U.S. Department of State Background Note
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PEOPLE AND HISTORY
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monarch--Queen Margrethe II
Ambassador to the United States--Friis Arne Petersen
Denmark maintains an embassy at 3200 Whitehaven Street NW, Washington, DC 20008-3683 (tel. 202-234-4300). Consulates general are in Chicago and New York.
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.
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 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-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
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.
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.
James P. Cain
The U.S. Embassy is located at Dag Hammarskjolds Alle 24, 2100 Copenhagen O, 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.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Public Announcements, 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 http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.
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: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, 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 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Further Electronic Information
Export.gov 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.
Revised: Oct. 2007