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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 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 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


 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)

Area - Comparative:

 Slightly more than three times the size of Texas

Land Boundaries:

 0 km


 44,087 km (Rank: 3)

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: 0%
Permanent crops: 0%
Other: 100% (2005)

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

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 Noun: Greenlander(s)
Adjective: Greenlandic

Ethnic Groups:

 Inuit 89%, Danish and other 11% (2009)


 Greenlandic (East Inuit) (official), Danish (official), English


 Evangelical Lutheran, traditional Inuit spiritual beliefs


 57,670 (July 2011 est.)

Age Structure:

 0-14 years: 22.3% (male 6,514/female 6,330)
15-64 years: 70.2% (male 21,599/female 18,861)
65 years and over: 7.6% (male 2,269/female 2,097) (2011 est.)

Median Age:

 Total: 33.6 years
Male: 35 years
Female: 32.1 years (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate:

 0.05% (2011 est.)

Birth Rate:

 14.6 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Death Rate:

 8.12 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)

Net Migration Rate:

 -5.98 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)


 Urban population: 84% of total population (2010)
Rate of urbanization: 0.3% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major Cities - Population:

 NUUK (capital) 15,000 (2009)

Sex Ratio:

 At birth: 1.051 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.15 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.05 male(s)/female
Total population: 1.12 male(s)/female (2011 est.)

Infant Mortality Rate:

 Total: 10.05 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 11.47 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 8.55 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)

Life Expectancy At Birth:

 Total population: 70.96 years
Male: 68.33 years
Female: 73.74 years (2011 est.)

Total Fertility Rate:

 2.13 children born/woman (2011 est.)

HIV/AIDS - People Living With HIV/AIDS:

 100 (1999)


 Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 100%
Male: 100%
Female: 100% (2001 est.)

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Country Name:

 Conventional long form: none
Conventional short form: Greenland
Local long form: none
Local short form: Kalaallit Nunaat

Government Type:

 Parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy


 Name: 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

Note: Greenland is divided into four time zones

Administrative Divisions:

 4 municipalities (kommuner, singular kommune); Kujalleq, Qaasuitsup, Qeqqata, Sermersooq

Note: 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

Dependency Status:

 Part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark since 1979


 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)


 (November 2008) 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 Soeren Hald MOELLER (since April 2005)

Head of government: Prime Minister Kuupik KLEIST (since 12 June 2009)

Cabinet: Home Rule Government elected by the Parliament (Landsting) on the basis of the strength of parties

Elections: 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)

Elections: last held on 2 June 2009 (next to be held by 2014)

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

Note: two representatives were elected to the Danish Parliament or Folketing on 13 November 2007 (next to be held by November 2011); percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Siumut 1, Inuit Ataqatigiit 1

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)

Political Parties and Leaders:

 Atassut Party (Solidarity) [Gerhardt PETERSEN] (a conservative party favoring continuing close relations with Denmark); Demokratiit [Jens B. FREDERIKSEN]; Inuit Ataqatigiit or IA (Inuit Community) [Kuupik KLEIST] (a leftist party favoring complete independence from Denmark rather than home rule); Kattusseqatigiit (Candidate List) [Anthon FREDERIKSEN] (an independent right-of-center party with no official platform); Siumut (Forward Party) [Alega HAMMOND] (a social democratic party advocating more distinct Greenlandic identity and greater autonomy from Denmark)

Political Pressure Groups and Leaders:

 Other: 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 Symbols:

 Polar bear

National Anthem:

 Name: "Nunarput utoqqarsuanngoravit" ("Our Country, Who's Become So Old" also translated as "You Our Ancient Land")
Lyrics/music: Henrik LUND/Jonathan PETERSEN

Note: adopted 1916; the government also recognizes "Nuna asiilasooq" as a secondary anthem


 (part of the Kingdom of Denmark)

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Economy - Overview:

 The economy remains critically dependent on exports of shrimp and fish and on a substantial subsidy - about $650 million in 2009 - from the Danish Government, which supplies nearly 60% of government revenues. The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays the dominant role in Greenland's economy. Greenland's GDP contracted about 2% in 2009 as a result of the global economic slowdown. Budget surpluses turned to deficits beginning in 2007 and unemployment has risen. During the last decade the Greenland Home Rule Government (GHRG) pursued conservative fiscal and monetary policies, but public pressure has increased for better schools, health care and retirement systems. The Greenlandic economy has benefited from increasing catches and exports of shrimp, Greenland halibut and, more recently, crabs. Due to Greenland's continued dependence on exports of fish - which account for 82% of exports - the economy remains very sensitive to foreign developments. International consortia are increasingly active in exploring for hydrocarbon resources off Greenland's western coast, and international studies indicate the potential for oil and gas fields in northern and northeastern Greenland. In May 2007 a US aluminum producer concluded a memorandum of understanding with the Greenland Home Rule Government to build an aluminum smelter and a power generation facility, which takes advantage of Greenland's abundant hydropower potential. Within the area of mining, olivine sand continues to be produced and gold production has resumed in south Greenland. Tourism also offers another avenue of economic growth for Greenland, with increasing numbers of cruise lines now operating in Greenland's western and southern waters during the peak summer tourism season.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):

 $1.989 billion (2009 est.)
$2.03 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (Official Exchange Rate):

 $2.03 billion (2008)

GDP - Real Growth Rate:

 -2% (2009 est.)
1.5% (2008 est.)
4% (2007 est.)

GDP - Per Capita (PPP):

 $36,500 (2008 est.)
$35,900 (2007 est.)

GDP - Composition By Sector:

 Agriculture: 4.9%
Industry: 31.9%
Services: 63.2% (2007 est.)

Labor Force:

 28,240 (January 2009)

Labor Force - By Occupation:

 Agriculture: 4.9%
Industry: 31.9%
Services: 63.2% (2007 est.)

Unemployment Rate:

 6.8% (2007 est.)
7.3% (2006 est.)

Population Below Poverty Line:

 9.2% (2007 est.)

Household Income / Consumption By Share:

 Lowest 10%: NA%
Highest 10%: NA%


 Revenues: $1.47 billion
Expenditures: $1.51 billion (2007)

Taxes and Other Revenues:

 72.4% of GDP (2007)

Budget Surplus / Deficit:

 -2% of GDP (2007)

Inflation Rate (Consumer Prices):

 9.4% (2008 est.)
1% (2005 est.)

Agriculture - Products:

 Forage crops, garden and greenhouse vegetables; sheep, reindeer; fish


 Fish processing (mainly shrimp and Greenland halibut); gold, niobium, tantalite, uranium, iron and diamond mining; handicrafts, hides and skins, small shipyards

Industrial Production Growth Rate:


Electricity - Production:

 310.3 million kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Production By Source:

 Fossil fuel: 100%
Hydro: 0%
Nuclear: 0%
Other: 0%

Note: Greenland is shifting its electricity production from fossil fuel to hydropower production (2001)

Electricity - Consumption:

 288.6 million kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Exports:

 0 kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - Imports:

 0 kWh (2009 est.)

Oil - Production:

 0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Consumption:

 4,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Exports:

 1,050 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Imports:

 4,976 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Proven Reserves:

 0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural Gas - Production:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Consumption:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Exports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Imports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Proven Reserves:

 0 cu m (1 January 2011 est.)


 $485 million (2008)
$428 million (2007)

Exports - Commodities:

 Fish and fish products 72%, metals 10% (2008)

Exports - Partners:

 Denmark 63.7%, Japan 12.1%, China 8.5% (2010)


 $867 million (2008)
$669 million (2007)

Imports - Commodities:

 Machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, food, petroleum products

Imports - Partners:

 Denmark 59.5%, Sweden 20.8%, UK 6.6% (2010)

Debt - External:

 $58 million (2009)
$25 million (1999)

Exchange Rates:

 Convert Danish Krone to Any Currency

Danish kroner (DKK) per US dollar -
5.624 (2010)
5.361 (2009)
5.4797 (2007)
5.9468 (2006)

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Telephones - Main Lines In Use:

 21,800 (2010)

Telephones - Cellular:

 57,300 (2010)

Telephone System:

 General assessment: adequate domestic and international service provided by satellite, cables and microwave radio relay; totally digital since 1995

Domestic: microwave radio relay and satellite

International: country code - 299; satellite earth stations - 15 (12 Intelsat, 1 Eutelsat, 2 Americom GE-2 (all Atlantic Ocean)) (2000)

Broadcast Media:

 The Greenland Broadcasting Company provides public radio and television services throughout the island with a broadcast station and a series of repeaters; a few private local television and radio stations broadcast; Danish public radio rebroadcasts are available (2007)

Radio Broadcast Stations:

 AM 5, FM 14, shortwave 0 (2008)

Television Broadcast Stations:

 1 (plus some local low-power stations, and 3 American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) stations (1997)

Internet Country Code:


Internet Hosts:

 15,668 (2010)

Internet Users:

 36,000 (2009)

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 15 (2010)

Airports - With Paved Runways:

 Total: 10
2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
Under 914 m: 6 (2010)

Airports - With Unpaved Runways:

 Total: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
Under 914 m: 2 (2010)


 Note: although there are short roads in towns, there are no roads between towns; inter-urban transport takes place either by sea or air (2005)

Merchant Marine:

 Total: 1
By type: passenger 1 (2010)

Ports and Terminals:


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Military Branches:

 No regular military forces

Manpower Available For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 15,280 (2010 est.)

Manpower Fit For Military Service:

 Males age 16-49: 10,765
Females age 16-49: 11,399 (2010 est.)

Manpower Reaching Militarily Significant Age Annually:

 Male: 488
Female: 478 (2010 est.)

Military - Note:

 Defense is the responsibility of Denmark

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Disputes - International:

 Managed dispute between Canada and Denmark over Hans Island in the Kennedy Channel between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Greenland; Denmark (Greenland) and Norway have made submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental shelf (CLCS) and Russia is collecting additional data to augment its 2001 CLCS submission

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Last Updated: December 2011

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