Facts about Greenland

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Greenland, the world's largest island, is about 81% ice-capped. Vikings reached the island in the 10th century from Iceland; Danish colonization began in the 18th century, and Greenland was made an integral part of Denmark in 1953. It joined the European Community (now the EU) with Denmark in 1973 but withdrew in 1985 over a dispute over stringent fishing quotas. Greenland was granted self-government in 1979 by the Danish parliament. The law went into effect the following year. Denmark continues to exercise control of Greenland's foreign affairs.

Geography of Greenland

Northern North America, island between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Canada
72 00 N, 40 00 W
total: 2,166,086 sq km
land: 2,166,086 sq km (410,449 sq km ice-free, 1,755,637 sq km ice-covered) (2000 est.)
Area comparative:
slightly more than three times the size of Texas
Land boundaries:
0 km
44,087 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200 NM or agreed boundaries or median line
exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM or agreed boundaries or median line
territorial sea: 3 NM
arctic to subarctic; cool summers, cold winters
flat to gradually sloping icecap covers all but a narrow, mountainous, barren, rocky coast
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Gunnbjorn 3,700 m
Natural resources:
zinc, lead, iron ore, coal, molybdenum, gold, platinum, uranium, fish, seals, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas
Natural hazards:
continuous permafrost over northern two-thirds of the island
Environment current issues:
protection of the arctic environment; preservation of the Inuit traditional way of life, including whaling and seal hunting
Geography - note:
dominates North Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe; sparse population confined to small settlements along coast, but close to one-quarter of the population lives in the capital, Nuuk; world's second largest ice cap

Population of Greenland

57,564 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 24.5% (male 7,072/female 6,740)
15-64 years: 68.9% (male 20,904/female 17,919)
65 years and over: 6.6% (male 1,768/female 1,958)
Median age:
34 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
15.4 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 69.94 years
male: 66.36 years
female: 73.6 years
Fertility rate:
2.4 children born/woman
noun: Greenlander(s)
adjective: Greenlandic
Ethnic groups:
Greenlander 88% (Inuit and Greenland-born whites), Danish and others 12%
Evangelical Lutheran
Greenlandic (East Inuit), Danish, English


Country name:
local short form: Kalaallit Nunaat
Dependency status:
part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark since 1979
Government type:
parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy
Nuuk (Godthab)
Administrative divisions:
3 districts (landsdele); Avannaa (Nordgronland), Tunu (Ostgronland), Kitaa (Vestgronland)
note: there are 18 municipalities in Greenland
none (part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark since 1979)
note: foreign affairs is the responsibility of Denmark, but Greenland actively participates in international agreements relating to Greenland
National holiday:
June 21 (longest day)
5 June 1953 (Danish constitution)
Legal system:
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen MARGRETHE II of Denmark (since 14 January 1972), represented by High Commissioner Soren MOLLER (since April 2005)
head of government: Prime Minister Hans ENOKSEN (since 14 December 2002)
cabinet: Home Rule Government is elected by the parliament (Landstinget) on the basis of the strength of parties
elections: the monarchy is hereditary; high commissioner appointed by the monarch; prime minister is elected by parliament (usually the leader of the majority party).
Legislative branch:
unicameral Parliament or Landstinget (31 seats; members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms).
Judicial branch:
High Court or Landsret (appeals can be made to the Ostre Landsret or Eastern Division of the High Court or Supreme Court in Copenhagen)


The economy remains critically dependent on exports of fish and a substantial subsidy from the Danish Government, which supplies about half of government revenues. The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays the dominant role in the economy. Several interesting hydrocarbon and mineral exploration activities are ongoing. Press reports in early 2007 indicated that two international aluminum companies were considering building smelters in Greenland to take advantage of local hydropower potential. Tourism is the only sector offering any near-term potential, and even this is limited due to a short season and high costs. Air Greenland began summer-season direct flights to the US east coast in May 2007, potentially opening a major new tourism market.

$1.1 billion (2001 est.)
GDP growth rate:
GDP per capita:
purchasing power parity - $20,000 
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
revenues: $646 million
expenditures: $629 million, including capital expenditures of $85 million 
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
nuclear: 0%
note: Greenland is shifting its electricity production from fossil fuel to hydropower production 
other: 0%
hydro: 0%
fish processing (mainly shrimp and Greenland halibut), handicrafts, hides and skins, small shipyards, mining
forage crops, garden and greenhouse vegetables; sheep, reindeer; fish
fish and fish products 94% (prawns 63%)
Export partners:
Denmark 62.4%, Japan 12.2%, China 5.2%
machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, petroleum products
Import partners:
Denmark 75.2%, Sweden 12%, Canada 2.7%
Danish krone (DKK)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

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