Greenland is an autonomous constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark. Its population is 56,480. It is part of the Danish Realm under the Constitution of Denmark 1953. It has been a Danish colony since 1814 and prior to the breakup of Denmark/Norway had been under the Norwegian Crown since 1262.

Greenland (unlike the Faroe Islands, also a constituent part of Denmark) joined the European Community with Denmark in 1973. It was granted home rule in 1979. Greenlanders voted for a self-government Act which transferred more powers in 2008, effective in June 2009.

In a referendum in 1982, Greenland voted to withdraw from the EEC, largely due to issues with fishing. Fishing comprises 90% of its exports.

Withdrawal from EU

Greenland voted in a referendum on 23rd February 1982. The referendum was largely motivated by the impact of common market regulations on the fishing industry which remains the main economic sector

The Greenland Treaty was adopted on 30th March 1984. Provisions on Greenland were inserted into Part 4 of the EEC treaty dealing with Overseas Countries and Territories. Greenland withdrew from the European Union on 1st January 1985.

After leaving the EU Greenland was free to regulate its economy under its home rule laws without following EEC standards and procedures. Greenland left the customs union.

The withdrawal treaty provided that the ECSC, Euratom and the European Economic Community treaties cease to apply. There was a protocol on special arrangements for Greenland.

Status of Greenland

Greenland is outside the customs territory of the European Union. It is an overseas country and territory and one of the parties to the OCT agreement. The OCT status allowed it to be exempt from duties and quotas in sales to the EU. See the separate chapter in that regard

Greenland retains the rights in common with other OCT to impose limits on imports of goods from the European single market to conform with the level of its development. It has not exercised this right (2016).

In return for access to maritime resources, a fund was created in the EU budget from which financial compensation was paid to Greenland. Initially, Greenland did not qualify for development assistance from the European Development Fund because its income per capita was too high. It ceased to have access to the EU’s structural funds.

In  practice, almost all of Greenland’s export comprised fish and related products until the early 1980s. Effectively a “fish for cash” payment was made between 1985 and 2006 from the general budget of the EEC/EU.

The Greenland Treaty specifically allows free access of fish products from Greenland without participation in the EEC common fisheries policy on condition of compliance with the internal market organisation and granting firms originating from the EU and EFTA  free access to Greenland exclusive economic zone.

In return for access to the maritime resources.a fund was created  in the EU budget from which financial compensation was paid to Greenland. Initially, Greenland did not qualify for development assistance from the European Development Fund because its income per capita was too high. It ceased to have access to the EU’s structural funds.

EU Greenland Cooperation

A new political document, the joint declaration on a partnership between the European Union, Denmark and Greenland was signed in 2006. This was in the context of Greenland seeking greater home rule. The 2006 declaration broadened the partnership with European Union. This followed from a political move to decouple at least partially, fish from financial support provided by the EU and to provide a comprehensive partnership for sustainable development.

In March 2015 a further political declaration was signed between the EU, Denmark, and Greenland. This broadly continued the existing position but moved the emphasis away from fisheries to wider strategic issues such as strong ties on the Arctic and global issues.

Greenland’s representation to the EU is established in the same building as Danish permanent representation to the Europe Union.

Council Decision Framework


A Council Decision 2014 now the governs the relations between EU on the one hand and the  Kingdom of Denmark and Greenland on the other. There is also a Fisheries Partnership Agreement.

The 2014 Decision lays down  rules concerning the relationship between the EU, Greenland, and Denmark and is described as a partnership. The partnership seeks to facilitate consultations and policy dialogue on the specific objectives and areas of cooperation referred to in the decision.

The partnership  defines the framework for policy dialogue on issues of common interest for the parties. It provides the basis for broad cooperation and dialogue in areas such as energy, climate, environment, natural resources, raw material, maritime transport research and innovation and Arctic issues.

The decision provides for the formulation and adoption of sector policies in the main areas of cooperation. In particular, the government of Greenland shall prepare and submit an indicative programming document for the sustainable development of Greenland. It is to comply with certain principles including national ownership partnership, harmonisation, alignment with national systems, mutual accountability and results orientation.

It is to be the subject to an exchange of views and agreed between the EU, Denmark and Greenland government. The Commission is assisted by a Greenland committee.


There is financing of €217 million under the Decision. Within the framework of sectoral policies established by the government of Greenland, EU financial assistance may be given to the following activities.

  • reforms and projects in line with the program.
  • institutions for development capacity building
  • integration of environmental and climate change aspects.
  • technical corporation programs.

EU assistance is implemented in accordance with the decision. There is provision for a midterm review.


A new Fisheries Partnership Agreement came into effect between the EU and Greenland in 2013. The EU makes a financial contribution annually for fishing rights and quotas in the Greenland exclusive economic zone. The main objective of the fisheries partnership agreement is to provide the EU with fishing quotas and to maintain the strength and relationship in fisheries between EU and Greenland.

The protocol provides for  fishing opportunities for EU vessels, financial contributions and categories of fishing activities and governing conditions.

Goods and Food Hygiene

A Council decision of 2011 provides for simplified rules and procedures on phytosanitary control fishery products live bivalve mussel etc  et cetera coming from Greenland.

Denmark and Greenland are required under the Council Decision to ensure that the relevant legal acts of the EU are applicable to the products defined. Member state shall not apply veterinary checks on products covered by the decision.

Products coming from Greenland shall be placed on the internal marked under the phytosanitary rules applicable within the EU, provided the Denmark and Greenland ensure

  • effective transposition and implementation of all rules laid down in relation to animal health and food safety relating to the products.
  • draw up and keeping by the competent authorities in Denmark and Greenland of a list of feed and food business operators.
  • conformity of consignment of products dispatched to the EU from Greenland with the applicable rules concerning animal health and safety.

There are provisions for checks on  products introduced into to Greenland from third countries. There are provisions for border inspection post in Greenland to be approved by the EU.

Data on movement and trade in products is to be transmitted through the integrated computerised veterinary system (TRACES).

Consignments and products dispatch to the EU from Greenland are marketed with an identification mark for Greenland.

Share this article