Greenland is the largest in the world: it is 2,600 kilometres long and covers an area of 2.2 million square kilometres. But 80 percent of the surface is covered in ice, and the population is only about 57,000. Greenland became a part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1953 but was given home rule in 1979. In 1985 the island left the European Economic Community, which later became the European Union, to self-manage its main resource: fishing. But income from that has not been enough.
Greenland is dependant on annual subsidies from Copenhagen: 430 million euros last year, representing about 30 percent of the island’s GDP. Greenland is rich in minerals and vast hydrocarbon reserves, but full-scale production is said to be decades away. In the future, Denmark and Greenland have agreed to split potential oil income 50-50.
The Managing Director of Nuna Oil, Hans Kristian Olsen, said: “One of the ways of creating an independent Greenland is to find commercial amounts of hydrocarbons that can sustain your economy in many year to come.” As well as taking control of its minerals and oil resources, the new law would make Greenlandic the official language. The island would also eventually take charge of numerous fields of responsibility, but Denmark would keep control of some. Many in Greenland, including the island’s First Minister, hope this vote will eventually lead to full independence. But officials there say that economic and social problems, including alcoholism and a high suicide rate, are big hurdles to overcome first.