Greenland is set to gain more autonomy within Denmark after a strong majority of voters approved an enhanced self-rule plan. The vote is seen as a big step towards independence.
Greenlanders will be recognized as a people
Roughly 75 percent of voters voted "aap" to a plan that would give Greenland partial control over its natural resources and take greater charge of justice and legal affairs, election results released Wednesday, Nov. 26, showed.
"Looking back over history, this is the first time we've been asked," Greenland Premier Hans Enoksen said after the results were declared. "I'm extremely moved because now, like other peoples, we will be recognized as a nation."
Greenlanders celebrated in the streets of capital Nuuk even before voting closed. Despite heavy snow and temperatures of minus 5 degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit), officials reported long lines at voting booths.
The Greenland home rule government said turnout was 75.5 percent of the 39,000 eligible voters.
Greenlandic gets a boost
Greenlandic -- an Inuit language -- is set to become the official language on the world's largest island. Additionally, Greenlanders were to be recognized as a people. About 85 percent of the island's 57,000 inhabitants are ethnic Greenlanders.
Greenland would have to share potential oil revenues
Enoksen, from the ruling Siumut party, said Greenland wanted to aid other "indigenous peoples" to "achieve the same as we have done."
The expanded home rule was to take effect June 21, the 30th anniversary of the existing home rule bill.
Under the terms agreed upon between the parliaments of Denmark and Greenland, Danish subsidies, known as the block grant, worth 3.2 billion kroner ($542 million), are to remain.
Oil revenue remains divided
Potential oil revenues, if oil were to be found, would be divided between Denmark and Greenland and deducted from the block grant. Greenland's resources include potential reserves of oil and gas, as well as hydropower, zinc and diamonds.
The current mainstay is shrimp and halibut fishing although these sectors need to become more efficient, said Christen Sorensen of the University of Southern Denmark, an expert on Greenland's economy.
Denmark would continue to manage foreign affairs, defense and monetary policy even though Greenland has become more active in the Arctic region and maintains special ties with the European Union.