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Presentation of Greenland

Member state: Denmark
Surface area (km2): 2,2 million
Population: Approx. 56810
Density (/km2): 0,026
Capital: Nuuk


Greenland is located between the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean and east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

Surface area

2,2 million sq. km, but only some 410000 sq. km are not covered by ice.


The Greenland ice sheet covers about 81% of Greenland’s surface. The weight of the ice has depressed the central land area into a basin shape, whose base lays more than 300 metres (984 ft) below the surrounding ocean. Elevations rise suddenly and steeply near the coast.


The climate is arctic with permafrost and the average temperature does not exceed 10° C in the warmest summer months.

Time zone

Greenland has three different time zones; East Greenland, West Greenland and North Greenland (near the area of Thule).

The time zone is GMT -3 in East Greenland.


The only way to travel to Greenland is by airplane, to one of the main gateways: Kangerlussuaq (Søndre Strømfjord) in the West or Narsarsuaq in the South. The flight time from Denmark to Greenland is approximately 4-5 hours. There are no roads between the towns on the coast so in order to get around locally you can travel with fixed wing planes, helicopters or by sea. Shipping is still a main element in Greenland’s infrastructure and handles mostly cargo, as most people travel by air.

Economic activities

More than 90% of Greenland exports stems from fishery activities. Prawns account for 56% of Greenland’s exports and halibut, crab and cod make up the rest. Greenland has negotiated a fishing agreement with the EU, setting out the fishing opportunities and financial contribution provided for in the fisheries partnership agreement between the EU and Greenland. The financial contribution of the EU is 17,8 million euros per year.
The agreement also allows Greenland to sell its fish products as non-dutiable goods to the EU. The main export countries are USA, Japan, Norway, Thailand, Germany, Great Britain, Iceland and Denmark.


Greenland has considerable mineral deposits. Formerly cryolite was mined in Ivittuut, coal near Qullissat, marble and later, zinc, lead and silver near Maarmorilik and zinc, molybdenum and lead near Mesters Vig. There are also a number of minerals which may prove to be of economic interest, including offshore oil finds close to Nuuk and Jameson Land in East Greenland as well as deposits of gold, niobium, tantalite, uranium, iron and diamonds. Greenland‘s first major hydraulic power plant is situated near the Buksefjord south of Nuuk.
The Government of Greenland has since established several additional hydraulic power plants and 70% of Greenland’s electricity comes from hydro-power.

Political and administrative status

Parliamentary democracy, within a constitutional monarchy. Greenland is a part of the Danish Realm and with the adoption of the Act on Self Governance from June 21, 2009 it has taken a further step toward increased autonomy since the enactment of the Home Rule Government.
Forms of government
1721 – 1953: Colony
1953 – 1979: Danish county
1979 – 2009: Home Rule Government
2009 – : Self Government


Approximately 16181 inhabitants live in the capital Nuuk. The second largest city is Sisimiut (5571), followed by Ilulissat (4621) and Qaqortoq (3297) besides these four growth centers situated on the west coast there are 18 towns and 120 villages in which the rest of the population lives. Greenlandic settlements are defined by having inhabitants between 50-500. Although the economic significance of the traditional way of life is steadily decreasing, hunting is still a crucial part of Greenlandic identity. The Greenlanders constitute approximately 88 % of the population while the remaining are primarily Danes.


Greenland’s church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark.
The prevailing religion in Greenland is Protestantism and Greenland is an independent diocese in the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church with a bishop appointed by Denmark.

However, there are other religions, faiths and beliefs such as the Roman Catholic Church, New Apostolic Church, the Evangelic Ebenezer, Bahá’í’s and Jehovas Witnesses.


The Greenlandic language is a polysynthetic language and belongs to the Eskimo-Aleutic languages. This means that it differs strongly from the Indo-European languages like French, English and German. West Greenlandic is the official language but there are distinct dialects spoken in Eastern and Northern Greenland. Greenland is a bilingual country in which Greenlandic is the dominant main language and Danish is the other. In official context both languages can be used. The country is called Kalaallit Nunaat, which is Greenlandic for “Country of the Greenlanders”.


Higher education establishments include a college of education, a socio-educational college, business colleges and a small university (Ilisimatusarfik).


Culturally, Greenland is characterised by the extreme conditions the population has lived under and the fantastic environment for human existence provided by nature. The Greenlandic culture is reflected by life in the small isolated communities and many generations as hunters. The cultural roots are strong and alive in the community, though today most Greenlandic communities share similarities with modern Scandinavian societies..

Traditional Dress
In former times the Inuits only wore clothes made from animal hides or skins due to the winter’s freezing temperatures in the Arctic region. The skins used was carefully selected and sewn. Later, when the Europeans set foot in Greenland, other materials like fabrics and beads gradually became incorporated in the dress. It resulted in today’s national costume, which is used on special festive occasions and festivals such as Christmas, Easter, Greenland’s National Day, confirmations and weddings.

Originally music was played on a simple drum and was used for a variety of purposes including entertainment and religious purposes. The drum dancing was later replaced by singing of psalms and choral works, which became known for their particular Greenlandic sound. Today, Greenlandic music is inspired and influenced by music from other cultures.

The Flag
Greenland’s own flag received its official introduction on June 21st, 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.


Regional Development Strategy

In 2011 the Government of Greenland has adopted and launch the first step of implementing the Regional Development Strategy. The strategy shall provide the overall frame for a development of a self-supporting society, where every citizen will have the opportunity to develop their own future in their interest. The Strategy aims for the future and has to be at the cutting edge of the development. The Greenlandic educational system has to create new options and possibilities so the country is ready to new industries in the fields of exploration, research, innovation, mining and services. Growth in the private sector is important and a new constellation in the public and private investments are in progress and finally the Strategy has as an overall aim that all development in the different sectors has to be based on a sustainable basis.

Links to individual governments websites: - Government of Greenland - Greenland Representation to the EU, Brussels