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Factsheet Denmark Foreign policy

October 2007

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Factsheet Denmark Foreign policy

October 2007

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Responsible institution:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Flemming Axmark (Editor), Kirstine Fryd (Picture editor)

Other contributors:
MFA Language Centre (Translation), Ole Jensen - ojdesign (Design), Schultz Grafisk (Web edition)






Publication standard nr.:

Data formats:

Publisher category:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Notes and other information:
Pictorial borders by Knud J.V. Jespersen, royal historiographer of the Orders of Chivalry (texts), and head of research Steffen Heiberg, Frederiksborg Museum (pictures). Translation: Siri Fischer Hansen.

Table Of Contents

1. Denmark’s foreign policy profile and policy objectives

2. The UN and Security Council - the Danish priorities and results

3. The EU as a global player

4. Danish participation in international operations

5. Danish development assistance -focus on Africa

6. Human rights

7. The WTO

8. The Nordic countries and Denmark

1. Denmark’s foreign policy profile and policy objectives

Denmark pursues an active foreign policy combining Danish core values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law with a willingness to act. Based on these values, Danish foreign policy aims at increasing international security and stability, ensuring the greatest possible economic progress and prosperity and promoting the respect for democracy, human rights and good governance.

A balanced military, humanitarian and civilian approach is part of Danish foreign policy. Denmark’s development assistance per capita is among the highest in the world. Denmark has been one of the countries most active in deploying peacekeeping forces. Moreover, Denmark took an active part in NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and in the international military operations in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

Efforts have thus been made to link the objectives of promoting security and stability with efforts to promote democracy, development and reconstruction. From a Danish point of view, security and development must go hand in hand. This is why the Danish foreign, security and development policies are interlinked.

Photo: Water project in the Badakshan province in North-East Afghanistan, where Danish soldiers are working to provide security and assist reconstruction.

Water project in the Badakshan province in North-East Afghanistan, where Danish soldiers are working to provide security and assist reconstruction.
Photo: Otto Sørensen

Multilateral cooperation is of great importance to Denmark – not only as a way of promoting Danish priorities, but also because international organisations are the town halls of the world, facilitating dialogue among nations and collective solutions. Denmark works actively and in a constructive manner through international organisations such as the EU, NATO, the UN and the WTO, which are at the core of Denmark’s international engagement. The purpose of this engagement is not only to make the voice and opinion of Denmark heard, but also to enhance the effectiveness of these important organisations. In addition, Denmark participates actively in the Nordic cooperation.


Painting: Lorenz Frölich: Fees are paid to Sweyn Forkbeard. Painted 1883.

The Vikings conquer England: The Viking raids, which began in the late 8th century, were made possible mainly by the superior Nordic shipbuilding technique. The first known raids were the arrival of three Viking ships in a Southern English port in 790 and the pillaging of Lindisfarne monastery in 793. In the late 9th century, the Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great had to pay fees to the Danes and in 980 Sweyn Forkbeard started regular raids on the English coasts. For a time, the Danes were bought off, but Sweyn Forkbeard’s conquest of all of England in 1013 and establishment of the Danish royal house there made Denmark a leading power in the North Sea and the Baltic. This position was maintained until the union with England was dissolved in 1042. During this time, many Danes immigrated. Lorenz Frölich: Fees are paid to Sweyn Forkbeard. Painted 1883. Frederiksborg Museum.


Photo: Young Poles applying for jobs at Danfoss

Globalisation is challenging Danish companies to change and develop in step with the increasing competition all over the world. According to the Trade Council of Denmark, Eastern Europe offers companies an excellent opportunity to outsource advantageously. Among others, Danfoss has moved part of its production to a factory near Warsaw. The picture shows young Poles applying for jobs at Danfoss.
Photo: Peter Emholt, Scanpix.

Globalisation is at the very centre of Danish foreign policy. Political, economic and environmental issues related to globalisation are all part of the Danish foreign policy agenda. In recent years, Denmark has been involved in several crucial foreign policy events associated with globalisation. Overshadowing them all was the Cartoon Crisis in 2006, but there were also other important events, for example the conflict in Lebanon in 2006 and the subsequent evacuation of Danes from the country, the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and the Doha negotiations.

Globalisation produces new opportunities and threats, and it creates a new framework for foreign policy. With new communication channels, trade and investment intensity has increased. However, it has also furthered political globalisation with the rise of new non-governmental players and serious cross-border problems such as terrorism, climate and environmental problems. The new challenges posed by globalisation often require solutions that individual countries cannot bring about on their own. Globalisation is by no means an uncontroversial process. On the contrary, globalisation creates winners and losers – also within countries. In order to turn globalisation into a win-win situation, where all people and countries are able to benefit from it, Denmark works towards improving the rules and regulations in a globalised world.

In 2006, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched a major study of the effects of globalisation on the role of diplomacy and the tasks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The study concluded that the Danish Foreign Service must further increase its focus on the key challenges of globalisation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is now implementing the recommendations from the study (“Diplomacy in a Boundless World”1 ) in order to enable Denmark to continue to pursue an active foreign policy with the aim of promoting international peace and development, stability, democracy, human trade. As part of this work, Denmark is strengthening its foreign service by opening new missions in the Middle East and North Africa (4), Latin America (1) and Australia, as well as reinforcing its embassies in China and India.

1. The study (and its 123 recommendations) was published in October 2006 under the title: “Diplomacy in a Boundless World – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and Globalisation”.

2. The UN and Security Council - the Danish priorities and results

Denmark ended its two-year term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council on 31 December 2006. The main focus of Denmark’s work in the Security Council has been the strengthening of global security through multilateral solutions based on four priorities: the fight against terrorism, conflict resolution, Africa and the strengthening of international law. During the two-year term, important progress was made on all four priorities and Denmark played a very active role in this regard. Important decisions were also made on Sudan, Iran, North Korea and Lebanon.

Fight against terrorism

The aim of strengthening the UN as the global framework for fighting terrorism was accomplished through the Danish chairmanship of the Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC), established shortly after the attacks on 9/11. During the Danish chairmanship, the Committee reinforced its ability to analyse countries’ implementation of their international obligations, enhanced its cooperation with regional organisations, furthered its role in relation to technical assistance and ensured the integration of human rights aspects in its work.


Painting: Laurits Tuxen: The Conquest of Arkona in 1169. Painted 1894.

Crusade against Wends and Slavs: At the end of the Viking age, Denmark was ravaged by the heathen Wends living along the south coast of the Baltic. At regular intervals, they raided the Danish coasts and abducted the residents as slaves. The tide turned in 1150. With the Pope’s blessing, the Danish king started a crusade against the Wends. In 1169, Rügen was conquered and the Wends’ holy castle of Arkona was destroyed. Mecklenburg and Pomerania also had to recognize the sovereignty of the Danish king. After the famous battle of Lyndanisse in 1219, when the Danish flag according to legend fell from the sky, Estonia also became part of Valdemar the Victorious’ realm. However, the loosely bound Baltic empire collapsed after Valdemar’s capture by a German prince during a hunt on Lyø in 1223. Laurits Tuxen: The Conquest of Arkona in 1169. Painted 1894. Frederiksborg Museum. 

Conflict resolution

Denmark also played a very active role in establishing the new UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). The main purpose of the PBC is to help a given country in the difficult transition from war to lasting peace by coordinating the work of all relevant players in the reconstruction and institution-building efforts. In January 2006, Denmark was one of seven members of the Security Council to be elected to the PBC. The establishment of the PBC is an important step towards securing a comprehensive strategy on conflict resolution. At the same time, the establishment of the PBC -together with the establishment of the Human Rights Council - is the most successful achievement in the UN reform process so far.


Supporting UN involvement in conflict resolution in Africa was a Danish priority throughout the Security Council membership. Denmark was actively involved in ensuring a targeted and comprehensive approach to the management of Africa’s conflicts and to the establishment of strong African ownership, primarily through the active involvement of the African Union and the support of African mediation efforts in Sudan and the Ivory Coast.

The conflicts in Sudan remained at the top of the Security Council’s agenda throughout the Danish membership. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on 9 January 2005 led to the deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation in Sudan (UNMIS). Denmark participated in the initial deployment of UNMIS with 45 soldiers.

In May 2006, the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed. However, it did not solve the conflict in Darfur. Although no longer in the Security Council, Denmark continues its efforts to bring peace to Darfur, primarily by working for full deployment of the AU-UN hybrid mission to Darfur and the continued involvement of the international community in Sudan.

Photo: Lieutenant-colonel Kim Kisbye

Lieutenant-colonel Kim Kisbye has been posted by the Danish armed forces to the Peacekeeping School of Mali, where he is training African officers, who among other things will be deployed on future UN operations. The school contributes to enabling Africa to solve future conflicts on the continent more effectively.
Photo: Klaus Holsting.


Painting: Gerrit Honthorst: Margrete I receives the Swedish Crown from Albrecht of Mecklenburg. Painted c. 1645.

The Kalmar Union: In 1397, the three Nordic kingdoms were united in a personal union under the reigning Danish Queen Margrete I. In 1380, Denmark and Norway were united under Margrete I and in 1388 the Swedish nobles also recognised her as their ruler. After some internal unrest, the union was formally sealed at a ceremony in the Swedish border town Kalmar, after which the Union was named. On the same occasion, Margrete’s young relative Erik of Pomerania was crowned king of the union, but in reality Margrete ruled with a firm hand until her death in 1412. The union of Denmark and Norway continued until 1814, while Sweden withdrew in 1523. The current federation of Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland thus has its origins in the Kalmar Union. Gerrit Honthorst: Margrete I receives the Swedish Crown from Albrecht of Mecklenburg. Painted c. 1645. Frederiksborg Museum. (deposited at Kronborg Castle).

The strengthening of international law

The Security Council plays an important role in ensuring that international law is implemented and upheld. During the Danish Presidency of the Security Council in June 2006, the Council adopted a statement reinforcing key principles of international law. Denmark also consistently worked to ensure that international law was upheld and promoted when the Council was dealing with specific conflicts. The Council’s referral of the situation in Darfur, Sudan, to the International Criminal Court in 2005 is one such example. Another example is the establishment of a Focal Point which receives requests for the delisting of individuals or groups named on the UN Security Council’s Sanction Committee’s lists.

Other issues

Denmark has actively supported Security Council involvement in the handling of the disparate, but equally worrying nuclear issues in relation to North Korea and Iran. In both cases, previous decisions and opinions of the Security Council and the IAEA were disregarded, thus denting confidence in international non-proliferation systems. As events unfolded, it became necessary to adopt sanctions against North Korea and Iran. The sanctions are targeted towards specific matters of concern and intended to persuade both countries to comply with Security Council decisions and adopt a more constructive approach leading to negotiated

solutions. Denmark has actively pursued the non-proliferation mission, for example through undertaking the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) chairmanship in 2006/07, taking leadership in relation to several Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) issues and supporting the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540, including assistance towards a regional seminar held in Beijing.

In relation to Lebanon, Denmark played a proactive role in the intense diplomatic efforts and numerous contacts initiated during the confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah in August 2006. The diplomatic efforts ultimately led to the adoption of Security Council resolution 1701, which paved the way for the cessation of hostilities and the deployment of an enhanced UNIFIL force. As a manifestation of its commitment to a sovereign and independent Lebanon, Denmark initially contributed two naval vessels to the enhanced UNIFIL force.

3. The EU as a global player

The EU has developed from a Community with the aim of promoting internal stability through economic growth and trade to a Union with common policies in areas as diverse as agriculture, customs, the internal market and foreign policy. In order to address the challenges of globalisation and international conflicts, the Member States – including Denmark – have acknowledged that pooling efforts and increasing cooperation serve their interests best. On the basis of shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the EU has developed an outward-looking agenda in order to deal with globalisation and security as an active global player. Climate change, protection of the environment, energy security, migration, terrorism, free trade, employment and development are among the challenges addressed by the EU. The EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is an integral part of Danish foreign policy.

Photo: Danish evacuees board a Danish chartered vessel

Danish evacuees board a Danish chartered vessel in the port of Beirut on 24 July 2006 during the Lebanon conflict.
Photo: Mohamed Messara/EPA.


Painting: Pieter Isaacsz: Christian IV c. 1614. Painted 1614.

Unlucky warrior king: The perception of Christian IV as virtually a hero in later times is ironic, for it was during his reign in 1588-1648 that Denmark ceded its position as the leading Nordic power to its rival Sweden. A succession of failed wars and campaigns in the first half of the 17th century undermined Denmark’s position so much that the country was virtually defenceless when Sweden launched its decisive attack in 1657-60. In 1658-59, it even seemed likely that Denmark would become a Swedish vassal state, but this was averted by the intervention of the great powers. However, at the conclusion of peace in 1660, Denmark had to cede the provinces Scania, Halland and Blekinge to Sweden, which made the Sound between Denmark and Sweden international waters and the Danish capital Copenhagen a border town. Pieter Isaacsz: Christian IV c. 1614. Painted 1614. Frederiksborg Museum. 

The enlargement of the EU, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and energy issues are not part of the CFSP, but they relate to it. The enlargement has been important in securing peace and prosperity in Europe and has added weight to the EU as a global player. The ENP is important in terms of broadening the partnership with the Eastern and Southern neighbours, and energy security and climate change issues are becoming increasingly relevant to EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.

EU countries and countries that have initiated accession negotiations with the EU

Map: EU countries and countries that have initiated accession negotiations with the EU

On 1 January 2007, the EU was enlarged with Bulgaria and Romania to include 27 member states. The EU is now negotiating with Croatia and Turkey for EU membership.

The European Neighbourhood Policy

The EU has an ambitious policy of strengthening its partnerships with its neighbours to the south and east through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Building on common values of democracy and human rights, these partnerships aim to bring stability and prosperity to the EU neighbourhood. Denmark is a strong and active supporter of this policy. The foundations of the policy were given an important impetus in Copenhagen in 2002, where the decision by the EU heads of state on the 2004 enlargement of the Union was reached, as this made the EU a direct neighbour of countries such as Ukraine and Belarus. The European Commission suggested new ideas for strengthening the policy in December 2006. An important priority for Denmark is free trade and movement towards a pan-European Economic Area. Enhanced people-to-people contacts, including student exchanges, and support for reform efforts are other key issues.


The EU has undertaken two enlargement rounds in the past years. In 2004, ten new countries became members of the EU and on 1 January 2007, Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU. So far the enlargement has proved successful in terms of promoting shared values, economic growth and employment through political and economic reforms in the new Member States. Detailed accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia were initiated during 2006. However, the negotiations with Turkey were partly suspended in December 2006 due to Turkey’s failure to honour its commitment under the Ankara Protocol to allow direct traffic and trade between Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus. Denmark supports the EU’s enlargement strategy and will continue to work for the EU commitments to candidate and other countries, notably in the Western Balkans. Nonetheless, the EU’s capacity to absorb new members will also remain a priority throughout the continued enlargement process.


Painting: Unknown: Tranquebar with the Dansborg fortress. Painted before 1658.

The Danish tropical colonies: Due to its location and small size, Denmark never became a colonial power like the large European seafaring nations. Nonetheless, it had a small share in the colonial adventure. In 1620, Admiral Ove Giedde set up a trading post in Tranquebar in Southern India in the king’s name. In 1755-56, this was supplemented with another at Serampore near Calcutta and with the Nicobar Islands. Around 1700, Danish traders also established several slave forts in West Africa to get a share of the lucrative slave trade. At roughly the same time, the Danish king took possession of the small Caribbean islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. In the mid-19th century, the network of trading posts slipped from Danish hands and the three Caribbean islands were sold to the USA in 1917. Unknown: Tranquebar with the Dansborg fortress. Painted before 1658. Skoklosters Castle, Sweden. 

Photo: José Manuel Barroso and Anders Fogh Rasmussen 

President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, talks about the dangers of global warming at a meeting with the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Denmark in 2006.
Photo: Liselotte Sabroe, Scanpix.

Climate change and energy security

Energy security and climate change are issues that require global attention and action. Both issues are increasingly important, also in a foreign policy context.

Denmark supports the development of strong and coherent energy and climate policies for Europe. With regard to energy, Denmark pursues the key objectives of environmental sustainability, competitiveness and security of supply. At the same time, an integrated approach to climate and energy policy is needed, as energy consumption and production are the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Denmark played an active role at the European Council meeting in March 2007, where the European Energy Action Plan 2007/09 was agreed along with an ambitious EU climate policy towards a global and comprehensive post-2012 agreement. The Action Plan contains, among other things, binding agreements on renewable energy and bio fuel as well as indicative targets for energy efficiency, which will contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the EU gave its support to a new international climate agreement to be reached in 2009.

The EU is highly dependent on imported energy. Currently, 50% of the total energy consumption is based on imports. This figure will increase to 70% within the next decades, unless action is taken to increase energy efficiency and promote renewable energy sources. Denmark has shown that it is possible to combine economic growth and the use of alternative energy sources. During the last 25 years, Denmark’s economy has grown more than 50% with almost no increase in energy consumption. In 2007, the Danish Government decided to increase the proportion of renewable energy in relation to the total energy consumption to 30% by 2025.

Energy is clearly becoming an important aspect of foreign policy, and the recent developments with gas and oil disputes have underlined the need for the EU to reduce its dependency on external suppliers. Promotion of an internal energy market will also contribute to making the EU Member States less dependent on particular energy sources and on a small number of suppliers. In addition, it is expected to improve sustainability through increased competition and to enable the EU to speak with one voice on external energy issues. Increased energy efficiency has foreign policy and trade dimensions as well, because it is an area where the EU in general and Denmark in particular have a great deal to offer to countries such as China and India.

Climate change poses a threat to achieving the foreign policy goal of security, stability and development. Denmark therefore supports that climate change being addressed in the context of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and that the EU works for a global binding solution to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The EU has the potential to lead the world in the transformation from a high-carbon to a low-carbon global economy. The leadership was demonstrated by the agreement at the European Council meeting in March 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% before 2020 and eventually by 30% as part of a wider global agreement. Leadership is also demonstrated through the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS). The ETS has the potential to steer the EU countries on a climate-friendly development path and to show that the EU is serious about its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Painting: J.P. Møller: Ulfeldts Square after the English bombardment in 1807. Painted 1808.

The Empire retaliates: After a delay of almost a thousand years, England got its revenge for the Viking raids by taking a considerable military expedition corps to Zealand. For three September days and nights, English ships bombed Copenhagen and the entire Danish navy was confiscated. The background was the English fear that the considerable Danish navy might fall into the hands of the chief enemy, Napoleon. Denmark’s only choice was now to join France and Denmark therefore ended up on the losing side in the international conflict. At the peace agreement in Kiel in 1814, Denmark had to cede Norway to Sweden, although the North Atlantic territories remained Danish. The overall result was that Denmark once again became significantly smaller and an era as a major naval power had come to an end. J.P. Møller: Ulfeldts Square after the English bombardment in 1807. Painted 1808. Frederiksborg Museum.

In keeping with its commitment to address climate change, Denmark will be hosting the 15th Conference of Parties under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2009 (the so-called COP15 meeting).

The Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Security and Defence Policy

No country is able to tackle today’s complex political issues on its own. Denmark therefore values the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy and participates actively in the civilian aspect of European Security and Defence Policy missions2. The EU’s added value in this regard is its ability to bring together a wide range of civilian and military instruments.

Through the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), the EU has with its various crisis management missions in Africa contributed to stability in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The mission in Aceh, Indonesia, supported the successful peace process after 30 years of fighting, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an ESDP mission supported the first democratic elections since independence. Progress has been made in improving strategic planning and coordination between the Council Secretariat, the Commission, the Members States and other international organisations in the field of foreign policy and crisis management. Drawing on these experiences, the EU will continue its efforts to share the responsibility for global security and to act as a global player. In other words, the EU is in the process of translating economic bargaining power into political bargaining power.

The Reform Treaty

Since the rejection by French and Dutch voters of the Constitutional Treaty in May and June 2005, the question of modernising the existing treaties has loomed large over the EU. The 27 Member States all agreed that the current EU institutions and working methods needed adjustments for the future. It was also acknowledged that it would be difficult to reach an acceptable final agreement between the 18 Member States that had ratified the Constitutional Treaty, France and the Netherlands, which rejected the treaty, and the seven Member States (including Denmark), which had suspended their ratification processes.

Photo: EU flags

The 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Rome Treaty was celebrated in Berlin on 27 March 2007. On the day, the EU Heads of State and Government presented a declaration confirming the union’s fundamental values. At the same time, they presented guidelines for the future collaboration.
Photo: Yves Herman, Scanpix.

At the EU summit in June 2007, European leaders managed to break the deadlock, and an agreement was achieved on the most important elements of a new treaty, which will be named the Reform Treaty. The Reform Treaty will introduce a permanent President of the European Council, a common EU service for external relations and more flexible and effective decision-making procedures, including wider use of qualified majority voting. The Treaty will also increase the role of national parliaments in the EU and ensure greater transparency in the working methods of all EU institutions.


Painting: Niels Simonsen: The Retreat from Dannevirke in 1864. Painted 1864.

The Schleswig Wars: In 1848, an independence movement in Schleswig-Holstein demanded secession from Denmark. This was forcefully rejected by the Danish government, which sparked off the First Schleswig War in 1848-50. It ended with the defeat of the Schleswig-Holstein forces and they had to abandon their secession plans. Driven by arrogance after the victory, the Danish politicians in 1863 planned to incorporate the dukedom of Schleswig in the Kingdom of Denmark, which was clearly against international agreements. This resulted in a war against Prussia and Austria in 1864, resulting in complete Danish disaster. Denmark had to cede both Schleswig and Holstein to Prussia and thereby became smaller than ever. Denmark was now reduced to a place in the shadow of the German empire. Niels Simonsen: The Retreat from Dannevirke in 1864. Painted 1864. Frederiksborg Museum.

What the 27 European leaders agreed upon at the summit was not a new EU treaty in itself, but rather a clear and detailed mandate for an intergovernmental conference between the Member States on a new treaty. The scope of the mandate will allow the intergovernmental conference to be focused mainly on translating the content of the mandate into a draft treaty text. The conference was formally opened on 23 July 2007. It is due to conclude its work as soon as possible and at the latest before the end of 2007 in order for the Reform Treaty to enter into force in 2009, following the conclusion of national ratification procedures in the Member States.

2. Denmark has an op-out on decisions and actions of the EU which have defence/military implications. Denmark has also opted out of the economic and monetary union and the supranational part of the asylum, immigration and civil law cooperation of the European Union.

4. Danish participation in international operations

It is an important priority for Denmark to contribute to international peace support efforts, including conflict prevention, peacekeeping, peacemaking, humanitarian efforts etc. Present threats to Danish security often originate from far away, but may nevertheless pose a risk to Denmark, its allies and its core values. Accordingly, the active Danish security policy is primarily aimed at countering threats where they emerge through a broad set of means ranging from diplomatic efforts to active participation in international operations. The current Danish Defence Agreement (2005-2009) reflects this focus. The Danish target is to have the capacities needed to be able – on a continuous basis – to deploy 2,000 troops from 2009. As of September 2007, Denmark has approximately 1,300 troops deployed internationally, including 700 engaged in peace support operations under NATO command. The two main contingents are Afghanistan (approximately 400 troops – increasing to up to 640 by the end of 2007) and Kosovo (approximately 320). In 2006, 1.41 % of the Danish GDP was spent on defence.

Photo: Danish soldiers belonging to the German-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) talk to children in Feyzabad in Afghanistan in May 2006.

Danish soldiers belonging to the German-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) talk to children in Feyzabad in Afghanistan in May 2006.
Photo: Kristian Brasen, Scanpix.

The relationship with NATO

NATO continues to be the cornerstone of Danish defence and security policy, and it remains the guarantee of European security. In recent years, NATO has, however, developed from an organisation primarily focusing on protecting the Member States’ territorial security to an organisation promoting security and stability.

NATO is the main multilateral frame for deployment of Danish armed forces in international operations. NATO is currently engaged in operations and missions in three continents. NATO’s largest operation is the UN mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which supports the Afghan authorities in providing security, stability and reconstruction across Afghanistan. In Kosovo, the UN mandated KFOR presence is helping to maintain security and facilitate the ongoing political process. In Iraq, NATO is involved in the training of Iraqi security forces.

Moreover, NATO supports the African Union’s (AU) AMIS mission in Sudan/Dar-fur with strategic airlift and capacity building. During 2006, Denmark provided personnel to all these operations and missions and thus contributed significantly to the international community’s efforts.


Painting: Hans Nikolaj Hansen: Christian X crosses the old border on horseback on 10 July 1920. Painted 1921.

North Schleswig returns – Iceland leaves: At a plebiscite held in 1920 in accordance with the Versailles agreements after World War I, North Schleswig voted to return to Denmark. On 10 July 1920, King Christian X rode into the recovered land. This gave Denmark its current borders. Conversely, Iceland changed its status from a Danish possession to an independent state, although still in a personal union with Denmark, by an Act of Union in 1918. On the initiative of Iceland, this ended on 17 June 1944, during World War II, when Iceland was proclaimed an independent republic. During World War II, the realm and territories of the Danish King were occupied by no less than three different powers: Denmark itself by Germany, Iceland and the Faroe Islands by Great Britain and Greenland by the USA. Hans Nikolaj Hansen: Christian X crosses the old border on horseback on 10 July 1920. Painted 1921. Frederiksborg Museum.

Photo: Electoral campaign in Afghanistan before the presidential election in 2005.

Electoral campaign in Afghanistan before the presidential election in 2005. Photo: Alfred/SIPA-SIPA.

In addition to these troop contributions, Denmark has been playing an active role in shaping the future orientation and work of the Alliance. Building on positive experiences from cooperation between Danish governmental and non-governmental players in conflict areas where Danish forces are deployed, Denmark has been playing a leading role in making a more proactive approach to civil-military cooperation a priority on NATO’s agenda. In particular, the experience from Afghanistan demonstrates that today’s challenges require a comprehensive approach involving a broad spectrum of civil and military instruments. Denmark is also a strong supporter of the ongoing endeavours to adopt a more global and flexible NATO approach to partnerships with non-NATO members. These partnerships entail a closer dialogue with like-minded countries and a more systematic sharing of NATO’s experiences from the Partnership for Peace programmes in the Euro-Atlantic area with other regions of the world.


Denmark is committed to help the government and people of Afghanistan to promote peace, security, stability and development throughout Afghanistan. Denmark believes that the key to success in Afghanistan is a comprehensive approach involving defence, diplomacy and development. As part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Denmark is contributing militarily to the stabilisation of Afghanistan. At present, there are roughly 33,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan. Following the Danish Parliament’s decision on 1 June 2007 to deploy an additional 200 troops to Afghanistan, approximately 640 of the NATO troops are Danish, mostly deployed in Southern Afghanistan in Helmand province under UK lead command. In addition, Danish troops in Afghanistan are deployed as part of the German-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) Feyzabad and the Lithuanian-led PRT Chaghcharan.

In recognition of the connection between security and development in creating stability, Danish civilian development advisors have been seconded to the PRTs in Helmand and Feyzabad as well as to the Senior Civilian Representative of NATO in Kabul.

Since 2002, Denmark has provided more than DKK 1 billion (approximately USD 150 million) to Afghanistan in development assistance. Approximately 33% was humanitarian aid and local assistance in the form of, for example, repatriation of refugees. Good governance, democracy, human rights, education and rural development are focal areas for the Danish reconstruction assistance. In January 2007, Denmark decided to accelerate the reconstruction effort in 2007 by increasing the assistance by 60% from DKK 98 to 158 million (USD 18 to 30 million). As a result, Denmark will reach a total of DKK 200 million (approx. USD 39 million) in deveopment assistance per year.

In addition to development assistance, the Danish Ministry of Defence supports the capacity building of the Afghan National Army (DKK 9 million (approx. USD 1.5 million) in 2006 and DKK 10 million (approx. USD 2 million) in 2007).



Painting: Georg Jacobsen: The Danish Freedom Council during the German Occupation. Painted 1951-53.

Active Resistance Movement: Denmark’s active resistance movement during World War II helped the country regain its voice in international politics. Subsequently, Denmark was invited to sign the UN Covenant in 1945. When the government also joined the NATO alliance in 1949, Denmark abandoned the policy of neutrality that it had pursued since its defeat in 1864 and definitively aligned itself with the Western side in the block policy which was to characterise international politics until 1990. The Danish choice was not only dictated by fear of the intentions of the Soviet Union, but also taking into consideration USA’s military interest in Greenland. Georg Jacobsen: The Danish Freedom Council during the German Occupation. Painted 1951-53. Frederiksborg Museum.

Denmark has had a military presence in Iraq since 2003. As of 1 August 2007, four observation helicopters and related personnel have replaced the Danish battalion in Basra as the core of the Danish military contribution to the multinational forces in Iraq. This is a reflection of the increased capabilities of the Iraqi security forces and the gradual transition of responsibility for the security situation from the multinational forces to the local Iraqi authorities that is taking place in South East Iraq. Denmark also supports the Iraqi desire to take on more responsibility for the security situation in Iraq by contributing to the training of Iraqi security forces. Denmark is a significant contributor to NATO’s training mission in Iraq and also contributes military personnel to training efforts in the coalition headquarters.

Denmark is significantly increasing its civilian efforts in Iraq. An additional DKK 90 million (approx. USD 17 million) has been granted in 2007 in order to strengthen the reconstruction effort by moving focus from project implementation in Basra to capacity building in Baghdad. On 1 March 2007, a technical advisory office was set up in Baghdad. This will accommodate up to ten advisors, who will provide capacity building to key Iraqi ministries.

At the same time, a Danish contribution of DKK 100 million (approx. USD 19 million) has been allocated for the alleviation of emergency humanitarian challenges facing Iraqis who are internally displaced in Iraq or refugees in the neighbouring countries. In addition to the current civilian efforts, support for the Iraqi police through Danish police advisors located in Baghdad is also a part of the future Danish assistance to Iraq. This brings the total Danish contribution to civilian efforts in Iraq in the period 2003/08 up to DKK 690 million (approx. USD 131 million).

5. Danish development assistance -focus on Africa

Denmark’s development assistance will continue to constitute at least 0.8% of GNP, which secures Denmark’s position as one of the world’s largest donors. The sustained development assistance has secured Denmark a good platform internationally; a platform that Denmark will continue to use to push other industrialised countries to increase their level of development assistance.

Fighting poverty and its many faces – such as inhuman living conditions, the spread of infectious diseases and conflicts – is the key challenge facing Danish development policy. In the fight against poverty, it is Danish policy to carry out targeted efforts in areas where the need for and effect of development assistance is greatest. If the poorest developing countries are to break out of poverty, it is crucial that they obtain the benefits of globalisation. The poor countries must take strong responsibility for ensuring good governance and for pursuing a sensible economic policy.

Photo: Water project in Benin supported by Danida (Danish International Development Assistance).

Water project in Benin supported by Danida (Danish International Development Assistance). The project supplies fresh water to the village of Zogbodomey. Since their installation, the taps have become gathering points for the villagers.
Photo: Jørgen Schytte, Danida.

While 400 million people around the world during the last few decades have been lifted out of absolute poverty, the number of poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa has doubled.

Danish development assistance 2006 (million USD)
Total ODA 2,236.13
- of which bilateral 1,463.91
- of which multilateral3 772.22


Painting: Niels Winkel: Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag took Denmark into the EC in 1973. Painted 1983.

Denmark and Europe: After a referendum, Denmark entered the EEC together with Great Britain on 1 January 1973. This made Denmark part of the large European Union, which in the following decades rapidly developed towards even closer collaboration. EEC membership virtually became a necessity when Denmark’s main trading partner Great Britain decided to seek admission. Today Denmark is a long-standing member of the European Union. It was during the Danish EU Presidency in 2002 that the Central and Eastern European countries were admitted to the European Union. This was a direct consequence of the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. Niels Winkel: Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag took Denmark into the EC in 1973. Painted 1983. Frederiksborg Museum.

Bilateral development assistance 2006 (million USD)
Total ODA Percentage
Africa 570.57 82.90 80.01 28.79 762.27 62.8
Asia 246.13 39.93 49.50 3.52 339.08 27.9
Balkans/Turkey 5.21 0.56 0.74 19.10 25.61 2.1
Latin America 66.99 23.06 0.31 -3.60 86.76 7.2
Subtotal 888.90 146.44 130.56 47.81 1,213.72 100.0
Not distributed by country 19.09 16.17 20.41 194.52 250.19  
Total bilateral ODA 907.99 162.61 150.97 242.34 1,463.91  

Programme Cooperation Countries (2006)
Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mali (new from 2006), Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia.

Other main recipients 2006
(received more than USD 7.57 million)
Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Gaza/The West Bank, Indonesia, Iraq, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Thailand.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

At the start of the 1980s, approximately 160 million people lived on less than one US dollar a day here. At the start of the 21st century, the figure had risen to more than 320 million. Many of these are young women and men with little access to education and employment.

In September 2000, the UN Millennium Summit defined a limited number of goals to be reached by the year 2015, with the overall objective of halving the proportion of the world’s population living in absolute poverty. By now, there is consensus that Africa is lagging far behind other parts of the world with regard to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, it must be noted that while Sub-Saharan Africa may not reach all the MDGs, recent developments in Africa reveal a more optimistic picture. Since the mid-1990s, many low-income African countries have lifted significant parts of their populations above the poverty line. While in some countries growth and poverty reduction have recently shown a moderate decline, many countries are still on course to meet the MDG target of halving poverty by 2015.

The Danish Government has placed Africa at the heart of its development policy priorities. This is where the need for assistance is greatest. The Danish development assistance to Africa will therefore be increased in the coming years. This will be accomplished, for example, through the establishment of programme cooperation with Mali and through a substantial increase in Denmark’s contribution to international debt relief agreements as well as long-term programme support. In the assistance to Africa, the Government will attach importance to maintaining and supporting the African countries’ responsibility for and ownership of their own development.

The Government regards a long-term effort as crucial to combating poverty and maximising the impact of development assistance. The point of departure for the Danish effort will be the developing countries’ own poverty reduction strategies, which aim to ensure strong national ownership. The geographic focus is on the 16 bilateral programme countries, ten of which are African.

3. Including DKK 150.82 million (approx. USD 28 million) to UN peacekeeping operations.

6. Human rights

The promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms is a priority in Denmark’s foreign and development assistance policies. Denmark actively pursues this objective in international fora in particular the United Nations, and in its bilateral relations with third countries. The recent appointment of a Danish Human Rights Ambassador underlines the importance Denmark attaches to promoting human rights worldwide.

The priorities of Danish foreign human rights policy are to strengthen the independent and effective international monitoring of compliance with international human rights standards, to promote human rights and democratisation in Danish development assistance activities, to increase focus on the human rights situation in individual countries and to enhance cooperation with civil society. In addition, Denmark aims to intensify efforts to combat and eradicate torture. Advancing the rights and aspirations of indigenous peoples is likewise at the core of Danish human rights policy, as are the rights of persons with disabilities and the fight against the death penalty.

Photo: Torture victim

The combating of torture is a key part of the Danish human rights efforts.
Photo: Thomas Nielsen, Scanpix.

Denmark has been actively engaged in the reform of the UN, which included the establishment of the Human Rights Council. Denmark is highly committed to make the Council credible, effective and operative. A culture of cooperation, dialogue and mutual respect must be developed if the Council is to meet these expectations.

7. The WTO

The strengthening of the WTO remains Denmark’s first priority in the area of trade policy. With its small and open economy, Denmark has a profound interest in a rule-based international trading system. The WTO remains the most effective way of expanding and managing trade in a rule-based system that can ensure increased trade flows to provide sustainable development for all.

An enhanced multilateral trade system is also the best way to serve the interests of developing countries. The negotiations in the Doha Development Round have already resulted in significant offers - much more than in previous rounds -that will be of immense benefit to the developing countries. However, these offers will not materialise without a successful conclusion of the round. Furthermore, failure of the Doha Round could lead to an increase in trade protectionism around the world and might weaken the WTO as the cornerstone of international trade. Denmark therefore firmly supports a successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round.

Danish trade policy is primarily conducted within the framework of the EU, as trade policy is one of the EU’s exclusive competencies. This is an advantage because the EU works as a catalyst for Danish trade policy interests as a result of the widely shared interest in promoting trade liberalisation.

8. The Nordic countries and Denmark

The formal Nordic cooperation takes place within the framework of the Nordic Council, which is the parliamentarians’ cooperation body, and the Nordic Council of Ministers, which is the governmental cooperation body. Furthermore, informal Nordic cooperation takes place in the field of foreign and defence policy, development assistance and foreign trade policy. In recent years, the Baltic countries have joined the informal cooperation in some areas, especially in relation to the EU.

A comprehensive informal and practical cooperation has developed between the Nordic countries’ embassies and representations abroad. For example, other Nordic embassies will assist Danish citizens, if Denmark is not represented in a given country and vice versa. In recent years, the cooperation among the Nordic countries has been intensified in the field of Nordic consular emergency assistance. The background to this initiative was the experience from the Tsunami disaster in South East Asia in 2004. Another practical example of the close Nordic cooperation is the establishment of the common Nordic embassy complex in Berlin.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

This page forms part of the publication 'Factsheet Denmark Foreign policy' as Entire publication with graphics
Version 1.0. 12-11-2007
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