Denmark

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Kongeriget Danmark
Denmark rel99.jpg
Loc of Denmark.jpg
Flag of Denmark.png
Arms of Denmark.png
FlagCoat of Arms
CapitalCopenhagen
GovernmentParliamentary Democracy, Constitutional Monarchy
LanguageDanish (official)
MonarchQueen Margrethe II
Prime ministerHelle Thorning-Schmidt
Area16,639 sq mi
Population 20085,475,791
GDP 2006$198.5 billion
GDP per capita$46,600
CurrencyDanish krone

The Kingdom of Denmark is a Nordic country in Northern Europe, located to the north of Germany, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway. The country consists of the northern part of the Jutland and several islands referred to as the Danish Archipelago.

Denmark is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. Like its Scandinavian neighbours, Norway and Sweden, Denmark is well-known for its socially progressive and liberal culture. Its seat of government is located in the capital city, Copenhagen.

Contents

Geography

Denmark proper consists of the Jutland Peninsula plus many adjecent islands in the Baltic Sea.

  • Area: 43,094 sq. km. (16,639 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Vermont and New Hampshire combined.
  • Cities: Capital--Copenhagen (pop. 0.5 million in Copenhagen and 1.1 million in the Copenhagen Region). Other cities--Arhus (293,510), Odense (185,206), Aalborg (163,231).
  • 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.

Two autonomous provinces with home rule are considered part of Denmark despite their distance from the Jutland Peninsula. They are the Faroe Islands, a small archipelago located in the Norwegian Sea between Scotland and Iceland; and Greenland, off northeast Canada, part of the North American landmass and the largest island in the world.

People

Viking rally.

The Danes, a homogenous 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 accounts for about 95% of those persons claiming religious affiliation. Several other Christian denominations, as well as other major religions, find adherents in Denmark. Islam is now the second-largest religion in Denmark. According to polls some 43-80% of the population are either agnostics, atheists or non-believers in God. [1]

  • Population (July 2006): 5,434,567.
  • Annual growth rate: 0.33%.
  • Ethnic groups: Scandinavian, Inuit, Faroese, German, Turkish, Iranian, Somali.
  • Religion membership: Evangelical Lutheran 95%; other Protestants 2.6%; Muslim 2%; Catholic 0.4%.
  • Languages: Danish, Faroese, Greenlandic (Inuit dialect), some German. English is the predominant second language.
  • Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--100%. Literacy--100%.
  • Health: Infant mortality rate (2006)--4.51/1,000. Life expectancy--men 75 years, women 80 years.
  • Work force (2006): 2.8 million. Employment: Industry, construction, mining and utilities--23%; government--35%; private services--38%; agriculture and fisheries--4%.

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 and anatomist Niels Steensen (1639-86), 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 U.S. citizen in Greenwich, Connecticut, at the age of 91.

Aarhus Theater by Danish architect Hack Kampmann.

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) 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

Skuldelev III, Viking boat.

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.

Although government expenditures for culture totaled about 1.0% of the budget in 1996, in 2006 government expenditures for culture totaled 0.66% of gross domestic product (GDP). Viewed against the new government's firm objective to limit public expenditures, contributions are unlikely to increase in the future. Municipal and county governments assume a relatively large share of the costs for cultural activities in their respective districts. Most support goes to libraries and archives, theater, museums, arts and crafts training, and films.

Government

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 (seven represented in the Folketing after the February 2005 general election), none of which holds a majority. Electorate participation normally is around 80-85%.

The judicial branch consists of about 100 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 and Greenland enjoy home rule, with the Danish Government represented locally by high commissioners. These home rule 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--Helle Thorning-Schmidt

Political Conditions

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 July 1, 2002.

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 February 8, 2005 returned the coalition to government for another term of up to four years. The coalition consists of the Liberal Party ("Venstre") and the Konservative Party, holding 71 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 47 seats and the Social Liberals hold 16 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.

On October 24, 2007 prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced an early election to be held on November 13, 2007. Between the 2005 elecion and the 2007 a new party made by members of parliament from different parties was created. This party had the name New Alliance and its leader was Nasser Khader, an immigrant from Syria. In the early days of this new party polls showed massive support for it, however at the election the party earned far less seats in parliament than expected from these early polls. The Liberal and Konservative parties together earned 64 seats, and their supporting party, the Danish People's Party earned 25 seats, so combined these three parties were just one seat short of ensuring the majority. After the election Edmund Joensen elected on the Faroe Islands pledged his support to the the government of Denmark giving them exactly the 90 seats required for a majority, and thus the new alliance didn't have the determining seats they had hoped for, but never the less they pledged their support to Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

In late 2008 rumours began that prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen aspired for an unspecified big international post. Amongst the mentioned possibilities were the Presidency of the European Union and the Secretary General of NATO, but the Presidency of the European Union depended on the ratification of the Lissabon Treaty, which needed to be ratified by all EU members, wasn't ratified by Ireland, so this post was no longer in question. The rumours persisted throughout the spring of 2009, but Anders Fogh Rasmussen attempted to deny the rumours by claiming not to be a candidate for anything. On April 4, 2009 Anders Fogh Rasmussen finally did tender his candidacy to become the next Secretary General of NATO, but he was met with reluctance from Turkey, seemingly because of the Muhammad cartoons controversy. This reluctance was overcome and on April 5, 2009 during the NATO summit in Strassbourg, Anders Fogh Rasmussen was appointed the Secretary General of NATO.

After having been appointed Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen resigned as Prime Minister of Denmark and member of the Danish Parliament. He was then replaced by the vice president of the Liberal Party, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who became the new Prime Minister of Denmark. Though Denmark has had three consecutive prime ministers by the name of Rasmussen, neither of them is related, as the name Rasmussen is fairly common in Denmark.

Muslims in Europe by country.

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, with the ambition to eliminate all opt-outs in the longer term. The government intended to put Danish approval of the new EU constitution to the public in a referendum, but that process has been put on hold until further discussion of the constitution has taken place in the European Council.

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 defended freedom of expression while it chastised the newspaper for inconsideration. The newspaper apologized, and the Danish Government repeatedly reiterated its support for freedom of religion, but the Islamic community still holds much animosity toward the Danes.

Foreign Relations

Leaders at a United Nations conference in Copenhagen, 2009.

Danish foreign policy is founded upon four cornerstones: the United Nations, NATO, the EU, and Nordic cooperation. Denmark also is a member of, among others, 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).

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 hostile parliamentary majority forced the government to adopt specific national positions on nuclear and arms control issues. With the end of the Cold War, however, Denmark has been supportive of U.S. policy objectives in the Alliance.

Danes have 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.

Since September 11, 2001, 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 the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and the neighboring countries. In 2003, Denmark was among the first countries to join the "Coalition of the Willing" and supplied a submarine, Corvette-class ship, and military personnel to the coalition's effort in Iraq to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1441. Since that time it has provided 500 troops to assist with stabilization efforts in Iraq. Prime Minister Rasmussen announced in February 2007 that most Danish troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by August 2007, as Iraqi forces had become capable of taking over security responsibilities in the Basra area, where the Danish troops had been concentrated.

Defense

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 2006, Danish defense expenditures were 1.4% of GDP according to a NATO estimate.

Economy

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, and the Danes devote about 1% of gross national product (GNP) to foreign aid to less developed countries. In addition, Denmark in 2006 devoted 0.81% of GNP for overseas development, including for peace and stability purposes, refugee pre-asylum costs, and for environmental purposes in central and eastern Europe and developing countries.

  • GDP (2006): $275.24 billion.
  • Annual growth rate (real terms, 2006 est.): 3.2%.
  • Per capita GDP: $50,625.
  • Agriculture and fisheries (2.4% of GDP at gross value added): Products--meat, milk, grains, seeds, hides, fur skin, fish and shellfish.
  • Industry (21.0% of GDP at gross value added): 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 (2006 .): Exports--$90.97 billion: manufactured goods 81% (of which machinery and instruments 35%); agricultural products 10% (of which pork and pork products cover 48%), fuels 2%, fish and fish products 3%, other 4%. Imports--$84.23 billion: raw materials and semi-manufactures 43%, consumer goods 29%, capital equipment 14%, transport equipment 7%, fuels 5%, other 2%. Partners (percent of total trade in goods)--Germany 21%, Sweden 13%, U.K. 8%, U.S. 5%, Norway 5%, Japan 2%, east European countries 5%.
  • Official exchange rate: 5.70 kroner=U.S. $1 as of late February 2007.
Vejle Fjord Bridge.

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 about 6% of total Danish merchandise trade. 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 LEGO bricks. 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-SeaLand). There are some 375 U.S.-owned companies in Denmark.

The Danish economy is fundamentally strong. Since the mid-1990s, economic growth rates have averaged close to 3%, the formerly high official unemployment rate stands at around 4%, and public finances have been in surplus. Except for one year--1998--Denmark since 1989 has had comfortable balance-of-payments current account surpluses, in 2006 corresponding to 2.45% of GDP. The former Social Democratic-led government coalition lowered marginal income tax rates but at the same time reduced tax deductions, increased environmental taxes, and introduced a series of user fees, thus increasing overall revenues. Under the tax reform plan agreed upon by the government and the Danish People's Party on March 31, 2003, taxpayers received tax relief in 2004, albeit at a lesser rate than the government proposed originally. Denmark has maintained a stable currency policy since the early 1980s, with the krone fomerly linked to the Deutschmark and since January 1, 1999, to the euro. Denmark meets, and even exceeds, the economic convergence criteria for participating in the third phase (a common European currency--the euro) of the European Monetary Union (EMU). 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 support for EMU membership now exceeds 60%.

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 number of working-age Danes living mostly on government transfer payments amounts to more than 800,000 persons (roughly 23% of the working-age population). Although this number has been reduced in recent years, 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 particularly suffered, while taxes remain at a painful level. More than one-fourth of the labor force is employed in the public sector.

Greenland and the Faroe Islands

Columnar-Basalt von Froðba, Färöer

The Greenland economy has increased by an average of some 3% to 4% annually since 1993, the result of increasing catches and exports of shrimp, Greenland halibut and, more recently, crab. However, it was not until 1999 that the economy had fully recovered from the 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. 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. However, 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 the continued critical dependence on exports of fish, the economy remains very vulnerable to foreign developments. The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays the dominant role in Greenland's economy. Close to one-half of the government revenues come from Danish Government grants, an important supplement of GDP. Greenland has registered a foreign trade deficit since the closure of the last remaining lead and zinc mine in 1989. Despite several interesting hydrocarbon and mineral exploration activities, it will take several years before production can materialize. Two major aluminum producers reportedly have expressed interest in building smelters in Greenland to take advantage of abundant hydropower potential. Besides a continued increase in local content, i.e., using a Greenlandic rather than Danish work force in both the public and private sectors, tourism appears to be the sector that offers the best near-term potential, and even this is limited due to a short season and high costs. Air Greenland has announced it will begin its first scheduled service to North America in May 2007, with summer season flights to Baltimore.

Politically, the Greenland Home Rule Government has had increasing autonomy since its creation in 1979. An independent commission from Greenland made recommendations for greater self-rule in 2003. 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. The Danish Government intends to form, together with Greenland, a new Danish-Greenlandic Commission to make joint recommendations to the Danish parliament on ways to update the Home Rule Act of 1979.

The Faroese economy has performed strongly 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 is insignificant and there are labor shortages in several sectors. Most of the Faroese who emigrated in the early 1990s (some 10% of the population) due to the economic recession have now returned. The positive economic development also has helped the Faroese Home Rule Government produce increasing budget surpluses that in turn help 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 present fishing efforts appear in excess of what is required to ensure a sustainable level of fishing in the long term. 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 a substantial annual subsidy from Denmark, albeit reduced from some 10% of GDP to about 6% in 2002, 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, a project the outcome of which it is too early to predict. In that respect, agreement on how to phase out the Danish subsidy plays a crucial role.

History

The Little Mermaid Statue, Copenhagen, 1913.

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.

Copyright Details
License: This work is in the Public Domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the U.S. Code
Source: File available from the United States Federal Government [1].

References

  1. http://www.adherents.com/largecom/com_atheist.html


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