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Country profile: Denmark

The kingdom of Denmark has, despite its relatively small size, often punched above its weight internationally.

Vikings raiding from Denmark and the other Nordic nations changed the course of 9th- and 10th-century European history; in the Middle Ages, the Union of Kalmar united all of Scandinavia under Danish leadership.

In recent times, Denmark has been known for its modern economy and extensive welfare system, while enjoying an often difficult relationship with the European Union.

The Danes rejected the euro as the national currency in a referendum in September 2000. Analysts believe that Danish fears of loss of political independence and national sovereignty outweighed any economic arguments about the benefits of joining the eurozone.

Denmark's euroscepticism put it at odds with many of its European partners seven years previously when Danish voters rejected the Maastricht Treaty which proposed monetary union and a common European defence force. Denmark had to be granted opt-outs from these provisions before the treaty was approved in 1993.

The Social Democrats led a string of coalition governments for most of the second half of the last century in a country generally known for its liberal traditions.

Poul Schluter then became the first-ever Danish prime minister representing the Conservative People's Party in 1982, leading a centre-right coalition until 1993, when he was succeeded by the Social Democrat Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.

A new centre-right coalition headed by Anders Fogh Rasmussen came to power in November 2001 promising tighter immigration controls.

Denmark has won plaudits for running a healthy economy. Its employment levels are the envy of many industrialised countries and it accommodates a competitive economic edge as well as a generous social security system.

Danish cinema has won international recognition, not least for its willingness to experiment. Through the late 1990s and early 2000s the Dogme movement directors often used hand-held cameras to dynamic effect in a conscious reaction against high-tech, big-budget cinema.

Jutland and its 400 surrounding islands form one of Europe's smallest countries. Denmark has an abundance of picturesque villages and towns, historic castles and monuments, and a coastline that varies from broad sandy beaches to small coves and gentle fjords.

Throughout the country, low rolling hills provide a constant succession of attractive views; there are cool and shady forests of beech trees, extensive areas of heathland, a beautiful lake district, sand dunes and white cliffs resembling those of Dover; nor should one forget the Danish islands, each of which has its own unique attractions.

The Danes have taken strong measures to keep their coastline clean and tidy, keen for visitors to sample the many unspoilt beaches. Inland from the 4,800km (3,000 miles) of beaches and unspoiled islands, you'll find a landscape eminently suitable for cycling. Ferries ply between the mainland and the islands, competing with awesome bridges like the 16km (10 miles) ?resund link to Sweden. Ranks of huge white wind turbines are a feature of the modern Danish landscape.

Amidst such tranquillity, it now seems almost surreal to consider that this country once spawned a notoriously violent seafaring race of people, the Vikings, feared throughout northwest Europe. Today, visitors to Denmark find a country that is peaceful, introspective, neutral and egalitarian. Its hallmarks are world-class design and uniformly high standards that apply equally to its accommodation and transport. Cuisine is excellent, especially in the realm of dairy products and scrumptious pastries. Add to this a people both amiable and helpful, with a facility for languages, and the result is an overwhelming sense of welcome.

Copenhagen is a wonderful cobblestoned city with many quaint medieval streets and buildings, but there is more to Denmark than its capital, and any visitor to the country is strongly advised to explore elsewhere too.

Facts

  • Full name: Kingdom of Denmark
  • Population: 5.4 million (UN, 2007)
  • Capital: Copenhagen
  • Area: 43,098 sq km (16,640 sq miles)
  • Major language: Danish
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 76 years (men), 81 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 krone = 100 ore
  • Main exports: Machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals
  • GNI per capita: US $47,390 (World Bank, 2006)
  • Internet domain: .dk
  • International dialling code: +45
  • Leaders
  • Queen: Margrethe II

    Prime minister: Anders Fogh Rasmussen

    Mr Fogh Rasmussen's centre-right government was re-elected for a third term in November 2007 when voters endorsed its policies to boost the economy and tighten immigration.

    The coalition of Mr Rasmussen's Liberal Party and the Conservative People's Party, supported by the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party, won 89 of the 179 seats in parliament. An opposition alliance, led by the Social Democrats, won 81 seats.

    Mr Rasmussen called early elections to take advantage of solid support in the polls, record-low unemployment and a healthy economy.

    His Liberal-Conservative coalition first came to power in November 2001, ending decades of domination of the Danish political scene by the Social Democrats.

    The coalition was re-elected in February 2005.

    Mr Rasmussen has pushed through policies designed to tighten immigration controls and cut taxes.

    In his early political career Mr Rasmussen was regarded as a strong believer in free market economics, but in government he has taken a less harsh line on the welfare state than some had predicted.

    He is committed to Europe and says Denmark's Maastricht opt-outs are not in the country's best interests.

    His government supported the US-led campaign in Iraq, providing some 500 Danish troops. It has also increased the Danish military contingent in Afghanistan.

    Mr Rasmussen graduated in economics in 1978 and entered parliament the same year. He served as minister for tax affairs from 1987 to 1992 and was also minister of economic affairs for the last two years of that period.

    He was born in 1953.

    Media

    Denmark's public broadcaster, Danmarks Radio (DR), operates two TV networks and national and regional radio stations. It is funded by a licence fee.

    TV2, a government-owned commercial broadcaster, operates regional outlets and an internet-based on-demand service. Private stations are available via satellite and cable.

    There are some 250 local commercial and community radio stations. Two commercial networks, one national and one semi-national, were launched in 2003 and quickly gained large audiences.

    Freedom of expression is provided for in law. This principle was reiterated by the Jyllands-Posten daily amid a backlash by some Muslims in early 2006 over its publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

    The images sparked violent protests in some countries as well as unofficial boycotts of Danish goods.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1032760.stm

    http://www.worldtravelguide.net/country/74/country_guide/Europe/Denmark.html

     

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