U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes:  Denmark, March 1995 
Bureau of Public Affairs 
 
 
March 1995 
Official Name:  Kingdom of Denmark 
 
PROFILE 
 
Geography* 
 
Area:  43,076 sq. km. (16,632 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Vermont 
and New Hampshire combined. 
Cities:  Capital--Copenhagen (pop. 1.4 million in Greater Copenhagen).  
Other cities--Aarhus (195,000), Odense (137,000), Aalborg (114,000). 
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. 
 
People 
 
Nationality: Noun--Dane(s). Adjective--Danish. 
Population (1994): 5.2 million.* 
Annual growth rate (1994): 0.3%. 
Ethnic groups: Scandinavian, Eskimo, Faroese, German. 
Religion: Evangelical Lutheran  (about 97%). 
Languages: Danish, Faroese, Greenlandic (an Eskimo dialect), some 
German.  English is the predominant second language. 
Education: Years compulsory--9.  Attendance--100%.  Literacy--99%. 
Health:  Infant mortality rate (1993, est.)--7/1,000.  Life expectancy--
men 72 yrs., women 78 yrs. 
Work force (1994):  2.8 million.  Industry and commerce--50%.  
Government--30%.  Services--12%.  Agriculture and fisheries--6%.  Other-
-2%. 
 
Government 
 
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:  Social Democratic, Venstre (Liberal), Konservative, 
Socialist People's, Progress, Radikale, Unity List, Center Democratic. 
Suffrage:  Universal adult. 
Administrative subdivisions:  14 counties. 
 
Economy 
 
GDP (1994):  $155 billion. 
Annual growth rate (1994):  4.5%. 
Per capita income:  $30,000. 
Agriculture (and related production, 6% of GDP):  Products--meat, dairy 
products, fish. 
Industry (19% of GDP):  Types--industrial and construction equipment, 
electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, furniture, textiles. 
Natural resources:  North Sea--oil and gas, fish.  Greenland--fish, 
zinc, lead, iron ore, coal, molybdenum, cryolite, uranium.  The Faroe 
Islands--fish. 
Trade (1994):  Exports--$44 billion:  machinery and instruments 24%; 
meat and meat products 10%; chemical, medical, and pharmaceutical 
products 10%; fish and fish products 6%; transport equipment (including 
ships) 5%; textiles and apparel 4%; furniture 4%.  Imports--$38 billion:  
machinery 10%; iron, steel, and metals 10%; transport equipment 
(excluding ships) 7%; crude oils and petroleum products 5%; paper and 
paperboard 4%; fish and fish products 3%.  Partners-- F.R.G. 20%, Sweden 
12%, U.K. 10%, U.S. 6%, Eastern European countries 3%. 
Official exchange rate (1995):  6 kroner=U.S. $1. 
 
*Excluding Greenland and the Faroe Islands. 
 
PEOPLE AND HISTORY 
 
The Danes, a homogenous Gothic-Germanic people, have inhabited Denmark 
since prehistoric times. Danish is the principal language.  A small 
German-speaking minority lives in southern Jutland; a mixed Inuit-Danish 
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. 
 
The Evangelical Lutheran Church is state supported and accounts for 
about 97% of Denmark's religious affiliation.  Denmark has religious 
freedom, however, and several other Protestant denominations and other 
religions exist.  
 
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 it was liberated by the Allied forces 
in May 1945.  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 contributes to the cultural 
achievements of the modern world.  The astronomical discoveries of Tycho 
Brahe (1546-1601) and the brilliant contributions to atomic physics of 
Niels Bohr (1885-1962) indicate the range of Danish scientific 
achievement.  The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75), the 
philosophical essays of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55), and the short 
stories of Karen Blixen (penname 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 awards for 
excellence.  The name of Georg Jensen (1866-1935) is known worldwide for 
outstanding modern design in silver, and "Royal Copenhagen" is among the 
finest porcelains. 
 
Visitors to Denmark will discover a wealth of cultural activity.  The 
Royal Danish Ballet, an exceptional company, specializes in the work of 
the great Danish choreographer August Bournonville (1805-79).  Danes 
have distinguished themselves as jazz musicians, and the Copenhagen Jazz 
Festival has acquired an international reputation.  International 
collections of modern art enjoy unusually attractive settings at the 
Louisiana Museum north of Copenhagen and at the North Jutland Art Museum 
in Aalborg.  The State Museum of Art and the Glyptotek, both in 
Copenhagen, contain treasures of Danish and international art.  The 
Museum of Applied Art and Industrial Design in Copenhagen exhibits the 
best in Danish design.  The Royal Danish Porcelain Factory and Bing & 
Grondahl, renowned for the quality of their porcelain and ceramics, 
export their products worldwide.  Ceramic designs by Bjorn Wiinblad also 
are well known and popular. 
 
Among today's Danish writers, probably 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.  Kirsten Thorup's Baby, 
winner of the 1980 Pegasus Prize, is printed in English by the 
University of Louisiana Press.  The psychological thrillers of Anders 
Bodelsen also appear in English.  Suzanne Brogger and Vita Andersen 
focus largely on the changing roles of women in society.  In music, Hans 
Abrahamsen and Per Norgaard are the two most famous living composers.  
Hans Abrahamsen's works have been performed by the National Symphony 
Orchestra in Washington, DC.  
 
Cultural Policy 
 
The Ministry of Cultural Affairs was created in 1961.  Cultural life and 
meaningful leisure time were then and  remain 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 other countries with a Ministry of Culture and a stated 
policy in that special laws govern each cultural field--e.g., the New 
Theater Act of 1970 and the Music Law of 1976. 
 
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.  The 
current government exercises caution in moderating this policy and 
practice.  In June 1988, radio and broadcasting, formerly under the 
Ministry of Culture, was transferred to the Ministry of Transportation 
and Communication. 
 
Government contributions to culture have increased steadily in recent 
years, but viewed against the present government's firm objective to 
limit public expenditures, contributions will stabilize in the future.  
Municipal and county governments assume a relatively large share of the 
costs for cultural activities in their respective districts.  In 1992, 
government expenditures for culture totaled about 1.9% of the budget.  
Most support went 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 four 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 currently in parliament), none of which 
holds a majority.  Electorate participation normally is more than 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. 
 
Denmark is divided into 14 counties (Amter) and 272 municipalities 
(Kommuner).  The chief official of the Amt, the county mayor 
(Amtsborgmester), is elected by the county council from among its 
members, according to the municipal reform of 1970.  The city of 
Copenhagen represents a single Kommune. 
 
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. 
 
National Security 
 
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 defense 
budgets and security policy have been set by multi-year agreements 
supported by a wide parliamentary majority including government and 
opposition parties.  However, public opposition to increases in defense 
spending--during a period when economic constraints require reduced 
spending for social welfare--has created differences among the political 
parties regarding a broadly acceptable level of new defense expenditure.  
Current resource plans are based on the 1993-94 defense agreement; no 
new agreement has been negotiated.  The average percentage of Danish GDP 
absorbed by defense in 1994 was about 1.9%. 
 
Principal Government Officials 
 
Monarch--Queen Margrethe II 
Prime Minister--Poul Nyrup Rasmussen 
 
Ministers 
 
Agriculture and Fisheries--Mr. Henrik Dam Kristensen 
Business and Industry--Ms. Mimi Jakobsen 
Culture--Ms. Jytte Hilden 
Defense--Mr. Hans Haekkerup 
Development Cooperation--Mr. Poul Nielson 
Economic Affairs/Nordic Cooperation--Ms. Marianne Jelved 
Education--Mr. Ole Vig Jensen 
Environment--Mr. Svend Auken 
Finance--Mr. Mogens Lykketoft 
Foreign Affairs--Mr. Niels Helveg Petersen 
Health--Ms. Yvonne Herlov Andersen 
Housing--Mr. Ole Lovig Simonsen 
Interior/Ecclesiastical Affairs--Ms. Birthe Weiss 
Justice--Mr. Bjorn Westh 
Labor--Ms. Jytte Andersen 
Research--Mr. Frank Jensen 
Social Affairs--Ms. Karen Jespersen 
Taxation--Mr. Carsten Koch 
Transport--Mr. Jan Trolborg 
 
Ambassador to the United States--Peter Dyvig 
Ambassador to the United Nations--Bent Haakonsen 
 
Denmark maintains an embassy at 3200 Whitehaven Street NW, Washington, 
DC 20008 (tel. 202-234-4300).  Consulates general are in Chicago, Los 
Angeles, and New York.  
 
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.  
 
The Social Democratic Party, Denmark's largest and closely identified 
with a large well-organized labor movement, has held power either alone 
or in coalition for most of the postwar period.  Following parliamentary 
elections in September 1994, Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and his 
Social Democratic Party lead a minority coalition government, which also 
includes the Center Democrats and the centrist Radikales.  The coalition 
controls 76 of 179 seats in the Folketing. 
 
The vulnerability implicit in a minority coalition has been exacerbated 
by recent coalition failure to achieve consensus on issues such as 
energy taxes and a new multi-year defense budget agreement.  Consensus 
decision-making is the most prominent feature of Danish politics.  It 
often allows the small centrist parties to play a larger role than their 
size suggests.  Although the centrist Radikale party sometimes shows 
traces of its pacifist past, particularly on defense spending, most 
major legislation is passed by sizeable majorities. 
 
Since the 1988 elections, which led to a domestic truce on North 
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and security questions, Denmark's 
role in the European Union (EU) has come to be a key political issue.  
Denmark emerged from two referendums (June 2, 1992, and May 18, 1993) 
with four important exemptions (or "opt-outs") to the Maastricht Treaty 
on the European Union:  common defense, common currency, EU citizenship, 
and certain aspects of police cooperation.  Fear of "losing" Denmark's 
identity in an integrating Europe runs deep in the public, especially 
among key Social Democratic voters.  (Denmark's electorate voted to join 
the EEC in 1973 for economic reasons.)  Any government push to remove 
some or all of the Danish exemptions would require yet another 
referendum to be held sometime after the EU's 1996 Intergovernmental 
Conference to review the Maastricht Treaty. 
 
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 1% of GDP to foreign aid. 
 
Denmark is self-sufficient in oil and gas.  Its principal exports are 
machinery, instruments, and food products.  The U.S. is Denmark's 
largest non-European trading partner, accounting for about 5% of total 
Danish merchandise trade.  Aircraft, computers, and coal are among the 
major U.S. exports to Denmark.  There are some 250 U.S.-owned companies 
in Denmark.  Among major Danish exports to the U.S. are merchant marine 
vessels, furniture, and pharmaceuticals. 
 
From 1982, a center-right government corrected accumulated economic 
pressures, mainly inflation and balance-of-payments deficits, but lost 
power in 1993 to a Social Democratic coalition government led by Poul 
Nyrup Rasmussen.  The current government has had some success in cutting 
unemployment, which peaked at 12.5% and is now declining slowly. Average 
annual growth rates of 1.2% in 1990-93 jumped to 4.5% in 1994. 
 
Danes are proud of their highly developed welfare state, which ensures 
that all Danes receive basic health care and need not fear real poverty.  
Over the last 20 years, however, the number of Danes living on transfer 
payments has grown to about 1 million working-age persons (roughly 20% 
of the population), and the system is beginning to show strains.  Health 
care and care for the elderly particularly have suffered, and the need 
for welfare reform is increasingly discussed.  More than one-quarter of 
the labor force is employed in the public sector. 
  
Greenland and the Faroe Islands 
 
Greenland has suffered negative economic growth in recent years, but in 
1993 the economy appeared to have stabilized.  Nonetheless, prospects 
for significant economic growth in the near term are poor.  Economic 
restraint measures introduced by the Greenland Home Rule Government in 
the late 1980s helped create a small surplus in the public budget, which 
is expected to continue in coming years.  Greenland registered a foreign 
trade surplus in the late 1980s, but since then has run a trade deficit. 
 
Since closure of Greenland's last lead and zinc mine in 1989, its 
economy is almost solely dependent on the fishing industry.  There is no 
prospect for early resumption of either mining or hydrocarbon 
exploration.  Greenland's shrimp fishery is by far the largest income 
earner, since cod catches have dropped to historically low levels.  
Tourism is the only sector offering any near-term potential, and even 
this is limited due to the short season and high costs.  The public 
sector plays a dominant role in Greenland's economy.  Grants from 
mainland Denmark equal about one-half of Greenland's GDP. 
 
The Faroe Islands also depend almost entirely on fisheries and related 
exports.  Without Danish Government bailouts in 1992 and 1993, the 
Faroese economy would have gone bankrupt.  There are no near-term 
prospects for an economic rebound, but recent oil finds offer some hope 
for the economy over the longer term. 
 
FOREIGN RELATIONS 
 
Danish foreign policy is founded upon four cornerstones:  the United 
Nations, NATO, the EU, and Nordic cooperation.  Denmark also is a member 
of 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 and is one of the few countries to exceed the UN goal 
of contributing 1% of GDP 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 are heavily engaged in support of the UN in the former 
Yugoslavia, where 1,400 Danish troops and an armored unit serve with the 
UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR). 
 
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 leftist positions on nuclear and 
arms control issues.  With the end of the Cold War, however, Denmark has 
been generally supportive of U.S. policy objectives in the Alliance.  
Denmark is not a member of the West European Union. 
 
Since 1988, Denmark's role in the EU has been not only a key political 
issue but also the most important subject of Danish foreign policy 
debate.  Danes always have enjoyed a reputation as "reluctant" 
Europeans.  When they rejected ratification of the Maastricht Treaty on 
June 2, 1992, they put the EC's 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 police 
cooperation.  On this revised basis, Danes overwhelmingly approved entry 
into the EU in a second referendum on May 18, 1993.  Denmark is expected 
to play an active role in the EU's 1996 Intergovernmental Conference, 
when the Maastricht Treaty comes up for review.  
 
U.S.-DANISH RELATIONS 
 
Denmark is a close NATO ally, and overall U.S.-Danish relations are 
excellent.  Denmark's active liberal trade policy in the EU, OECD, and 
WTO largely coincides with U.S. interests, and, as noted, the U.S. is 
Denmark's largest non-European trading partner (also see Economy).  
Despite certain anti-American sentiments on the part of some Danes and 
some of the media, American culture--and particularly popular culture, 
from jazz to the television show "Beverly Hills 90210"--is very popular 
in Denmark.  Some 400,000 U.S. tourists visit the country annually. 
 
The U.S. Air Force (USAF) base and early warning radar at Thule, 
Greenland--a Danish self-governing territory--serve as a vital link in 
Western defenses.  The role of the USAF base in Greenland has sparked 
some controversy in U.S.-Danish relations in recent years.  The U.S. and 
Denmark in 1994 agreed to allow use of the Thule air base for limited 
tourist transit, to assist Greenland's economic development.  The U.S. 
and Denmark cooperate closely with each other and the other Nordic 
countries in several regions around the world, including in the Baltic 
region. 
 
Principal U.S. Officials 
 
Ambassador--Edward E. Elson 
Deputy Chief of Mission--Gregory L. Mattson 
Political/Economic Counselor--Patricia D. Hughes 
Economic Officer--James Williamson 
Consul--Michael D. Kirby 
Administrative Officer--Perry M. Adair 
Public Affairs Counselor--Stephan Strain 
Agricultural Counselor--Robert Tetro 
Commercial Attache-- Richard F. Benson 
Defense and Naval Attache--Capt. Terry Moore 
Army Attache--Col. Michael Matthies 
Air Attache--Col. Lawrence H. Shavitz 
Chief, Office of Defense Cooperation--Col. Lawrence Haggenauer 
 
The U.S. embassy is located at Dag Hammarskjolds Alle 24, 2100 
Copenhagen O, Denmark (tel. 31/42- 
31-44). 
 
Travel and Business Notes 
 
Customs:  No immunizations are required, and U.S. tourists do not need 
visas for stays of less than 90 days.  
 
Climate and clothing:  Winters are warmer and summers cooler than in New 
England.  Woolen clothes are worn most of the year. 
 
Transportation:  Direct flights are available between Copenhagen and 
several major U.S. cities, and many international carriers serve 
Copenhagen's Kastrup International Airport. Rail and air services link 
major European centers.  Rail service leaves daily for London, Paris, 
and Scandinavian capitals.  Ferries connect Denmark with Oslo, 
Stockholm, Helsinki, and points in the U.K. and F.R.G.   
 
Copenhagen's bus, suburban train, and taxi services are excellent, and 
rates are reasonable. 
 
Telecommunications: Local telephone service is good.  Worldwide 
telephone and telegraph service is available.  Copenhagen is six time 
zones ahead of eastern standard time. 
 
Tourist attractions:  Tivoli is one of Copenhagen's famous tourist 
attractions but is only open during the summer.  In downtown Copenhagen, 
the Rosenborg Castle exhibits the Danish crown jewels.  Not far from 
Copenhagen are Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, Frederiksborg Castle in 
Hillerod, Fredensborg Castle in Esrum Lake, the Open Air Museum in 
Sorgenfri, and the cathedral and Viking ship museum in Roskilde. 
 
Hans Christian Andersen's childhood home in Odense has been turned into 
a museum.  The town of Dragoer, close to Copenhagen, as well as the 
towns of Ribe and Mogeltonder in southern Jutland, and the islands of 
Fano, Aero, Samso, and Bornholm offer glimpses of Danish village and 
rural life.  Copenhagen has many good, though expensive, hotels.  Book 
in advance for the April-October season. 
 
Business Information:  For further information on economic trends, 
commercial development, production, trade regulations, and tariff rates, 
contact the International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of 
Commerce, Washington, DC 20230.   
 
Published by the United States Department of State  --  Bureau of Public 
Affairs  --  Office of Public Communication  --  Washington, DC  --  
Managing Editor, Background Notes Series:  Peter A. Knecht  --  Editor, 
March 1995 Denmark:  Marilyn J. Bremner  --  This material is in the 
public domain and can be reproduced without consent; citation of this 
source is appreciated.  

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