Greenland 2003

Yearbook 2003

Greenland. At the end of 2002, the United States requested Denmark to use the Thule base on Greenland in its planned new robot defense. The Greenlandic self-government, the government, demanded to participate in future negotiations with the US on Thule’s future.

In May, therefore, Denmark and Greenland signed a principle agreement on Greenlandic co-influence in all foreign and security policy issues affecting the kingdom. Negotiations with the US on Thule are expected in 2004.

Domestic politics was a dramatic year. In January, the national government, which was in place for just a few weeks, split. The Left Party Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) accused the head of government Hans Enoksen for brother-in-law since employing party friends in the government office.

The Enox formed a new national government with its social-democratic party Siumut and the liberal Atassut. But the collaboration became unstable and broke in September. The triggering factor was a calculation error which forced the government to pay 97 million Danish kroner too much in a salary settlement with the public employees. The finance minister from Atassut refused to resign and Enoksen chose to dissolve the coalition and form a new national government with the IA.

The new coalition decided to work for future Greenlandic independence and set up a special ministerial post for this. A commission that investigated the issue of independence presented a report during the year, stressing that Greenland must make himself financially independent. Denmark’s annual financial contribution amounts to DKK 3.6 billion.

In July, after seven years of drilling, scientists managed to reach the bottom of the 3-km-thick ice layer at central Greenland. It is hoped that the ice core will provide valuable information about the history of climate change.

Environmental reports during the year showed that the Greenlanders’ diet with, among other things, seals and whales contain high levels of toxic substances, which reach Greenland via the sea and the air. It was also clear that the American base in Thule contaminated nature with PCBs, copper, lead and mercury. Marriages have settled in fish and mussels.

At the end of the year, Denmark’s highest court rejected a group of Greenlanders’ request to return to the lands at Thulebase Greenland which were forcibly removed from 1953.


Inflation rate 0.30%
Unemployment rate 9.1%
Gross domestic product (GDP) $ 2,413,000,000
GDP growth rate 7.70%
GDP per capita $ 41,800
GDP by sector
Agriculture 15.90%
Industry 10.10%
Service 73.90%
State budget
Revenue 1.36 billion
Expenditure 1.27 billion; including capital expenditures of 83 million
Proportion of the population below the national poverty line 9.2%
National debt 13.00% of GDP


Greenland, the largest island in the world, is the largest Arctic land, located between the American Arctic archipelago, from which the Davis Strait divides it, and Iceland, from which it is separated by the channel of Denmark. Since 1979 Greenland has been a self-managed region within the Kingdom of Denmark.At the end of the Viking Age Greenland was attracted to the sphere of Scandinavian interests, as in 985 immigrants from Iceland founded in the southwestern region of the island two colonies, called Vesterbygd and Österbygd. It was a Norse population, dedicated to agriculture – linked to a Nordic peasant culture and an agricultural economy adapted to Icelandic conditions and based on cattle breeding -, which initially settled inside the great fjords, located near of current capital Nuuk (Danish Godthaab) and, further south, in the Gulf of Qaqortoq (Danish Julianehaab). Later, less sheltered and hospitable areas were also inhabited, a phenomenon that is probably an indication of an economy in which hunting and fishing dominated. Norse society existed until about 1500. and the remains of more than four hundred farms are currently known. The size of the population at the time is estimated, in the most flourishing phase of the colonies, or around 1300, between 3500 and 6000 residents. Around the year one thousand Greenlandic navigators also reached the coasts of North America and archaeological researches have verified the existence of settlements dating back to that period near the Anse aux Meadows, in the region of Newfoundland (Canada). base used in Norse architecture in Greenland were rough stone and peat. In this land devoid of trees, the wood for internal cladding and load-bearing structures was in fact present only as floated timber or, in unknown quantities, as imported material. The building tradition of Greenland was the Icelandic one, but over time specific variants developed there, such as for example. the centralized farm, where all functions were brought together under one roof. The dry stone masonry buildings represented another variant, related to an Anglo-Norwegian tradition based on Celtic, that is the stone architecture characteristic of the archipelagos to the north of the British Isles which in the Middle Ages were part of the Norwegian domains in the Atlantic. These constructions were never houses, but churches or production facilities; among the plants used for production functions, irrigation systems must also be included, designed to meet the needs in periods of drought, with water basins located in the nearby mountains and canalizations that transported the water to the fields. to 1262 an autonomous area governed by an agrarian aristocratic republic on the basis of the principles of the contemporary Icelandic free state. In Österbygd, the most populous area of ​​the island, the civil authority was based in Brattahlid. In 1262 the Norse Greenland, together with Iceland, became part of the domains of the Norwegian Crown and became a province, with the obligation to pay taxes to the king, who from that moment had a representative in the country. In exchange for tax revenues and a monopoly on trade, the sovereign was required to maintain a regular shipping service. In 1387, following changes in the political situation, Norway, with its possessions in the Atlantic, passed under the Danish Crown.Christianity began to spread in Greenland at the beginning of the Norse period and already in 1015 the colonies could consider themselves Christian. The first modest church was erected in Brattahlid and has been identified with some certainty thanks to archaeological investigations. The appointment of the first bishop dates back to 1124 and in 1126 the bishopric of Gardar was founded, of which a church consecrated to s. Nicola; only the foundations are preserved, brought to light by excavations. In addition to a complex of stables capable of housing a hundred head of cattle, the bishop’s seat included many buildings, such as for example. a department store used to store products that were paid as tithes. In 1152 the Icelandic and Greenlandic Churches came under the jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Nidaros (od. Trondheim) in Norway. According to written sources, up to the beginning of the fourteenth century four churches were erected in Vesterbygd and fourteen in the Österbygd, as well as a Benedictine monastery and an Augustinian convent, each with its own house of worship. A total of twenty-seven churches are currently known, but almost half are small buildings which should be considered more like farm chapels. extent of the contacts that Greenland had with Europe or, in the first place, with Norway. The imported objects found are very few and in a fragmentary state and the artifacts carved in wood, soapstone and bone indirectly reveal the knowledge of the Romanesque and Gothic styles, which suggests the existence of rather regular contacts, also confirmed by the discovery of clothing, to attest that European fashion trends of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were followed on the island.Some carvings on wood present elements typical of late Viking and early Romanesque art. The most widespread was a style with linear motifs that recurs, almost without distinction of age, in many peasant societies. Around the middle of the fourteenth century, written sources inform that the Vesterbygd had been abandoned, as it seems confirmed also from an archaeological point of view. The Österbygd, on the other hand, was depopulated around 1500, for reasons not yet clearly defined; thus ended the Norse period of Greenland.