Greenland is the world's largest island. Formerly a province of Denmark, it gained the status of an autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government as well as its own parliament in 1979.
Denmark is in charge of foreign affairs and defence policy and contributes two thirds of its budget revenue, the rest coming mainly from fishing. Denmark is also Greenland's main trading partner.
The climate in Greenland is extremely harsh. More than 80% of the island is covered by an ice cap which is 4km thick in places.
Uummannaq locals enjoy perpetual daylight for two months each year
Many of the Eskimo (Inuit) people survive by hunting and fishing and are struggling as fish stocks become depleted. The island's population is only 57,000. Inhabitants face severe social problems, notably unemployment, alcoholism and HIV/Aids.
At a glance
- Greenland is an autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government
- Fishing is a key economic activity.
- Potential oil, gas and rare earth mineral reserves have attracted prospecting firms.
- Danish grants make up the bulk of Greenland's revenues
- There are fears that the ice sheet is melting at an increasing rate as the world warms
- Social problems include high levels of unemployment and alcoholism
Profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
Recent environmental studies have raised fears that global warming is causing Greenland's ice cover to melt increasingly fast and that this could have serious implications for future sea levels and ocean currents unless the process is rapidly halted and then reversed.
US plans for a national missile defence system have highlighted the strategic importance of Greenland. The Americans have expressed interest in using their Cold War radar base at Thule in the north of the island as part of this defence system.
Dozens of Inuit families were forced off their lands in 1953 to allow expansion at the base. Many Greenlanders would like to see it closed down. Others see economic reasons for keeping it.Greater autonomy
A substantial proportion of Greenland's population favours independence. However, the former colonial power, Denmark, has the final say on the matter.
In 2008 Greenlanders voted in a referendum for more autonomy. The deal gave them greater control over their energy resources, treated Greenlanders as a separate people under international law, and granted the native Inuit language Kalaallisut (Western Greenlandic) official status in place of Danish. The Danish subsidy is to continue.
Early elections were held just before that deal came into force in June 2009 in order to decide how to implement it. The pro-independence Inuit Ataqatigiit party beat the Social Democratic Siumut party, which had governed for 30 years.