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By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 2, 2003, 21:51
Greenland (in Greenlandic: Kalaallit Nunaat, literal meaning: "Our Land" and in Danish: Gr°nland), located in the North Atlantic Ocean, is the world's largest island (Australia is a continent). About 84 percent of its surface is covered by ice.
Greenland was one of the Norwegian Crown colonies until 1814, when it went to Denmark. Greenland became an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark in 1953. It was granted home rule (hjemmestyre) by the Danish parliament in May 1, 1979. The law went into effect the following year. The Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II, remains as Greenland's Head of state.
It is unknown when the native inhabitants of Greenland arrived, or why they decided to settle such a desolate place. Icelandic settlers found the land uninhabited when they arrived at the beginning of the second millennium. They established three settlements near the very south-western tip of the island, where they thrived for the next centuries.
The name Greenland comes from those Scandinavian settlers. In the Viking sagas, it is said that EirÝkur Raui (Erik the Red) was exiled from Iceland for murder. He, along with his family and slaves, set out in longships to find the land that was rumoured to be to the north-west. After settling there, he named the land Greenland in order to attract more people to settle there. This proved successful, and the settlements seemed to be getting relatively well along with the new coming Inuit, and a Christian Bishop was sent. In 1386, Greenland became part of the Kalmar Union and later of the double monarchy of Denmark-Norway.
After almost five hundred years, the settlements simply vanished, probably due to famine during the 15th century in the Little Ice Age, when climatic conditions deteriorated. Bones from this late period were found to be in a condition consistent with malnutrition.
Denmark retained possession of the moribund colony at the Treaty of Kiel in 1815.
Greenland's unicameral parliament is called Landsting. It has 31 seats and members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms. Two representatives are also elected to the Danish Parliament, the Folketing. The government has pledged to hold a referendum on full independence in 2005.
Administratively, the country is parted in three districts, which again include 18 municipalities. The districts are Avannaarsua (Northern Greenland), with one municipality, Tunu (East Greenland) with two and Kitaa (West Greenland) with 15. One military district, Pituffik, is not included among the municipalities.
If the Greenland ice cap were to completely melt away, Greenland would most likely be an archipelago instead of an island-continent like Australia.
Greenland suffered negative economic growth in the early 1990s, but since 1993 the economy has improved. The Greenland Home Rule Government (GHRG) has pursued a tight fiscal policy since the late 1980s which has helped create surpluses in the public budget and low inflation. Since 1990, Greenland has registered a foreign trade deficit following the closure of the last remaining lead and zinc mine in 1990. Greenland today is critically dependent on fishing and fish exports; the shrimp fishery is by far the largest income earner. Despite resumption of several interesting hydrocarbon and minerals exploration activities, it will take several years before production can materialize. Tourism is the only sector offering any near-term potential and even this is limited due to a short season and high costs. The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays the dominant role in Greenland's economy. About half the government revenues come from grants from the Danish Government, an important supplement of GDP.
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