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Article Greenland; Denmark: Greenlandic Parliament Votes to Shift Time Zone

On November 24, 2022, the Greenlandic Parliament voted to adopt a government proposal to shift its time zone to align it more closely with Denmark’s and Europe’s time zones. The new rules will place Greenland’s time zone three hours ahead of the United States’ Eastern Standard Time Zone and three hours behind the Central European Time Zone, which includes Denmark.

The move to change the time zone is expected to create one additional hour a day in which Greenland can trade with Europe, which is the main reason behind the move, according to the Greenlandic government.

Under the new rules, Greenland will be covered by the Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) -2 time zone, making the Greenlandic capital, Nuuk, closer in time with Denmark, which uses the GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)/UTC+1 time zone.

Currently, Greenland has four times zones, with the capital, Nuuk, using GMT/UTC-3 (also known as West Greenland Time (WGT)); Pituffik (Thule Air Base) using UTC-4 (Atlantic Standard time (AST)); Ittoqqortootmiit using UTC-1 (East Greenland Time (EGT)); and Danmarkshavn using GMT/UTC+0. According to the Greenlandic government, it is not clear how these time zones were established because they are not regulated by law, but they are believed to have been adopted administratively by the Danish government before Greenland’s increased self-governance.

Greenland is a semiautonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark and has enjoyed self-governance since 2009. (Lov om Grønlands Selvstyre [Self- Governance Act] (Lov nr. 473 af 12 juni 2009).) The Self-Governance Act adopted a scheme where it listed areas of authority that are to be transferred from the Danish government to the Greenlandic government. In addition, the law provides that areas that are not listed can be transferred to Greenland when the Greenlandic government and the Danish government so agree. (§ 4 Self-Governance Act.) In May 2022, the Greenlandic government and the Danish government agreed that the Greenlandic government would take over the right to determine time (tidsbestammelse) from Denmark, allowing the Greenlandic parliament (Inatsisartut) to adopt rules on the use of a time zone in Greenland.

Following the agreement, the Greenlandic government proposed to the Greenlandic parliament that the UTC-2 time zone be adopted into law, together with rules specifying that the government may set rules for the use of daylight summer time as well as deviating time zones for other parts of the island, such as Danmarkshavn and Thule Air Base. According to the remarks accompanying the proposal by the government, there is as yet no plan to change the time zones for Danmarkshavn and Thule Air Base, meaning they would retain their current time zones.

Daylight Saving Time

Currently, the Greenland government has the right to decide on daylight saving, as specified in a law. (Landstingslov nr. 14 af 19. oktober 1989 om anvendelse af sommertid.) Under those rules, sommertid (daylight saving) is in force from the last Sunday of March until the last Sunday of October, which corresponds to the time frame used in Denmark. (Selvstyrets bekendtgørelse nr. 15 af 20. oktober 2009 om fastsættelse af sommertid.)

The Greenlandic parliament has previously decided that daylight saving would be abolished in Greenland, but this decision has not yet been implemented as Greenland waits for the European Union (EU) to abolish daylight saving time in its member countries. In the remarks accompanying its proposal for the new time zone, the Greenlandic government explained that it would not abolish daylight saving time until the EU does.

The law and the time shift take effect on March 25, 2023.

Elin Hofverberg, Law Library of Congress
January 25, 2023

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