Background Note: Denmark

Published: Thu 19 Nov 2009 12:09 PM
Background Note: Denmark
November 2009
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Kingdom of Denmark
Area: 43,094 sq. km. (16,639 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Vermont and New Hampshire combined.
Cities: Capital--Copenhagen (pop. 518,574 in Copenhagen and 1,662,189 in the Capital Region). Other cities--Aarhus (302,618), Aalborg (196,292), Odense (187,929).
Terrain: Low and flat or slightly rolling; highest elevation is 173 m. (568 ft.).
Climate: Temperate. The terrain, location, and prevailing westerly winds make the weather changeable.
*Excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands
Nationality: Noun--Dane(s). Adjective--Danish.
Population (Jan. 2009): 5,511,451.
Annual growth rate (Jan. 2008-Jan. 2009): 0.65%.
Ethnic groups: Scandinavian, Inuit, Faroese, German, Turkish, Iranian, Somali.
Religion membership: Danish National Evangelical Lutheran Church 83%; Muslim about 4%. Other: Majority consisting of Protestant denominations and Roman Catholics; also 19 Muslim, 3 Jewish, 6 Buddhist, and 8 Hindu religious communities recognized by the state.
Languages: Danish, Faroese, Greenlandic (Inuit dialect), some German. English is the predominant second language.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--100%. Literacy--99%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2008)--4/1,000. Life expectancy--men 76.26 years, women 80.70 years.
Work force (2008): 2.92 million. Employment: Industry, construction, and utilities--21%; government--35%; private services--41%; agriculture and fisheries--3%.
Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Constitution: June 5, 1953.
Branches: Executive--queen (chief of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative--unicameral parliament (Folketing). Judicial--appointed Supreme Court.
Political parties (represented in parliament): Venstre (Liberal), Social Democratic, Konservative, Socialist People's, Social Liberal, Unity List, Danish People's, New Alliance.
Suffrage: Universal adult (18 years of age).
Administrative subdivisions: 5 regions and 98 municipalities.
GDP (2008): $342.9 billion (current prices and exchange rates, source: Statistics Denmark).
Annual growth rate (real terms, 2008.): -1.1%.
Per capita GDP (2008): $62,015 (current prices and exchange rates).
Agriculture and fisheries (2.3% of GDP, 2008): Products--meat, milk, grains, seeds, hides, fur skin, fish and shellfish.
Industry (21.8% of GDP, 2008): Types--industrial and construction equipment, food processing, electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, furniture, textiles, windmills, and ships.
Natural resources: North Sea--oil and gas, fish. Greenland--fish and shrimp, potential for hydrocarbons and minerals, including zinc, lead, molybdenum, uranium, gold, platinum. The Faroe Islands--fish, potential for hydrocarbons.
Trade (2008, goods): Exports--$114.892 billion: industrial production/manufactured goods 73.0% (of which machinery and instruments were 25.5%, and fuels, chemicals, etc. 13.3%); agricultural products and others for consumption 11.8% (pork and pork products 4.3% of total export); fish and fish products 2.1%. Imports--$109.727 billion: raw materials and semi-manufactures 42.6%; consumer goods 28.6%; capital equipment 11.6%; transport equipment 8.1%; fuels 7.9%. Major trade partners, exports--Germany 17.6%, Sweden 14.5%, U.K. 8.3%, Norway 6%, U.S. 5.5%, Holland 4.4%. Major trade partners, imports--Germany 21.2%, Sweden 14.2%, Holland 6.8%, U.K. 5.2%, Norway 4.7%, U.S. 3.2%.
Official exchange rate: 5.0986 kroner=U.S. $1 (2008 average).
The Danes, a homogeneous Gothic-Germanic people, have inhabited Denmark since prehistoric times. Danish is the principal language. English is a required school subject, and fluency is high. A small German-speaking minority lives in southern Jutland; a mostly Inuit population inhabits Greenland; and the Faroe Islands have a Nordic population with its own language. Education is compulsory from ages seven to 16 and is free through the university level.
Although religious freedom is guaranteed, the state-supported Evangelical Lutheran Church has a membership of 83% of the population. Several other Christian denominations, as well as other major religions, find adherents in Denmark. Islam is now the second-largest religion in Denmark, with the number of Muslims in Denmark estimated at slightly more than 4% of the population.
During the Viking period (9th-11th centuries), Denmark was a great power based on the Jutland Peninsula, the Island of Zealand, and the southern part of what is now Sweden. In the early 11th century, King Canute united Denmark and England for almost 30 years.
Viking raids brought Denmark into contact with Christianity, and in the 12th century, crown and church influence increased. By the late 13th century, royal power had waned, and the nobility forced the king to grant a charter, considered Denmark's first constitution. Although the struggle between crown and nobility continued into the 14th century, Queen Margrethe I succeeded in uniting Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland under the Danish crown. Sweden and Finland left the union in 1520; however, Norway remained until 1814. Iceland, in a "personal union" under the king of Denmark after 1918, became independent in 1944.
The Reformation was introduced in Denmark in 1536. Denmark's provinces in today's southwestern Sweden were lost in 1658, and Norway was transferred from the Danish to the Swedish crown in 1814, following the defeat of Napoleon, with whom Denmark was allied.
The Danish liberal movement gained momentum in the 1830s, and in 1849 Denmark became a constitutional monarchy. After the war with Prussia and Austria in 1864, Denmark was forced to cede Schleswig-Holstein to Prussia and adopt a policy of neutrality. Toward the end of the 19th century, Denmark inaugurated important social and labor market reforms, laying the basis for the present welfare state.
Denmark remained neutral during World War I. Despite its declaration of neutrality at the beginning of World War II, it was invaded by the Germans in 1940 and occupied until liberated by the Allied forces in May 1945. Resistance against the Germans was sporadic until late 1943. By then better organized, the resistance movement and other volunteers undertook a successful rescue mission in which nearly the entire Jewish population of Denmark was shipped to Sweden (whose neutrality was honored by Germany). However, extensive studies are still being undertaken for the purpose of establishing a clearer picture of the degree of Danish cooperation--official and corporate--with the occupying power. Denmark became a charter member of the United Nations and was one of the original signers of the North Atlantic Treaty.
Cultural Achievements
Denmark's rich intellectual heritage has made multifaceted contributions to modern culture the world over. The discoveries of astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), geologist, anatomist, and bishop, Blessed Niels Steensen (1639-86 -- beatified in 1988 by Pope John Paul II), and the brilliant contributions of Nobel laureates Niels Bohr (1885-1962) to atomic physics and Niels Finsen (1860-1904) to medical research indicate the range of Danish scientific achievement. The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75), the philosophical essays of Soeren Kierkegaard (1813-55), and the short stories of Karen Blixen (pseudonym Isak Dinesen; 1885-1962) have earned international recognition, as have the symphonies of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931). Danish applied art and industrial design have won so many awards for excellence that the term "Danish Design" has become synonymous with high quality, craftsmanship, and functionalism. Among the leading lights of architecture and design was Arne Jacobsen (1902-1971), the "father of modern Danish design." The name of Georg Jensen (1866-1935) is known worldwide for outstanding modern design in silver, and "Royal Copenhagen" is among the finest porcelains. No 'short list' of famous Danes would be complete without the entertainer and pianist Victor Borge (1909-2000), who emigrated to the United States under Nazi threat in 1940, and had a worldwide following when he died a naturalized US. citizen in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the age of 91.
Visitors to Denmark will discover a wealth of cultural activity. The Royal Danish Ballet specializes in the work of the great Danish choreographer August Bournonville (1805-79). Danish dancers also feature regularly on the U.S. ballet scene, notably Peter Martins as head of New York City Ballet.
The Danish Film Institute, one of the oldest in Scandinavia, offers daily public screenings of Danish and international movies in their original language and plays an active role in the maintenance and restoration of important archival prints. Over the decades, movie directors like Gabriel Axel (Babette's Feast, 1987 Oscar for Best Foreign Film), Bille August (Buster's World, 1984; Pelle the Conqueror, 1988 Oscar for Best Foreign Film; The House of the Spirits, 1993) and Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves, 1996; Dancer in the Dark, 2000 Cannes Golden Palm; and Antichrist 2009, Nordic Council’s Film Prize 2009) have all won international acclaim. In addition, Denmark has been involved virtually from the start in development of the "Dogma film" genre, where small, hand-held digital cameras have permitted greater rapport between director and actor and given a documentary film feel to their increasingly realistic works Besides von Trier's Dogville (2003) starring Nicole Kidman, and The Idiots (1998), The Celebration (1998 Cannes Special Jury prize) by Thomas Vinterberg, Mifune's Last Song (1999 Berlin Silver Bear award) by Soeren Kragh-Jacobsen, and Italian for Beginners (2000 Berlin Silver Bear award) by Lone Scherfig all are prime examples of the Dogma concept.
International collections of modern art enjoy unusually attractive settings at the Louisiana Museum north of Copenhagen, "Arken" south of Copenhagen, and the North Jutland Art Museum in Aalborg. The State Museum of Art and the Glyptotek, both in Copenhagen, contain masterpieces of Danish and international art. Denmark's National Museum building in central Copenhagen harbors most of the state's anthropological and archeological treasures with especially fine prehistoric and Viking Age collections; two of its finest satellite collections are the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde west of the metropolis and the Open Air Museum in a near northern suburb where original buildings have been transported from their original locations around the country and reassembled on plots specially landscaped to evoke the original site. The Museum of Applied Art and Industrial Design in Copenhagen exhibits the best in Danish design. The world-renowned Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Factory exports worldwide. The ceramic tradition is carried on by designers such as Bjoern Wiinblad, whose whimsical creations remain as popular today as when they burst on the scene in the 1950s, and is carried on by younger talents such as Gertrude Vasegaard and Michael Geertsen.
Denmark has more than its share of impressive castles, many of which have been converted to museums. Frederiksborg Castle, on a manmade island in a lake north of Copenhagen, was restored after a catastrophic fire in the 1800s and now houses important collections in awe-inspiring splendor amidst impeccably manicured gardens. In Elsinore, Kronborg (or Hamlet's) Castle that once exacted tribute from passing ships now houses important furniture and art collections of the period, while hosting in its courtyard many touring summer productions of Shakespearean works. In Copenhagen, Rosenborg Castle houses the kingdom's crown jewels and boasts spectacular public gardens in the heart of the city.
Among today's Danish writers, probably the best-known to American readers is Peter Hoeg (Smilla's Sense of Snow; Borderliners), while the most prolific is Klaus Rifbjerg--poet, novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. Benny Andersen writes poems, short stories, and music. Poems by both writers have been translated into English by the Curbstone Press. Suzanne Broegger focuses on the changing roles of women in society. Kirsten Thorup's "Baby" won the 1980 Pegasus Prize and is printed in English by the University of Louisiana Press. The psychological thrillers of Anders Bodelsen and political thrillers by Leif Davidsen also appear in English.
In music, Hans Abrahamsen and Per Noergaard are the two most famous living composers. Abrahamsen's works have been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. Other international names are Poul Ruders, Bo Holten, and Karl Aage Rasmussen. Danes such as bass player Niels Henning Oersted Petersen have won broad international recognition, and the Copenhagen Jazz Festival held each year in July has acquired a firm place on the calendar of international jazz enthusiasts.
Cultural Policy
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs was created in 1961. Cultural life and meaningful leisure time were then and remain now subjects of debate by politicians and parliament as well as the general public. The democratization of cultural life promoted by the government's 1960s cultural policy recently has come to terms with the older "genteel culture;" broader concepts of culture now generally accepted include amateur and professional cultural, media, sports, and leisure-time activities.
Denmark's cultural policy is characterized by decentralized funding, program responsibility, and institutions. Danish cultural direction differs from that of other countries with a Ministry of Culture and a stated policy in that special laws govern each cultural field--e.g., the Theater Act of 1990 (as amended) and the Music Law of 1976 (as amended).
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs includes among its responsibilities international cultural relations; training of librarians and architects; copyright legislation; and subsidies to archives, libraries, museums, literature, music, arts and crafts, theater, and film production. During 1970-82, the Ministry also recognized protest movements and street manifestations as cultural events, because social change was viewed as an important goal of Danish cultural policy. Different governments exercise caution in moderating this policy and practice. Radio and TV broadcasting also fall under the Ministry of Culture.
Government expenditures for culture totaled just over 1.0% of the public budget in 2008 and government expenditures for culture totaled 0.33% of gross domestic product (GDP). Viewed against the government's firm objective to limit public expenditures, contributions are unlikely to increase in the future and have remained about $1.2 billion for the last couple of years. Municipal and county governments assume a relatively large share of the costs for cultural activities in their respective districts, 57% to the government’s 43%. Most support goes to libraries and archives, theater, museums, arts and crafts training, and films.
An overview of Danish culture would not be complete without mentioning the large, private foundations that play a very important part in supporting the whole spectrum of cultural activities from supporting struggling young artists to paying for large-scale restoration work, operating museums, and supporting scientific research. Private organizations like the New Carlsberg Foundation, C.L. David’s Foundation, and the Augustinus Foundation (to mention just a few) enjoy an almost semi-public stature due to their long records of working for the public good. The downside of this is that corporate, U.S.-style sponsorship of the arts is very limited in Denmark.
Denmark is a constitutional monarchy. Queen Margrethe II has largely ceremonial functions; probably her most significant formal power lies in her right to appoint the prime minister and cabinet ministers, who are responsible for administration of the government. However, she must consult with parliamentary leaders to determine the public's will, since the cabinet may be dismissed by a vote of no confidence in the Folketing (parliament). Cabinet members are occasionally recruited from outside the Folketing.
The 1953 constitution established a unicameral Folketing of not more than 179 members, of whom two are elected from the Faroe Islands and two from Greenland. Elections are held at least every 4 years, but the prime minister can dissolve the Folketing at any time and call for new elections. Folketing members are elected by a complicated system of proportional representation; any party receiving at least 2% of the total national vote receives representation. The result is a multiplicity of parties (eight represented in the Folketing after the November 2007 general election), none of which holds a majority. Electorate participation normally is around 80%-85%.
The judicial branch consists of 22 local courts, two high courts, several special courts (e.g., arbitration and maritime), and a Supreme Court of 15 judges appointed by the crown on the government's recommendation.
Since a structural reform of local government was passed by the Folketing in 2004 and 2005, Denmark has been divided into five regions and 98 municipalities. The regions and municipalities are both led by councils elected every four years, but only the municipal councils have the power to levy taxes. Regional councils are responsible for health services and regional development, while the municipal councils are responsible for day care, elementary schools, care for the elderly, culture, environment, and roads.
The Faroe Islands enjoy home rule and Greenland has expanded “self-rule,” with the Danish Government represented locally by high commissioners. These local governments are responsible for most domestic affairs, with foreign relations, monetary affairs, and defense falling to the Danish Government.
Principal Government Officials
Monarch--Queen Margrethe II
Prime Minister--Lars Loekke Rasmussen
Economic and Business Affairs--Lene Espersen
Foreign Affairs--Per Stig Moeller
Finance--Claus Hjort Frederiksen
Employment and Gender Equality--Inger Stoejberg
Justice--Brian Mikkelsen
Culture--Carina Christensen
Refugees, Immigration and Integration Affairs and Ecclesiastical Affairs--Birthe R. Hornbech
Development Cooperation--Ulla Toernaes
Taxation--Kristian Jensen
Transport--Lars Barfoed
Science, Technology and Innovation--Helge Sander
Food, Agriculture and Fisheries--Eva Kjer Hansen
Defense--Soeren Gade
Climate and Energy--Connie Hedegaard
Health and Prevention--Jakob Axel Nielsen
Education and Nordic Cooperation--Bertel Haarder
Interior and Social Affairs--Karen Ellemann
Environment--Troels Lund Poulsen
Ambassador to the United States--Friis Arne Petersen
Ambassador to the United Nations--Carsten Staur
Denmark maintains an embassy at 3200 Whitehaven Street NW, Washington, DC 20008-3683 (tel. 202-234-4300). Danish consulates general are located in Chicago and New York.
Political life in Denmark is orderly and democratic. Political changes occur gradually through a process of consensus, and political methods and attitudes are generally moderate. Growing numbers of immigrants and refugees throughout the 1990s, and less than successful integration policies, however, have in recent years led to growing support for populist anti-immigrant sentiments in addition to several revisions of already tight immigration laws, with the latest revision taking effect August 10, 2009.
The Social Democratic Party, historically identified with a well-organized labor movement but today appealing more broadly to the middle class, held power either alone or in coalition for most of the postwar period except from 1982 to 1993. From February 1993 to November 2001, Social Democratic Party chairman Poul Nyrup Rasmussen led a series of different minority coalition governments, which all included the centrist Social Liberal Party. However, with immigration high on the November 2001 election campaign agenda, the Danish People's Party doubled its number of parliamentary seats; this was a key factor in bringing into power a new minority right-of-center coalition government led by Liberal Party chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen (no relation to Nyrup Rasmussen).
Parliamentary elections held November 13, 2007 returned the coalition to government for another term of up to four years. In April 2009, after Anders Fogh Rasmussen was elected Secretary General of NATO, he was succeeded as Prime Minister by Lars Loekke Rasmussen. The coalition consists of the Liberal Party ("Venstre") and the Konservative Party, holding 65 of the 179 seats in the Folketing, and has the parliamentary support of the Danish People's Party, holding another 25 seats. The opposition Social Democrats hold 45 seats, and the Social Liberals hold 9 seats. Addressing the costs and benefits of the Denmark's comprehensive social welfare system, restraining taxes, and immigration are among the key issues on the current domestic political agenda.
Denmark's role in the European Union (EU) remains an important political issue. Denmark emerged from two referenda (June 2, 1992 and May 18, 1993) on the Maastricht Treaty on the European Union with four exemptions (or "opt-outs"): common defense, common currency, EU citizenship, and certain aspects of legal cooperation, including law enforcement. The Amsterdam Treaty was approved in a referendum May 28, 1998, by a 55% majority. Still, the electorate's fear of losing national identity in an integrated Europe and lack of confidence in long-term stability of European economies run deep. These concerns were at the forefront of the September 28, 2000 referendum on Denmark's participation in the third phase of the Economic and Monetary Union, particularly the common currency, the euro; more than 53% voted "no," and Denmark retained its "krone" currency unit. The government and the pro-EU opposition have agreed, and Denmark has received an EU green light to maintain the four opt-outs throughout the process of approving and ratifying a new EU constitutional treaty.
Denmark's relatively quiet and neutral role in international affairs was abruptly changed on September 30, 2005, when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten printed 12 caricatures of Mohammed. Islamic law prohibits any visual portrayal of Mohammed, and Muslims viewed the caricatures as offensive. Muslims worldwide were infuriated with the Danes, beginning a boycott of Danish products and burning several Danish embassies. The Danish Government during the crisis sought to defend freedom of expression even as it chastised the newspaper for insensitivity toward a religious minority. The newspaper apologized, and the Danish Government repeatedly reiterated its support for freedom of religion, but some animosity toward Denmark within the international Islamic community lingers.
Denmark's industrialized market economy depends on imported raw materials and foreign trade. Within the European Union, Denmark advocates a liberal trade policy. Its standard of living is among the highest in the world. Denmark devoted 0.82% of gross national income (GNI) in 2008 to foreign aid to less developed countries, including for peace and stability purposes, refugee pre-asylum costs, and for environmental purposes in central and eastern Europe and developing countries, making Denmark one of the few countries that are contributing more than the UN goal of 0.7 % of GNI to aid.
Denmark is a net exporter of food and energy. Its principal exports are machinery, instruments, and food products. The United States is Denmark's largest non-European trading partner, accounting for 4.4% of total Danish trade in 2008. Aircraft, computers, machinery, and instruments are among the major U.S. exports to Denmark. Among major Danish exports to the United States are industrial machinery, chemical products, furniture, pharmaceuticals, canned ham and pork, windmills, and plastic toy blocks (Lego). In addition, Denmark has a significant services trade with the U.S., a major share of it stemming from Danish-controlled ships engaged in container traffic to and from the United States (notably by Maersk-Line). There were 402 U.S.-owned companies operating in Denmark in 2007.
Like the rest of the world Denmark is affected by the global economic crisis. As of October 2009, unemployment was rising and private consumption had contracted significantly. Exports had fallen dramatically, also due to the devaluation of trading partners’ currencies, especially those of Sweden, Norway, and the U.K., but exports had stabilized at about 20% below previous levels. A contraction of GDP is expected in 2009, with estimates ranging from 3% to 5%. Denmark entered recession in mid-2007 before the onset of the global economic crisis, and the slowdown has been considerable. The Danish economy contracted by 1.1% in 2008 and 5.3% in the first half of 2009. In 2008, the budget surplus was $11.79 billion. In 2009 a deficit of $668 million is expected. Unemployment is relatively low at 6.4%, but up from 3% in June 2008, and is expected to peak just under double digits in early 2011. Most local observers agree that Denmark is on the path to a slow recovery and forecast economic growth from the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2009 onward.
In addition to the global crisis, Denmark has an underlying growth problem, and is projected to have the fourth-lowest productivity growth among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in the decade to come; it dropped from sixth to twelfth place among the richest OECD nations from 1997 to 2007. Denmark has maintained a stable currency policy since the early 1980s, with the krone formerly linked to the Deutschmark and since January 1, 1999, to the euro. Denmark meets the economic convergence criteria for participating in the third phase (a common European currency--the euro) of the European Monetary Union (EMU), but the public deficit is expected to exceed the allowed 3% of GDP in 2010. Although a referendum on EMU participation held on September 28, 2000 resulted in a firm "no" and Denmark, therefore, has not yet adopted the euro, opinion polls show a majority now in favor of EMU. Another referendum on the EMU/euro is expected, though no sooner than 2011. Danes are generally proud of their welfare safety net, which ensures that all Danes receive basic health care and need not fear real poverty. However, at present the portion of working-age Danes (16 to 66-year-olds) living mostly on government transfer payments amounts to 22.6% The heavy load of government transfer payments burdens other parts of the system. Health care, other than for acute problems, and care for the elderly and children have suffered, while taxes remain among the highest in the world. Thirty-two percent of the labor force is employed in the public sector.
The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays the dominant role in Greenland's economy. A large part of government revenues comes from Danish Government grants, 57% in 2009, an important supplement of GDP. The global economic slowdown is affecting Greenland as well, and a contraction of 2% of GDP is expected for 2009. The surpluses in the public budget between 2002 and 2005 were turned to a deficit of $40 million in 2007 and 2008, and unemployment is on the rise after an extended period from 2003 onward with lower unemployment. The Greenlandic economy increased by an average of 3% to 4% annually between 1993 and 2001, the result of increasing catches and exports of shrimp, Greenland halibut, and, more recently, crabs. However, it was not until 1999 that the economy had fully recovered from an economic downturn in the early 1990s. During the last decade the Greenland Home Rule Government (GHRG) has pursued a fiscal policy with mostly small budget surpluses and low inflation, but increased public pressure for improved public services in the form of better schools, health care, and retirement schemes have strained the public budget. The GHRG has taken initiatives to increase the labor force and thus employment by, among other things, raising the retirement age from 60 to 63 years. The average unemployment rate for 2008 was 4.5%. Structural reforms are still needed in order to create a broader business base and economic growth through more efficient use of existing resources in both the public and the private sector.
Due to its continued dependence on exports of fish, 85% of goods exports, Greenland’s economy remains very sensitive to foreign developments. Greenland has registered a foreign trade deficit since the closure of the last remaining lead and zinc mine in 1989, though international interest in Greenland’s mineral wealth is increasing. The trade deficit reached 12% of GDP in 2007. International consortia are also increasingly active in exploring for hydrocarbon resources off Greenland’s western coast, and there are international studies indicating the potential of oil and gas fields in northern and northeastern Greenland. The U.S. aluminum producer Alcoa in May 2007 concluded a memorandum of understanding with the Greenland Home Rule Government to build an aluminum smelter and associated power generation facility in Greenland to take advantage of abundant hydropower potential. Tourism also offers another avenue of economic growth for Greenland, with increasing numbers of cruise lines now operating in Greenland’s western and southern waters during the peak summer tourism season.
Politically, the Greenland Home Rule Government has sought increasing autonomy since the acquisition of home rule in 1979. In May 2003, the Danish and Greenland Home Rule governments reached agreement on a set of power-sharing principles on Greenland's involvement in Danish foreign and security policy. The so-called Itilleq Declaration provides that Greenland will have foreign policy involvement with a view toward having equal status on questions of concern to both Denmark and Greenland. A Danish-Greenlandic Commission, established in 2005 with the aim of preparing measures that would grant Greenland additional autonomy, issued its recommendations in early 2008 and set the conditions for a new legal framework, “Self Rule,” between Greenland and Denmark. The Self Rule agreement was overwhelmingly approved by Greenlandic voters in a referendum in November 2008 and was passed by the Danish parliament; it entered into effect on the 30th anniversary of Greenlandic Home Rule in June 2009. The new Self Rule agreement allows for the transfer of additional authorities, such as justice and police affairs, to Greenland’s government as it is able to assume financial responsibility for these new portfolios. The Self Rule agreement also provides formal international legal recognition to the Greenlanders as a people under international law, and provides a formula for division of potential oil and gas revenues between Denmark and Greenland.
Faroe Islands
In early 2008 signs of an impending slowdown in the Faroese economy became apparent. The main difficulty lay with the fishing industry coming under pressure from smaller catches combined with historically high oil prices. Though oil prices have come down, reduced catches of especially cod and haddock have strained the Faroese economy. GDP growth was 0.5% in 2007-2008, but inflation was 4.7%, leading to a drop in real GDP. A contraction in all sectors except the public sector is expected for 2009. The slowdown in the Faroese economy follows a strong performance since the mid-1990s, with annual growth rates averaging close to 6%, mostly as a result of increasing fish landings and salmon farming and high and stable export prices. Unemployment was insignificant and reached its lowest level at 1.2% in the first half of 2008 but increased to 3.3% in April 2009 and is rising. Most of the Faroese who emigrated in the early 1990s (some 10% of the population) due to the economic recession have returned. The positive economic development helped the Faroese Home Rule Government produce increasing budget surpluses that in turn helped to reduce the large public debt, most of it to Denmark. However, the total dependence on fishing and salmon farming makes the Faroese economy very vulnerable, and the surpluses turned to deficits in 2008; a deficit of $100 million is projected for 2009. Initial discoveries of oil in the Faroese area give hope for eventual oil production, which may lay the basis for a more diversified economy and thus less dependence on Denmark and Danish economic assistance. Aided by an annual subsidy from Denmark corresponding to about 6% of Faroese GDP, the Faroese have a standard of living comparable to that of the Danes and other Scandinavians.
Politically, the present Faroese Home Rule Government has initiated a process toward greater independence from Denmark, if not complete secession from the realm. In that respect, agreement on how to phase out the Danish subsidy plays a crucial role.
Although Denmark remained neutral during the First World War, its rapid occupation by Nazi Germany in 1940 persuaded most Danes that neutrality was no longer a reliable guarantee of Danish security. Danish security policy is founded on its membership in NATO. Since 1988, Danish budgets and security policy have been set by multi-year agreements supported by a wide parliamentary majority, including government and opposition parties. In 2008, Danish defense expenditures were 2.6% of GDP.
Denmark has been a member of NATO since its founding in 1949, and membership in NATO remains highly popular. There were several serious confrontations between the U.S. and Denmark on security policy in the so-called "footnote era" (1982-88), when a parliamentary majority forced the government to adopt specific national positions on nuclear and arms control issues that were at variance with Alliance policy. With the end of the Cold War, however, Denmark has been an active and supportive member of the Alliance.
Danish foreign policy is founded upon four cornerstones: the United Nations, NATO, the EU, and Nordic cooperation. Denmark also is a member of, among other organizations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; the World Trade Organization (WTO); the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the Council of Europe; the Nordic Council; the Baltic Council; and the Barents Council. Denmark emphasizes its relations with developing nations. Although the government has moved to tighten foreign assistance expenditures, it remains a significant donor and one of the few countries to exceed the UN goal of contributing 0.7% of GNP to development assistance.
In the wake of the Cold War, Denmark has been active in international efforts to integrate the countries of Central and Eastern Europe into the West. It has played a leadership role in coordinating Western assistance to the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania). The country is a strong supporter of international peacekeeping. Danish forces were heavily engaged in the former Yugoslavia in the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR), as well as in NATO's Operation Joint Endeavor/Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (IFOR/SFOR), and currently in the Kosovo Force (KFOR).
Danes have at times had a reputation as "reluctant" Europeans. When they rejected ratification of the Maastricht Treaty on June 2, 1992, they put the European Community's (EC) plans for the European Union on hold. In December 1992, the rest of the EC agreed to exempt Denmark from certain aspects of the European Union, including a common defense, a common currency, EU citizenship, and certain aspects of legal cooperation. On this revised basis, a clear majority of Danes approved continued participation in the EU in a second referendum on May 18, 1993, and again in a referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty on May 28, 1998. Denmark has, however, at times also shown strong leadership within the European Union, as it did during its 2002 European Union presidency, when Denmark took a lead role in successful negotiations for the EU’s inclusion of 10 new members from Central and Eastern Europe.
Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, Denmark has been highly proactive in endorsing and implementing United States, UN, and EU-initiated counter-terrorism measures, just as Denmark has contributed substantially to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. It currently has about 750 soldiers in Afghanistan, operating without caveat and concentrated in Helmand province. In 2003, Denmark was among the first countries to join Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), supplying a submarine, a Corvette-class ship, and military personnel to support OIF’s coalition in Iraq. Denmark in the end provided 500 troops to assist with stabilization efforts in Iraq. Denmark withdrew most of its troops from Iraq in August 2007, when Iraqi forces took over security responsibilities in the Basra area where Danish troops had been concentrated. Denmark maintains a small residual troop contingent that supports the NATO Training Mission in Iraq.
Denmark and the United States have long enjoyed a close and mutually beneficial relationship. Denmark and the United States consult closely on European and other regional political and security matters and cooperate extensively to promote peace and stability well beyond Europe’s borders. Denmark largely shares U.S. views on the positive ramifications of NATO enlargement. Danish troops support ISAF-led stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. President George W. Bush made an official working visit to Copenhagen in July 2005, and Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen also met with President Bush at Camp David in June 2006 and in Crawford, Texas in March 2008. President Barack Obama met with Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen on October 2, 2009 in Copenhagen.
Denmark's active liberal trade policy in the EU, OECD, and WTO largely coincides with U.S. interests. There are differences of opinion between the U.S. and the EU on how to manage and resolve the global crisis, but not on the importance of action. The U.S. is Denmark's largest non-European trade partner with about 4.4% of Danish merchandise trade. Denmark's role in European environmental and agricultural issues and its strategic location at the entrance to the Baltic Sea have made Copenhagen a center for U.S. agencies and the private sector dealing with the Nordic/Baltic region.
American culture--and particularly popular culture, from jazz, rock, and rap to television shows and literature--is very popular in Denmark. More than 300,000 U.S. tourists visit Denmark annually.
The U.S. Air Force (USAF) base and early warning radar facility at Thule, in northwest Greenland, serves as a vital link in Western and NATO defenses. In August 2004, the Danish and Greenland Home Rule governments signed agreements allowing for an upgrade of the Thule early warning radar in connection with a role in the U.S. ballistic missile defense system The same agreements also created new opportunities for both sides to enhance economic, technical, and environmental cooperation between the United States and Greenland.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Laurie S. Fulton
Deputy Chief of Mission--Terence P. McCulley
Ambassador OMS--Christine Kucera
DCM OMS--Sue A. Myers
Political/Economic Counselor--Richard Bell
Economic Officer--Shawn Waddoups
Political Officer--Edward Messmer
Public Affairs Officer--Melissa Ford
Consul--Robert Jachim
Management Officer--Sarah Hall
Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Officer--Erik Hall
Agricultural Attaché--Steve Huete (resident in The Hague)
Senior Commercial Officer--Frank Carrico (resident in Stockholm)
Defense Attaché--Capt. Christopher McDonald, USN
Army Attaché--Lt. Col. Catherine Gillund, USA
Air Attaché--Lt. Col. Barbara East, USAF
Office of Defense Cooperation--Col. Clifford Puckett, USAF
Drug Enforcement Administration--Timothy Moran
Department of Homeland Security (ICE)--James MacDowell
Regional Security Officer--Jeff Howard
Legal Attaché--Gregory Cox
The U.S. Embassy is located at Dag Hammarskjolds Alle 24, 2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark (tel. +45 33-41-71-00). The website contains links to U.S. Government agencies at the Embassy and provides a wealth of information on U.S.-Danish relations.
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans traveling and residing abroad through Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings. Country Specific Information exists for all countries and includes information on entry and exit requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.
For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at For additional information on international travel, see
The Department of State encourages all U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.
The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4-USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778); TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793. Passport information is available 24 hours, 7 days a week You may speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and a web site at give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. The CDC publication "Health Information for International Travel" can be found at
Further Electronic Information
Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at, the Department of State web site provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies working abroad through its website provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help with the export process, and more.
STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank.

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