The Countries Wiki

Kongeriget Danmark

Kingdom of Denmark

Flag Coat of arms
Location of Denmark
Faroe Islands (1948) Flag of the Faroe Islands.svg
Capital Copenhagen
Government Constitutional monarchy
- 1944-1947 Christian X
- 1947-1972 Frederik IX
- From 1972 Margrethe II
Prime minister
- 1945 Vilhelm Buhl
- 1945-1947 Knud Kristensen
- 1947-1950 Hans Hedtoft
- 1950-1953 Erik Eriksen
- 1953-1955 Hans Hedtoft
- 1955-1960 Hans Svane Hansen
Legislature Folketing
June 17, 1944 Independence of Iceland
June 5, 1953 Constitution
NATO accession April 4, 1949
Area 2,220,093 km²
- 2010 5,626,011
 Density 2.5/km²
Currency Danish krone, Faroese krone
Flag of None.svg Denmark–Iceland
JAg67rUvqZjjisj9y GLWkhfH-HZTaPFr MrT0hHLac.webp Danish State
Flag of Germany (1935-45).svg Third Reich

The Kingdom of Denmark is a constitutional monarchy consiting of Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Iceland which had been a part of the Danish realm until 1918 when it became a separate kingdom under the Danish monarch, declared itself a republic and became fully independent in 1944. In May 1945 the German Occupation of Denmark proper was ended, and in September 1945 British troops left the Faroe Islands after their protective occupation during World War II. The status of Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories (AMGOT) was terminated in 1946.

Denmark is a member state of the European Union, but the membership only extends to the Scandinavian part of the kingdom. Danish citizens are fully citizens of the European Union, provided that they do not reside in the Faroe Islands by which point they become exempt. Greenland became part of the European Communities when Denmark joined in 1973, but after attaining self-rule in 1979 it withdrew in 1982.


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.[1]


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.[2]


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 (no relation). The coalition consists of the Liberal Party ("Venstre") and the Conservative Party, holding 64 of the 179 seats in the Folketing, and has the parliamentary support of the Danish People's Party, holding another 24 seats. The opposition Social Democrats hold 45 seats, and the Socialist People’s Party holds 23 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.[3]

Foreign Policy

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).

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.[4]


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.[5]


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 was 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. A deficit of $668 million was expected in 2009. 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. The Greek financial crisis has affected Denmark to some extent--as the euro falls in value, the krone also falls, making Danish exports more competitive. Denmark’s contribution to the EU financial support package to Greece was 1.2 billion euro. As of 2010, Denmark no longer meets the economic convergence criteria for participating in the EMU due to its public deficit rising above the allowed 3% of GDP. Prior to the Greek financial crisis, opinion polls showed a majority in favor of the EMU, and 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, there is a growing political debate about how government policy should be reformed in order to preserve and strengthen the system. 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.


On June 21, 2009, Greenland assumed increased autonomy under a Self Rule Act, transitioning away from “home rule”, which had been in effect since 1979. Under self rule, the Greenlandic government (Naalakkersuisut) and the Danish Government are recognized as equal partners and Kalaallisut, the Inuit dialect, becomes the official language. Greenland will gradually take responsibility for additional government functions, such as prisons, criminal justice, courts of law, family law, passports, and mineral resources. The Danish Government freezes its annual block grant at the 2007 level of 3.2 billion kroner (about 533 million dollars). That grant will be adjusted for Danish inflation, though not the often higher Greenlandic inflation, meaning the value in real terms is expected to shrink in coming years. However, Greenland gains rights to its mineral, oil, and natural gas resources: the first 75 million kroner (12.5 million dollars) from mineral/oil/gas revenues goes to Greenland, with further revenues split equally between the two governments with Denmark’s share being subtracted from the annual block grant. Once the block grant is eliminated, any additional revenue would be subject to renegotiation between the Danish and Greenlandic governments.

The public sector in Greenland, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays the dominant role in the economy. A large part of government revenues still comes from the Danish Government block 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 was 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) 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 strained the public budget. The government 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, although progress on that project has been delayed. 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.

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 was 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 was 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.[6]


  • Christian X () (June 17, 1944 - April 20, 1947)
  • Frederik IX () (April 20, 1947 - January 14, 1972)
  • Margrethe II () (January 14, 1972 - )

Prime minister

  • Vilhelm Buhl () (May 5, 1945 - November 8, 1945)
  • Knud Kristensen () (November 8, 1945 - November 13, 1947)
  • Hans Hedtoft () (November 13, 1947 - October 27, 1950)
  • Erik Eriksen () (October 27, 1950 - September 30, 1953)
  • Hans Hedtoft () (September 30, 1953 - January 29, 1955)
  • Hans Svane Hansen () (January 29, 1955 - February 19, 1960)
  • Viggo Kampmann () (February 19, 1960 - September 3, 1962)
  • Jens Otto Krag () (September 3, 1962 - February 18, 1968)
  • Hilmar Baunsgaard () (February 18, 1968 - October 9, 1971)
  • Jens Otto Krag () (October 9, 1971 - October 5, 1972)
  • Anker Jørgensen () (October 5, 1972 - December 18, 1973)
  • Poul Hartling () (December 18, 1973 - February 13, 1975)
  • Anker Jørgensen () (February 13, 1975 - September 10, 1982)
  • Poul Schlüter () (September 10, 1982 - January 25, 1993)
  • Poul Nyrup Rasmussen () (January 25, 1993 - November 27, 2001)
  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen () (November 27, 2001 - April 5, 2009)
  • Lars Løkke Rasmussen () (April 5, 2009 - )


Danish Polities

Neighbouring Nations


  1. The United States Department of State - Background Note
  2. The United States Department of State - Background Note
  3. The United States Department of State - Background Note
  4. The United States Department of State - Background Note
  5. The United States Department of State - Background Note
  6. The United States Department of State - Background Note