Greenland's glacial split from West Europe

Greenland looks more likely than ever to withdraw from the European Community (EC) in 1985. This is the prognosis following Tuesday's general election for the 26-seat Landsting, the self-governing parliament of this Danish protectorate.

In the world's largest island and northernmost democracy, the 33,000-strong electorate has put most of its weight behind the two parties committed to withdrawal from the EC - the ruling socialist Forward Party headed by Home Rule Council Chairman Jonathan Motzfeldt, and the leftist Eskimo Movement. The Eskimo Movement successfully wooed younger Forward voters with its less compromising position on control of national resources and its emphasis on more environmental protection and safeguards for preserving the Eskimo culture.

Technically, the opposition Feeling of Community Party polled the most votes (46.6 percent) but these pro-EC conservatives have won a hollow victory following the announcement by Eskimo Movement leader Arqaluk Lynge that he has accepted the Forward Party's invitation to cooperate. With the Forward vote (42. 3 percent) and the improved strength of their new parliamentary allies, the Eskimo Party (10.6 percent), there is unlikely to be any change to Greenland's plans to leave the EC - the biggest single issue of the election.

In Greenland, campaigning politicians probably work harder per vote than in any other country. In the last few weeks, it was not unusual to see politicians traveling by helicopter or even dozens of miles by dogsled in order to visit a few families whose votes could affect the tally. In some of the most remote regions, a mere handful of votes has decided the winner.

''This time Greenland's campaigners have put extra effort into their activities because they knew the result would be close,'' noted Ralf Amstrup of the Home Rule Council.

Whether the small Eskimo Movement will form a coalition with the Forward Party or simply remain a reliable ally to a minority Forward government is still unclear, but Washington is unlikely to welcome the result. Already the left party that now holds the balance of power in the new state legislature has demanded a ''price for cooperation'': state retention of ownership of Greenland's mineral resources.

Greenland has been a Danish colony since 1721 and joined the EC with Denmark in 1973. The nonconservative parties which oppose Danish ties with Greenland argue that the distance between Brussels and Greenland - which can take a week to travel - is more than geographic. Culturally and economically the affairs of Europe are considered too far-removed from the people of Greenland, for whom hunting and fishing remain vital industries.

In matters of defense the United States government has long recognized the strategic importance of Greenland. A declassified US defense document of the 1950s refers to it as being important as the Mediterranean. Last year Scandinavian peace activists published a controversial book, ''Greenland, Pearl of the Mediterranean,'' that claims equipment on US bases there has been upgraded from a defensive to an offensive capacity. The possibility of Greenland becoming a high-priority target in the event of a superpower nuclear exchange has been widely discussed by the left party. But Greenland remains a crown colony of NATO member Denmark, which still controls this aspect of Greenland's affairs.

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