Geographic and Governmental Profile of Greenland

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 centered on stringent fishing quotas. Greenland was granted self-government in 1979 by the Danish parliament; the law went into effect the following year. Greenland voted in favor of increased self-rule in November 2008 and acquired greater responsibility for internal affairs when the Act on Greenland Self Government was signed into law in June 2009. Denmark, however, continues to exercise control of Greenland's foreign affairs, security, and financial policy in consultation with Greenland's Home Rule Government.
Northern North America, island between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Canada
Geographic coordinates
72 00 N, 40 00 W
Continent / Subcontinent
North America
2,166,086 sq km
2,166,086 sq km (410,449 sq km ice-free, 1,755,637 sq km ice-covered)
Area - comparative
slightly more than three times the size of Texas
Land boundaries
0 km
44,087 km
Maritime claims
territorial sea:
3 nm
exclusive fishing zone:
200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
continental shelf:
200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
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 Fjeld 3,700 m
Natural resources
coal, iron ore, lead, zinc, molybdenum, diamonds, gold, platinum, niobium, tantalite, uranium, fish, seals, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas
Land use
arable land:
permanent crops:
100% (2005)
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Irrigated land
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; close to one-quarter of the population lives in the capital, Nuuk; world's second largest ice cap
Country name
conventional long form:
conventional short form:
local long form:
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)
geographic coordinates:
64 11 N, 51 45 W
time difference:
UTC-3 (2 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time:
+1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Greenland is divided into four time zones
Administrative divisions
4 municipalities (kommuner, singular kommune); Kujalleq, Qaasuitsup, Qeqqata, Sermersooq
the North and East Greenland National Park (Avannaarsuani Tunumilu Nuna Allanngutsaaliugaq) and the Thule Air Base in Pituffik (in northwest Greenland) are two unincorporated areas; the national park's 972,000 sq km - about 46% of the island - make it the largest national park in the world and also the most northerly
none (extensive self-rule as part of the Kingdom of Denmark; foreign affairs is the responsibility of Denmark, but Greenland actively participates in international agreements relating to Greenland)
National holiday
June 21 (longest day)
(June 2009) Act on Greenland Self Government
Legal system
the laws of Denmark, where applicable, apply
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch
chief of state:
Queen MARGRETHE II of Denmark (since 14 January 1972), represented by High Commissioner Mikaela ENGELL (since April 2011)
head of government:
Prime Minister Kuupik KLEIST (since 12 June 2009)
Home Rule Government elected by the Parliament (Landsting) on the basis of the strength of parties
the monarchy is hereditary; high commissioner appointed by the monarch; prime minister elected by parliament (usually the leader of the majority party)
election results:
Kuupik KLEIST elected prime minister
Legislative branch
unicameral Parliament or Inatsisartut (Landsting) (31 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
last held on 2 June 2009 (next to be held by 2013)
election results:
percent of vote by party - IA 43.7%, Siumut 26.5%, Demokratiit 12.7%, Atassut 10.9%; Kattusseqatigiit 3.8%, other 2.4%; seats by party - IA 14, Siumut 9, Demokraatiit 4, Atassut 3, Kattusseqatigiit 1
two representatives were elected to the Danish Parliament or Folketing on 15 September 2011 (next to be held by September 2015); percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Siumut 1, Inuit Ataqatigiit 1
Judicial branch
High Court or Eggartuussisuuneqarfia (Landsret) (appeals can be made to the Ostre Landsret or Eastern Division of the High Court or Supreme Court in Copenhagen)
Political parties and leaders
Candidate List (Kattusseqatigiit) [Anthon FREDERIKSEN]; Democratic Party (Demokraatit) [Jens B. FREDERIKSEN]; Forward Party (Siumut) [Aleqa HAMMOND]; Inuit Community (Inuit Ataqatigiit) or IA [Kuupik KLEIST]; Solidarity Party (Atassut) [Gerhardt PETERSEN]
Political pressure groups and leaders
conservationists; environmentalists
International organization participation
Arctic Council, NC, NIB, UPU
Diplomatic representation in the US
none (self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark)
Diplomatic representation from the US
none (self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark)
Flag description
two equal horizontal bands of white (top) and red with a large disk slightly to the hoist side of center - the top half of the disk is red, the bottom half is white; the design represents the sun reflecting off a field of ice; the colors are the same as those of the Danish flag and symbolize Greenland's links to the Kingdom of Denmark
National symbol(s)
polar bear
National anthem
"Nunarput utoqqarsuanngoravit" ("Our Country, Who's Become So Old" also translated as "You Our Ancient Land")
Henrik LUND/Jonathan PETERSEN
adopted 1916; the government also recognizes "Nuna asiilasooq" as a secondary anthem
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

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