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Can the USA Buy Greenland?

Well, yes it can, BUT seems to me, the Greenlanders are the final say

I have been more than interested in the probably abortive effort of the USA to “buy” Greenland from Denmark. I doubt the Danish government will go along. But at the end of the day, I suggest the ultimate answer ought to be not Denmark nor the USA but the people of Greenland. At the close of this article, I’ll suggest some ideas in re what might it take to close the deal. Two hints: Puerto Rico and the Olympics.

Greenland is called a “country” within the Kingdom of Denmark (the Faroe Islands is also a “country”) and as such it has great autonomy:

Self-Government, Parliament and Government

The Act on Greenland Self-Government was granted to Greenland on June 21, 2009 (Act no. 473 of 12 June 2009) and was an extension of powers enacted in the Home Rule act of 1979 (Act. No. 577 of 29 November 1978). Through the Home Rule and Self-Government Acts Greenland has the right to elect its own parliament and government, the latter having sovereignty and administration over the areas mentioned in the Self-Government Act such as education, health, fisheries, environment and climate. Some of the achievements of the Self-Government Act were the recognition of Kalaallit (Greenlanders) as people, in international law, the opportunity for Greenland to become an independent state, as well as the opportunity to take on the jurisdiction of more areas (such as natural resources and justice affairs).

The Greenlandic parliament is called “Inatsisartut”. It’s composed of 31 members who are elected for a 4-year period and convene for two periods a year (autumn and spring). The Inatsisartut approves the executive government “Naalakkersuisut”, which is responsible for the central administration headed by a Premier with a cabinet.

The sitting government elected in November of 2014 consist of a coalition between Siumut, Atassut and Demokraatit, with Mr. Kim Kielsen from Siumut as the incumbent Premier. 

So Greenland actually has a local parliament that has great powers. The agreement between Greenland and Denmark that sets up Greenland as a people group also allows Greenland alone to decide it will be independent.

CHAPTER 8 GREENLAND’S ACCESS TO INDEPENDENCE 21. (1) Decision regarding Greenland’s independence shall be taken by the people of Greenland. (2) If decision is taken pursuant to subsection (1), negotiations shall commence between the Government and Naalakkersuisut with a view to the introduction of independence for Greenland. (3)An agreement between Naalakkersuisut and the Government regarding the introduction of independence for Greenland shall be concluded with the consent of Inatsisartut and shall be endorsed by a referendum in Greenland. The agreement shall, furthermore, be concluded with the consent of the Folketing. (4)Independence for Greenland shall imply that Greenland assumes sovereignty over the Greenland territory.

Amazing. Now this humble lawyer would interpret an agreement saying independence is Greenland’s business solely would also mean that Greenland and Greenland alone gets to decide if it joins the USA. (By the way, you think Brexit’s great? Grexit happened in 1985!

Greenland withdrew from the European Union in 1985, thereafter basing its relations with the EU on a special agreement.

Smart, visionary people, those Greenlanders. I cannot see the independent-minded Greenlanders deciding to enter the US political system. I think it will take a visionary idea that is better than the Danes can offer.

To start with, Greenland is way too small to be an American state. And it would lose important rights to be involved in foreign policy:

As a result of regional cooperation regarding environmental issues (The Finnish Initiative), the eight countries in the Arctic, ie Russia, Canada, USA, Iceland, Denmark/Greenland, Sweden, Norway and Finland, founded the Arctic Council in 1996.

Greenland cooperates with the Inuit peoples of Canada, Alaska and Russia through its membership of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC). The ICC has official status as an NGO (Non Governmental Organisation) within the UN system. The ICC is a permanent member of the Arctic Council.

Since 1992 two members of the Parliament has been represented in the Danish delegation in UN Assemblies.

In the Human Rights Commission, Denmark/Greenland actively works for the establishment of a Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples

But the best deal the US could make – and it would be good to extend it from Greenland to also Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa, too; the best deal would to be to offer Greenland an Associated State status with an Olympic team (The other Danish country – the Faroe Islands, which is a fabulous place to visit from what I readthe Faroes want an Olympic team), UN representation (That is better than the deal Greenland has with Denmark), defense protection, and absolute local autonomy.

I personally do not think the Greenlanders would take it. My guess is: 80-20 in favor of staying with Denmark. But maybe the Art of the Deal author might just pull it off. My advice to the President: Stop fooling around with the Danish pols. It’s Greenland’s business and only Greenland’s business. Denmark could not stop it nor can unilaterally sell Greenland without the permission of the Greenlanders.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

One Response to “Can the USA Buy Greenland?”

  1. Paul Blumstein says:

    Wouldn’t Greenland have to pay taxes (Income & Business) to the U.S. if we owned them? That would be a great reason for them to not want to join us.

    Also, I understand that Hawaiian citizens are (privately) not happy that we took them over. I suspect our other territories citizens may feel the same way.

    And there is something else no one seems to be talking about: cost. With a sky high national debt and growing deficits we should be looking at cuttings costs not buying new toys.

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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