to be seen exactly what is there and how much it is worth.

Native Greenlanders have been talking about independence for years,
but not until now has the island felt emboldened to take the next step
toward it.
Polls show that the proposals have overwhelming support among
Greenland's population of more than 56,000, nearly 90 percent of whom
are native-born Inuits. About 39,000 people are eligible to vote.

"The future of Greenland is being strengthened a lot with this," said
Hans Jakob Helms, political adviser to Lars Emil Johansen, one of two
Greenlandic members of the Danish Parliament. "This allows the
Greenlandic people to decide themselves if, at a later date, they want

Greenland has come a long way economically in the last few decades.
But while 60 percent of its people live in the six largest towns, the
rest live in more than 120 isolated, austere settlements and trading
posts that have perhaps one store apiece and few job opportunities.

Outside the towns, people make their living by hunting and fishing.
There is no national road network, and people rely on boats and planes
to travel - weather permitting - from one area to another. Besides
several dialects of Greenlandic, English and Danish is spoken.

Greenlanders stress that it may be several decades before Greenland is
able to declare complete independence from Denmark but said that the
vote was the next step in a long evolution toward that goal.

"Home rule was a compromise," Helms said. "It's a simple fact that
home rule has reached its limit and there's a need for more room for


The Big Question: Is Greenland ready for independence, and what would
it mean for its people?

By Andy McSmith
Thursday, 27 November 2008

Why are we asking this now?

The people of Greenland went to the polls this week and voted 3-1 in
favour of a plan for greater self-government. The rules under which
oil revenues are split between Greenland and Denmark are to be revised
in Greenland's favour, with the first 75 million kroner (8.5m) going
to Greenland, and the rest split half and half. In return the island
will take over responsibility for its own police force, courts and
coastguard. Eventually, the annual subsidy from Denmark currently
around 3.5 billion kroner (400 million) will be phased out. Danish
will also be replaced by Greenlandic as the island's official
language. The vote is seen as a major step towards independence for

What would an independent Greenland be like?

On its own, Greenland would be the 13th largest country in the world,
in area, but in terms of population, it would not even make the top
200. Measuring 836,109 square miles, it is by a long way the world's
largest island, more than eight times the size of Great Britain, more
than 25,000 times as big as Guernsey, and yet its population is lower
than Guernsey's, at 57,564.

Why is Greenland so empty?

This is one of the coldest places on earth. Most of Greenland is
located within the Arctic Circle. It is estimated that nearly 678,000
square miles, or more than 80 per cent of its surface, is permanently
covered in ice. The capital, Nuuk, is the only settlement of any size
on the island that is south of the Arctic circle.

In northern settlements, such as Nord or Qaanaaq, otherwise known as
Thule, it is dark 24 hours a day at this time of year, but in
mid-summer there is brilliant sun shine right through the night. There
are more hours of sunshine during the Greenland summer than further
south, and the light is much more intense, but it is still cold.

How much ice is there in Greenland?

One of the silliest pieces of journalism of recent years was a polemic
in one newspaper in which a writer claimed to have proved that global
warming would not cause floods, because if you melt an ice cube in a
gin and tonic, the level of the liquid stays constant. This assumes
that all the ice in the world is floating in the sea as icebergs.
Actually, no less than 10 per cent of the world's fresh water is
frozen on Greenland, where the ice is almost two miles thick in
places. If all of Greenland's ice melted, the oceans would rise by 23
feet all around the world.

Who lives in Greenland?

Given the climate, it is hardly surprising that very few Europeans or
Americans are tempted to settle there. About 88 per cent of the
population were born on the island, and the great majority of these
native Greenlanders are Inuit, who speak their own language, variously
called Greenlander, or East Inuit.

The earliest inhabitants, the Saqqaq, migrated from North American
about 5,000 years ago. The Thule, who are closely related to the
Inuit, arrived about 900 AD, at about the same time that Viking
explorers first discovered that there was another big island further
west than Iceland.

What is the link with Denmark?

Greenland's connection with Europe is historic rather than
geographical. In places, Greenland's northern coast is only 140 miles
from Ellesmere Island, which is part of Canada. Nuuk is about 420
miles from the nearest Canadian town, but 2,200 miles from Copenhagen.
But while Greenland's first inhabitants came from America, they were
not so well armed as those who came from the east.

The first was Eric the Red, a troublemaker who had been banished from
Iceland in 982, and called his new homeland "Greenland" in the hope
that it would attract other settlers. This settlement lasted three or
four centuries. The Danes returned in 1721, and permanently colonised
the island.

What is the island'scurrent status?

For years, Greenland, was administratively a Danish province. As such
it became part of the EU in 1973. This meant that more than half the
land area of the EU was across the Atlantic near Canada. In 1979, the
island was granted limited self-government with its own Parliament,
but Denmark retained control over foreign affairs and military
questions. EU membership threatened to be a severe handicap for the
islanders, because of a dispute over fishing rights.

In 1985, they voted to leave. Since then, they have been in the
strange position where the island is ruled by Denmark, but not subject
to EU law, which does apply in Denmark.

Is there an American presence?

For over half a century, there has been a US presence on the island,
in the form of a radar base at Thule, in the north, opened in 1953,
soon after the onset of the Cold War, to keep a watch on any Soviet or
Russian air traffic in the Arctic circle. It was further north than
any other US base, and was regarded as the "eyes of freedom". To make
room for it, the Danes forcibly removed the Inuits whose forebears had
lived there for thousands of years earlier.

The base stayed after the Cold War was over, and was also used by the
US to store nuclear surface-to-air missiles. On 1999, 53 of the former
Inuit inhabitants obtained a high court ruling in Denmark that it was
Inuit land. Soon afterwards, they won a belated admission that a B-52
laden with nuclear bombs had crashed at Thule in 1968, exposing some
1,700 people to radiation. Nonetheless, the base is still there, a key
element in NATO's early warning system, and unlikely to be immediately
affected by yesterday's vote.

What is the Greenland economy run on?

Traditionally, the Greenlanders have lived by fishing, whaling and
seal hunting, and have been heavily reliant on Danish subsidies. But
the melting of the Arctic ice is making mining and drilling operations
possible where they were not possible in the past. There are coal,
diamonds, iron, zinc uranium and other valuable metal deposits in
Greenland, and probably also large undiscovered oil and gas fields,
which could end the island's economic dependence on Denmark. Unlike
Iceland, Greenland has no major banks which is perhaps just as well.

When might independence happen?

The new arrangements agreed in yesterday's vote take effect on 21 June
2009, which will be the longest day of the year. When or if full
independence follows is anybody's guess, but one date which
campaigners have in their sites is 2021, which will mark the 300th
anniversary of colonisation by Denmark.

Hans Enoksen, the head of Greenland's government, said he dreams of an
independent Greenland in 12 years, in time "for my 65th birthday". His
former foreign minister Aleqa Hammond hopes it will happen in eight
years, while the head of Greenland's employees union would prefer four
years. Others, particularly among the Danish minority, hope it will
not happen at all.

So should Greenland continue on the road to self-government?


* Greenland's people are not Danes, nor Europeans, but Inuits with
their own language, culture, and way of life

* Greenland's future is with North America, to which it is closest

* As the Arctic ice cap melts, Greenland will have enough oil and
mineral reserves to support itself


* An island with a population smaller than Guernsey cannot be
genuinely self-governing

* Greenland has no means of defending itself, and would simply
exchange Danish protection for US protection

* Its environment is not a local issue but an international one. It
cannot be left to fewer than 60,000 islanders
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



Greenland edges closer to break from Denmark

Published Date: 27 November 2008
By Jan Olsen and Gelu Sulugiuc
THE people of Greenland have voted overwhelmingly for more self-governance, in what is being seen as a key step on its road to independence from Denmark.
Lured by the promsie of huge reserves of oil in their territory, 76 per cent of voters backed the plan in a referendum on Tuesday night.

As the result became clear, Hans Enoksen, Greenland's premier, punched the air and declared: "The tears are running down my cheeks. We have said 'yes' to the right of self-determination, and with this we have accepted a great responsibility."

The revised constitutional settlement sets new rules on splitting future oil revenues with Denmark, which heavily subsidises the semi-autonomous Arctic island.

It has had home rule since 1979, but under the new law it will control its mineral and oil resources and eventually take over 32 additional fields of responsibility from Denmark, including justice and legal affairs, as it becomes economically viable to do so.

Greenlandic will become the official language, but it will still be part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Full independence will require another referendum, which is unlikely to be held until Greenland is ready to live without Denmark's financial aid.

Denmark has insisted Greenlanders alone must decide when to cut the final ties between the two countries after nearly 300 years of Danish rule.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, said: "The Greenland people have yesterday given a clear 'yes' to self-determination within the (Danish] realm."

The plan is expected to be approved by the Danish and Greenlandic parliaments and go into effect on 21 June, the island's national day.

Greenlanders, who had queued to vote despite heavy snow and temperatures of minus 5C, celebrated in the streets of the capital, Nuuk, even before polling closed. There were some 'No' posters to be seen, but these were hugely outnumbered by those urging a 'Yes' vote.

Greenland is the world's biggest island that is not a continent, and is 80 per cent covered in ice.

It has a mostly Inuit population of 57,000, many of whom live in small, isolated villages. There are no roads between towns, and travel is possible only by boats or planes, weather permitting.

The United States Air Force operates a ballistic missile early warning site at Thule air base, some 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Greenland receives yearly subsidies of 365 million from Copenhagen, about 30 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Shrimp and halibut fishing and tourism form the backbone of the economy, but the island is rich in minerals and its waters may hold vast hydrocarbon reserves, although full-scale production is decades away.

Climate change has caused Greenland's ice sheet to melt increasingly in recent years, making mineral exploration and oil drilling more feasible.

Drilling for oil and gas in the deep ocean off Greenland's west coast resumed in 2001, three decades after a previous effort failed to find petroleum. Exploration so far has been unsuccessful, but other countries in the northern region are staking their claims to natural resources exposed by the melting of the Arctic ice cap.

Denmark has agreed that Greenland would get the first 8.5 million of annual oil revenue, with the rest shared 50-50 with Denmark.

GDP per capita in Greenland is about two-thirds of the Danish average, but the suicide rate is more than seven times higher.

Greenland became a Danish colony in 1775 and remained so until 1953, when Denmark revised its constitution and made the island a province. Under the 1979 Home Rule Act, Greenland got its own parliament and government, as well as self-determination in health care, schools and social services.

Foreign and military affairs are controlled by Copenhagen, and Denmark's Queen Margrethe is the head of state.

All of Greenland's main political parties supported greater autonomy, except the small opposition Democrats, who questioned whether the island could afford to take over the more than 30 new areas of responsibility outlined in the referendum.

Opponents have also raised concerns about Greenland's social problems, such as widespread alcohol abuse and a high suicide rate among teenagers.

Greenlanders older than 15 drink an average of 11.6 litres of pure alcohol per year, the highest in the Nordics, according to official health statistics.

But the prime minister is confident. "It is time that we as a people encouraged, supported and strengthened each other to continue," Mr Enoksen said.


The percentage of Greenland's 844,000sq miles covered by an ice cap

The thickness of the ice in feet

The population of Greenland, of whom 47,000 live in its 18 towns

When the indigenous Inuit are believed to have come from Siberia

Almost a third of the population live in Nuuk, the capital

The population of Sisimiut, on the Arctic Circle, the second-largest town

365 million
The annual subsidy the Danish parliament gives Greenland

The unemployment rate. It varies depending on the seasons

When the Home Rule agreement gave Greenland semi-autonomous status within Denmark and established its 31-seat parliament


Danish doubts over Greenland vote
Referendum poster in Nuuk, Greenland, 23 Nov 08
Despite the vote Denmark still holds the purse-strings

Danish politicians say Greenland is still years away from true autonomy, despite its vote for greater self-rule. [well, they would, wouldn't they - SR]

In a referendum on Tuesday, 75.5% of voters in Greenland backed a plan to increase their autonomy from Denmark, the former colonial power.

Denmark subsidises Greenland's 57,000 population to the tune of 3.2bn kroner (395m) annually - two-thirds of the Arctic island's budget revenue.

Greenland's foreign policy and security will remain in Danish hands.

"Whether the Greenlanders can take over more political institutions themselves depends heavily on the natural resources. It could well be 30-40 years," said Per Oerum Joergensen, an MP in Denmark's governing Conservative Party. He helped negotiate the new Greenland autonomy deal.

Greenland's tiny population, combined with its economic dependence on Denmark, weakens the case for independence, even if Greenland strikes oil, a senior Danish Arctic affairs official told the BBC.

"The population is less than you could fit into the Superbowl," Mikaela Engell of the Danish foreign ministry said.

Danish funding

The self-rule plan is expected to be approved by the Danish parliament early next year and should go into effect on 21 June 2009.
Ilulissat settlement, Greenland
Greenland's sparse population is scattered along icy shores

Under the new arrangement, Greenlanders - most of whom are native Inuit - will have control of their energy resources and will be treated as a separate people under international law. Kalaallisut will become the official language, instead of Danish.

But Denmark's 3.2bn-kroner annual grant to Greenland will be fixed.

If Greenland strikes oil then it will keep up to 75m kroner of revenue from the oil sales, but above that half will go to Greenland and half will be taken out of the Danish block grant. If the revenue reduces the grant to zero, then the whole subsidy deal will be renegotiated, Ms Engell said.

Danish MP Soeren Espersen, a member of the Danish People's Party, was sceptical about the new autonomy deal, saying Greenlanders had been "brainwashed with unprecedented propaganda".
Greenland map

"I believe huge problems are waiting in the future," he said.

Greenland gained self-rule in 1979, after previously being a colony and then a province of Denmark.

Greenland has been shaken by several scandals over abuse of public money and property in recent years. Danish police are currently investigating how 11 Greenland MPs and top officials managed to buy attractive properties at a third of the market price.

The scandals have led some Danes to call for stronger controls over Greenland's management of the Danish subsidies.

Untapped energy

Meanwhile, global warming is fuelling a new Arctic race for resources, as geologists get ice-free access to the vast area, raising the potential for a future energy bonanza.

But earlier this year, the US Geological Survey (USGS) more than halved its estimate of the potential oil and gas riches off the coast of Greenland.

In 2000, the USGS estimate was 40bn barrels of oil. In 2008, that was cut to 10-20bn barrels. Experts agree that it could well be 15-20 years before the oil is found - and even longer before the huge investments required pay dividends.

The European Commission says it is now time for EU countries to coordinate their Arctic policies, not least because it wants development of the region's huge resources to be sustainable and environmentally responsible.

Denmark, Sweden and Finland all control parts of the Arctic region. Greenland is associated with the EU, but is not an EU member under its conditions of autonomy.

Ms Engell said Denmark welcomed more EU involvement in the Arctic, having "tried to direct the EU's interest" towards the region.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

here's another take on this subject, by one of the TINE forum members... Wink

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