Denmark flag

Denmark country brief

Overview

The Kingdom of Denmark comprises Denmark as well as the Faroe Islands and Greenland, which were granted self-government in 1948 and 1979, respectively. Denmark itself is the southern part of Scandinavia and covers an area of 43,000 sq km.  It has a population of 5.6 million (2013).

Denmark joined the EU in 1973, and is a member of numerous other international organisations including: United Nations (UN), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Arctic Council and World Trade Organisation (WTO).  On trade policy, Denmark is among the most liberal in the EU and is supportive of comprehensive agricultural reform.  Denmark also supports stringent environmental regulation at the EU level.  Denmark is a key actor on international climate policy and hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.  Denmark is an active member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and regards NATO as its pre-eminent security organisation.

In September 2000, 53 per cent of Danish voters opposed adopting the Euro as the country's currency in a national referendum, despite strong political support in favour of joining from most of the major parties.  However political, and popular, support for adopting the Euro currency dropped following the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Political overview

The Kingdom of Denmark is a constitutional monarchy based on its 1953 Constitution.  The reigning monarch, Queen Margrethe II, ascended the throne in 1972.  The heir to the throne, Crown Prince Frederik, is married to Australian-born Crown Princess Mary.

Legislative powers are vested in a unicameral parliament (the Folketing).  Its 179 members, including two each from the Faroe Islands and Greenland, are elected for four-year terms on the basis of proportional representation.  There are currently 12 parties in the Parliament.

After nearly a decade in opposition, Denmark's centre left coalition won 89 seats in the 179-seat parliament in the general election held on 15 September 2011.  Ms Helle Thorning-Schmidt became Denmark's first female Prime Minister.  Thorning-Schmidt's Social Democrats led a three-party coalition – the 'Red bloc' alliance – whose other members were the centre-left Social Liberals and the Socialist People's Party.  In January 2014, the Socialist People’s Party withdrew from the coalition, leaving a two-party minority government.  The government needs the continued support of the Socialist People’s Party and far-left Red-Green Alliance party, or must draw on other opposition parties to achieve a parliamentary majority on key votes.  The next general election is scheduled for 2015.

Economic overview

Denmark showed signs of recovery in 2010 and 2011 following a downturn in its economy in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the global financial crisis.  However the recovery remains slow; the Danish economy recorded modest growth of 0.4 per cent in 2013 after contracting by the same amount in 2012.  The economy is highly open, with Danish exports and imports accounting for 55% and 49% of GDP respectively in 2013.  The EU remains Denmark's most important trading zone, accounting for around two-thirds of exports and slightly less than three-quarters of imports.  Trade with other countries has increased in recent years, with China becoming a more important source of imports.  The current-account surplus was US$24.1 billion in 2013 (equivalent to 7.3% of GDP).

Bilateral relationship

Australia and Denmark share a bilateral relationship based on cooperation on a range of issues in international fora, a strong commitment to global security, and people-to-people links established over two centuries of migration.  The Australian Embassy in Copenhagen re-opened in 2000 after closing in 1997.  The Danish Embassy in Canberra, closed since 2002, re-opened in September 2007.  Denmark retains consulates in most state capital cities of Australia.

The 8,000 or so Danes who migrated to Australia after World War II form the basis of our people-to-people links.  According to the 2011 census, over 54,000 Australians claim Danish ancestry. Around 700 Danish students study in Australian annually. Australia's profile in Denmark, and vice-versa, was boosted by the marriage in May 2004 of Australian-born Mary Donaldson to Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik.

The 40th Anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish Architect Jørn Utzon, was celebrated in October 2013.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage listed building and is Australia’s most prominent example of Australian and Danish collaboration.  

Educational services are one of Australia's most significant exports to Scandinavia.  There are extensive bilateral education links between Australian and Danish tertiary institutions.  A bilateral Working Holiday Maker Arrangement and a Social Security Agreement were signed in 2001.  Denmark and Australia signed an Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation in 1981.

High Level Visits

To Denmark

President of the Senate, Senator the Hon John Hogg, led a parliamentary delegation to Denmark in April 2011.  Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, and Minister for Climate Change, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, visited Denmark in December 2009 to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference.  Other visits from Australian officials include: Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP (April 2006); Tasmanian Minister for Tourism, the Arts and the Environment, Paula Wriedt MFA (April 2006); Australian Parliamentary Delegation led by the Speaker, the Hon David Hawker (October 2005); the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator the Hon Ian Campbell (June 2005); and the Queensland Minister for Education and the Arts, the Hon Anna Bligh (May 2005).

To Australia

Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary visited Sydney as patrons of the Opera House’s 40th Anniversary program in October 2013.  Previously, they made official visits to Australia in March 2005 and November 2011, the latter accompanied by the Minister for Trade and Investment, Ms Pia Olsen Dyhr and a Danish business delegation.  They have also visited Australia privately on a number of occasions.  Other recent visits from Danish officials include: the Permanent Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr Claus Grube and the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr Franz-Michael Mellbin (April 2013), the Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr Anders Carsten Damsgaard (December 2009); Permanent Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr Ulrik Federspiel (May 2008); Minister for Taxation, Mr Kristian Jensen (September 2006); and Minister for Culture, Mr Brian Mikkelsen (March 2005).

Bilateral economic and trade relationship

Total two-way merchandise trade between Australia and Denmark in 2013 was A$1.28 billion, weighted heavily in Denmark's favour.  Australia's merchandise exports to Denmark were valued at A$189 million in 2013 and consisted mainly of  alcoholic beverages, orthopaedic appliances and  beef.  Merchandise imports from Denmark were valued at almost A$1.1 billion in 2013, and consisted mainly of power generating machinery and parts, meat (excluding beef), medicaments (including veterinary), and prams, toys, games and sporting goods.

Over 100 Danish companies have a presence in Australia including Vestas Wind Systems, one of the world's leading manufacturers of wind turbines.  The Denmark-based global cleaning company ISS is, with over 20,000 employees, one of the biggest European employers in Australia.  

For advice on doing business in Denmark, please see Austrade's Website.

Updated August 2014