From Iceland — The History Of Foreign Countries Trying To Claim Greenland

The History Of Foreign Countries Trying To Claim Greenland

Published August 21, 2019

Greenland has a long history of foreign claims. Primarily, the dispute has been between Norway and Denmark, but Iceland, and even the United States, also have some history in these debates. In fact, there was a time when Icelanders thought it would be a good idea to take over Greenland, as Sumarliði Ísleifsson, associate professor of applied cultural media, explained to Vísir.

While Native Arctic peoples were the first to intervally inhabit Greenland, The Nordic ties to the land, including those of Icelanders, all stem from the Norse colonies that were believed to first be settled by explorer Erik the Red in the 980s. Later, Norse Greenlanders submitted to Norwegian rule in the 13th Century, and Norway then entered a union with Denmark in 1380, which then dissolved in 1814, leaving Greenland under the control of the Danish monarch.

Erik the Red lived much of his life in Iceland, but he was born in Norway. Norway tried to reclaim eastern Greenland on this basis, but it didn’t work out.

Meanwhile, Icelandic entrepreneur and poet, Einar Benediktsson, was writing a number of newspaper articles on the claim of Icelanders to Greenland. At a town meeting, Einar spoke with Benedikt Sveinsson, former president of parliament, urging the government to maintain it’s claim on the “the ancient colony of Icelanders.”

After the International Court of Justice in The Hague denied Norway’s claim in 1931, Iceland tried to take a turn. Jón Þorláksson, the first chairman of the Independence Party, presented a parliamentary proposal to “safeguard Iceland’s interests” and give Icelanders land rights in Greenland, which was then approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee. Economist Jón Dúason also wrote a scholarly paper on the claim to Greenland with financial support from Parliament, but the support abroad with this report, and generally the overall claim, didn’t receive much international attention.

Guðmundur Hálfdánarson, professor of history, also told Vísir that many Icelanders hadn’t thought much about the Greenlanders themselves. “Owning a colony was first and foremost a matter of earning income from it, but not spending much on it,” he said, describing the situation as, “old-fashioned colonial thinking.”

It’s this “colonial thinking” that has made Trump’s interest in purchasing a country so controversial, but it wouldn’t be the first time the U.S. made an offer. In World War II, Denmark was occupied by Nazi-Germany. The U.S. then occupied Greenland to defend it from being similarly invaded by Germany. After the war, the U.S. took geopolitical interest in Greenland and offered to buy it from Denmark for $100,000,000 USD. Denmark was not impressed, and refused the offer.

So once again, Greenland is not for sale. Greenland has however played along by stating that Donald Trump could state his price to sell the United States. In a response to the rejection, Trump has cancelled his official visit to Denmark in hopes that threatening the country with a good time will help further his interests.

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