Brief political history of Greenland
Greenland was a colony of Denmark until 1953, when Denmark had an amendment of the Danish Constitution in which Greenland had its status renewed and became a constituency in the Danish Kingdom alongside the Faroe Islands. However, with the fast growing modernization of the Greenlandic society demands for greater economic and political independence grew as well. In January 1979 a referendum on greater autonomy was held in which 63 % of the voters voted in favor of a Home Rule, and on May 1st, 1979, Greenland Home Rule was established.
At the change of the century the Government of Greenland, set in action the process of evaluating the Home-Rule agreement. This led to the Self-Government Act in May 2008, upon which there was held a national referendum in November 2008, where 75 % of the voters voted in favor of the Self-Government Act. On the National day, June 21st 2009, the Greenland Self-Government replaced the Home Rule Government.
Self-Government, Parliament and Government
The Greenland Self-Government Act was granted to Greenland on June 21, 2009 (Act no. 473 of 12 June 2009) and was an extension of powers enacted in the Home Rule act of 1979 (Act. No. 577 of 29 November 1978). Through the Home Rule and Self-Government Acts Greenland has the right to elect its own parliament and government, the latter having sovereignty and administration over the areas mentioned in the Self-Government Act such as education, health, fisheries, environment and climate. Some of the achievements of the Self-Government Act were the recognition of Kalaallit (Greenlanders) as people, in international law, the opportunity for Greenland to become an independent state, as well as the opportunity to take on the jurisdiction of more areas (such as natural resources and justice affairs).
The Greenlandic parliament is called “Inatsisartut”. It’s composed of 31 members who are elected for a 4-year period and convene for two periods a year (autumn and spring). The Inatsisartut approves the executive government “Naalakkersuisut”, which is responsible for the central administration headed by a Premier with a cabinet.
The sitting government elected in June of 2009 consist of a coalition between Inuit Atagatigiit, Demokraatit and Kattusseqatigiit Partiat, in which Kuupik Kleist from Inuit Ataqatigiit occupies the post as Premier.
Greenland’s own flag received its official introduction on 21 of June 1985, which also is Greenland’s national day. The white half of the flag symbolizes the icecap, icebergs and ice floes, while the red half symbolizes the rising and setting sun, which gives the sea its beautiful red sheen.
Relationship to Denmark
Greenland is a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Greenland was first colonized with the arrival of the Danish/Norwegian missionary, Hans Egede, in 1721, and it was not until the Danish constitutional amendment of 1953 that Greenland became a more equal partner in the Danish realm. The influence of the Danish state in Greenland has decreased since 1979 when the Home Rule was introduced. With the inception of the Self-Government Act there is the possibility that Greenland will take over the jurisdiction on more areas, however these areas are still under Danish jurisdiction:
- Justice affairs, including police, criminal procedures and the courts of law.
- Defence and National security
- Financial sectors and monetary system e.g. the currency used in Greenland is Danish Kroner DKK
- Civil right law e.g. family and succession, citizenship matters etc.
- Foreign affairs
Foreign- and security policy is a Danish jurisdiction according to the Constitution but with Self-Government, and the Greenlandic wish of handling as many Greenlandic affairs as possible, the Danish government involves the Greenlandic Home Rule in the administration of foreign affairs and security matters in relation to the issues of main interest to the Greenland.
However, within the framework of Self-Government and prior to that the Home Rule Act, Greenland is granted permission to have representations or missions in countries with special commercial interest for Greenland. Within this framework the Greenland Representation to the EU in Brussels was established in this context on June 1,1992.
The Danish Folketings adoption of an agreement with the Greenland Government, through Act no. 577 of June 24, 2005 “Concerning the conclusion of agreements under international law by the Government of Greenland”, provided full statutory powers to the Government of Greenland to conclude certain international agreements on behalf of the Kingdom of Denmark.
Despite of the legal context, Greenland has a firm tradition of participating in international affairs, both through its Nordic and arctic links through its economic and trade interests.
Greenland participates actively in Nordic co-operation, arctic co-operation, the UN, the WTO and the EU and engages in bilateral communication with various countries around the world. Greenland is also a member of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA).