Showing posts with label Qaqortoq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Qaqortoq. Show all posts

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Greenland celebrates 'National Day,' ever growing autonomy, but dependence on Danish aid persists

Greenland flags celebrate National Day, Qaqortoq.
Yesterday I was in Qaqortoq, Greenland, for Greenland National Day, June 21. (All photos by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.)

Greenland is a territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. But a visitor might miss that: Greenland flags fly in all parts, and Danish ones are few. Signs increasingly employ the Greenlandic language—which Google Translate does not yet have—without a Danish translation. And though the currency remains the Danish krone, electronic transactions render notes seldom seen.

Americans built a radio station at Narsaq Point. The pictured building
is long abandoned, but the station still broadcasts.
From 1814 to World War II, Greenland was under Danish control, but not formally a part of the kingdom. When Denmark was occupied by the Nazis in World War II, the displaced Danish government signed Greenland over to the protection of the United States. Disused U.S. military installations still dot landscapes. With a new constitution for Denmark after the war, in 1953, Greenland formally became part of the kingdom.

A home rule initiative in 1979 afforded Greenland greater autonomy, but left Denmark in control of foreign affairs, banking, and the legal system. With 75% approval in a 2008 referendum, Greenland claimed further autonomy over its legal system and law enforcement. On National Day in 2009, the official language of Greenland was changed from Danish to Greenlandic.


The self-rule law of 2009 allows Greenlanders to declare full independence upon another referendum. And the Danish government has suggested that Greenlanders ought to decide one way or the other. Polls consistently suggest a comfortable majority of Greenlandic support for independence. However, it depends how one asks the question. 

As a county of Denmark, Greenland receives an annual block grant of about US$511 million, which, according to the International Trade Administration, accounts for more than half of Greenland's public budget and 20% of GDP. Greenlandic support for autonomy polls poorly if the question is qualified by a risk to the standard of living. It seems doubtful that the presently leading industries of fisheries and tourism can sustain Greenland's economy without Danish aid.

Qaqortoq "then and now" (image at left from Qaqortoq Museum)

National Day musicians at Hotel Qaqortoq
"Loading," a Nuuk mural by Greenlander Inuk Højgaard,
comments on economic migration from villages to city.

Tourism in the Nuuk fjords, aboard the ferry Sarfaq Ittuk