In legal terms, other Arctic disputes are narrowly domestic matters, even though they also have wider repercussions. An example is Greenland, which was first colonized by Danish settlers in 1721 and has been ruled from Copenhagen since 1933, when the Permanent Court dismissed Norway's claim to ownership. But in the post-war years there has been a growing demand among Greenlanders for independence, an issue that is ultimately for them and for the Danish government to determine, rather than the outside world.

These national aspirations came to the political surface in the late 1970s, when the 57,000-strong population voted in favour of home rule and were subsequently granted more freedoms from Denmark while at the same time remaining part of its sovereign territory. But even these concessions failed to satisfy many people, notably the leading advocate of Greenland's total independence, Jonathan Motzfeldt of the social democratic Siumut Party, who urged his followers to press for more freedom. There was a further rift in 1985, when Greenland voted to withdraw from the European Union even though Denmark remained a member, and in 2003 it was granted a limited say in matters of foreign policy and international security. This is discussed further in Chapter 12.

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