Denmark country brief

Overview

The Kingdom of Denmark comprises the constituent countries of Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, which were granted home rule in 1948 and 1979 and self-government in 2005 and 2009, respectively. Denmark itself is located in the southern part of Scandinavia and covers an area of 42,430sq km and has a population of approximately 5.7 million. The Faroe Islands are halfway between Norway and Iceland, north of Scotland, with and area of 1,400sq km and a population of 49,000. Greenland is located in the northern parts of the North American continent, with an area of 2.2 million square kilometres and a population of 56,500.

Denmark joined the EU in 1973, though neither the Faroe Islands nor Greenland are members. Denmark is a member of numerous other international organisations including: United Nations (UN), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), 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 countries in the EU. Denmark is a key actor on international climate policy.

Political overview

The Kingdom of Denmark is a constitutional monarchy. 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, which consists of 179 members, including two from the Faroe Islands and two from Greenland. Representatives are elected for four-year terms on the basis of proportional representation. There are currently 12 parties represented in Parliament: nine Danish parties, two Faroese parties and one Greenlandic party.

Danish general elections were last held on 18 June 2015. The centre-right Liberal Party led by Lars Løkke Rasmussen secured parliamentary support for forming a new minority single party government and later a minority coalition-government with the Conservative Party and the Liberal Alliance.

Economic overview

Denmark is an open, innovative and export-focussed economy with relatively low trade barriers. The innovation ecosystem in Denmark is well developed and boasts a wide range of opportunities for support for start-up companies and companies wishing to do business in Denmark, including start-up programs, cluster networks, regional growth centres, and access to early stage funding. Additionally, Denmark’s energy security and well developed ICT infrastructure has contributed in attracting significant foreign IT investments.  

Denmark’s GDP is projected to grow by 1.5 per cent in 2017, supported by continued investment and world trade. The Danish economy benefits from low inflation and energy prices and a stronger labour market. The EU remains Denmark's most important trading zone, accounting for around 60 per cent of exports and about 75 per cent of imports. Trade with other countries has increased in recent years, with China becoming a more important market.

Denmark has pioneered wind power and is a global player in production of wind turbines. The Danish government is focused on a complete transition to renewable energy supply by 2050.

Bilateral relationship

Australia and Denmark share a bilateral relationship based on close cooperation on a range of issues in international forums, 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 which closed in 2002, re-opened in September 2007. Denmark retains consulates in most state capital cities of Australia.

According to the 2016 census, over 59,000 Australians claim Danish ancestry. 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 Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish Architect Jørn Utzon and design engineered by Arup, is Australia’s most prominent example of Australian and Danish collaboration.

There are extensive bilateral education links between Australian and Danish tertiary institutions, including partnership agreements between the University of Copenhagen and Sydney, and the Technological University of Denmark and the University of Queensland. Around 700 Danish students study in Australia annually. 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

The Minister of Defence, the Hon Marise Payne visited Denmark in May 2017 to attend a meeting on the Coalition against ISIL. Australia’s then Ambassador for Women and Girls, Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AM, represented Australia at the May 2016 Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen. The former President of the Senate, Senator the Hon John Hogg, led a parliamentary delegation to Denmark in April 2011. Then Prime Minister, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, and then Minister for Climate Change, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, visited Denmark in December 2009 to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

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, accompanied by the then Danish Minister for Culture, Marianne Jelved. Previously, they made official visits to Australia in March 2005 and November 2011, the latter accompanied by the former 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.

Bilateral economic and trade relationship

Total two-way merchandise trade between Australia and Denmark in 2016 was $1.3 billion, weighted heavily in Denmark's favour. Australia's merchandise exports to Denmark were valued at $131 million, with major exports including manufactured articles, alcoholic beverages, beef, and fruit and nuts. Merchandise imports from Denmark were valued at $1.2 billion, with major imports including meat (excluding beef), rotating electric plant and parts, medicaments and pharmaceutical products.

Danish total investment in Australia was worth $2.4 billion in 2016, primarily green technology, shipping services, medtech/pharmaceuticals and agribusiness. Over 100 Danish companies have a presence in Australia including Vestas Wind Systems (wind turbines), Falck (health services), ISS (cleaning company), Chr. Hansen (agricultural measuring equipment), Arla (dairy) and ALK Abello (biotech).

Australian total investment in Denmark was worth $3.6 billion in 2016. Significant Australian companies in Denmark include Macquarie Bank (part owner of Copenhagen airport) and the Adina Group (hotels). For advice on doing business in Denmark, please see Austrade's website.

In the year ended March 2017, there were 28,600 visitor arrivals from Denmark, an 8.6 per cent increase on the previous year. During the same period, there were 13,900 resident departures from Australia to Denmark, a 9.7 per cent increase on the previous year.

Last updated August 2017.

Last Updated: 21 August 2017