Danish Realm

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Commonwealth of the Realma
Clockwise from bottom right:Maps of Denmark (Northern Europe), Greenland (North Atlantic and Arctic) and the Faroe Islands (North Atlantic).
Clockwise from bottom right:
Maps of Denmark (Northern Europe), Greenland (North Atlantic and Arctic) and the Faroe Islands (North Atlantic).
Official languages
 -  Monarch Queen Margrethe II
 -  Prime Minister of Denmark Helle Thorning-Schmidt
 -  Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands Kaj Leo Johannesen
 -  Prime Minister of Greenland Aleqa Hammond
a. Also translated as "Community of the Realm".

The Danish Realm (Danish: det danske rige) or the Commonwealth of the Realm (Danish: rigsfællesskabet; Faroese: ríkisfelagsskapurin; Greenlandic: naalagaaffeqatigiit) is a semi-official[citation needed] term for the relations between metropolitan Denmark and its two overseas regions, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, which collectively make up the Kingdom of Denmark. The relationship between the three territories of the Danish Realm is one of a unitary nature, but with significant powers over internal affairs being devolved to Greenland and the Faroe Islands.


Meaning "home rule", it indicates an autonomous administration (present in both in Greenland and the Faroe Islands) that has power over all internal affairs. In this arrangement, the Danish government deals only with external matters such as defence and foreign affairs. Greenland and the Faroe Islands maintain their own parliaments and governments, headed by a prime minister who appoints a cabinet. This is synonymous with "self-governing."
Following a referendum on 25 November 2008 (the 30th anniversary of the establishment of home rule in Greenland), the relationship between the Danish and Greenlandic governments changed, with Greenland gaining greater autonomy. Further powers were granted to the Greenlandic government on 21 June 2009, including control of the police force, coastguard, and courts. Additionally, Greenland now receives fewer Danish subsidies, becoming more self-sufficient.[1] As a result of these changes Greenland was now said to have "self rule" with minimal support from Denmark, as opposed to "home rule".
High Commissioners represent the interests of Denmark in the Faroe Islands and Greenland. There is one Danish High Commissioner in each country. He or she can attend the meetings at the Løgting in the Faroes and at the Inatsisartut in Greenland, but they can't vote.
Folketingsmedlemmer fra Færøerne og Grønland 
Members of Folketing from the Faroe Islands and Greenland : Greenland and the Faroe Islands and their self-rule administrations take part in consultations on policies and decisions affecting their region, including negotiations with the devolved legislatures and the Danish parliament (Folketing). They have two members each, and these are full members of the Danish Folketing and are allowed to vote.
Constituent countries 
Mirroring the terminology of the United Kingdom or the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Greenland, Denmark and the Faroes are sometimes referred to as constituent countries within the sovereign state of the Kingdom of Denmark. However, such usage is inconsistent - whilst Denmark proper may be referred to as a country, Greenland and the Faroe Islands are officially referred to as "self-governing territories",[2] Additionally, the recent law granting Greenland "self rule" in 2008 refers to Greenland as "a people", but not a country.[3]

Legal status[edit]

Within the Kingdom of Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland enjoy far-reaching home rule, introduced in 1948 and 1979 respectively. The arrangement is sometimes described as constituent countries. Greenland's powers of self-government were increased in 2009 through the Greenland Self-Rule Act, which established the Greenlanders as a separate national people under international law, while the Faroe Islands have gradually taken control of more and more areas according to their Home Rule Act from 1948.[4] The Faroese/Danish act of 2005 states that Denmark and the Faroe Islands are equal parts: Danish: Denne lov bygger på en overenskomst mellem Færøernes landsstyre og den danske regering som ligeværdige parter. (English translation: "This law is based on an agreement between the Faroe Islands and Danish governments as equal partners.").[5]

The Constitution of Denmark of 1953 is that of a unitary state and applies to all three regions, and the home rule and self-rule agreements are not enshrined in the constitution. Both the Faroe Islands and Greenland manage most of their own internal affairs. They may also conclude international agreements on behalf of the Danish realm if they concern only their own part of the realm.

One of the results of this arrangement is that Denmark is a member of the European Union but both Greenland and the Faroe Islands have opted to remain outside of the EU. The relations should not be confused with a federation or an association like the Commonwealth of Nations. It is one state with two self-governing areas, and as such it can be referred to as a federacy. The Faroe Islands and Greenland are represented in the Folketing with two seats each.

International community[edit]

Previously, most foreign relations were undertaken by Denmark exclusively on behalf of all three regions, but more recently, both regions have increased their role in the foreign policy. The Faroe Islands and Greenland have become more autonomous players and they have joint influence on foreign policy issues that relate to their national interests, such as geopolitical topics and commercial fishing. However, the regions still are, in an international-community context, under Danish administration, where The Faroe Islands and Greenland have joined the different Danish delegations at the table of the international community.

The Faroe Islands and Greenland have membership in the Nordic Council. They have become more integrated with the European Union, but neither country is a member. Greenland had to follow Denmark into the EU in 1973, but opted to leave in 1985 after Greenlandic home rule was introduced in 1979, this being the only country to ever leave the EU. Greenland and the Faroes are only semi-members in the United Nations, NATO, OECD and the World Trade Organization, because Denmark represents the Rigsfællesskab. Denmark has in the last years increased the involvement of the Faroese and Greenlandic governments in international affairs, for example Greenland was included in the process of a new treaty between Denmark and the US regarding the Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland.

Population and area[edit]

Comparison map: Greenland, the Faroe Islands (enlarged) and Denmark differ significantly in size. The Danish Realm is spread long distances apart across the North Atlantic and North Sea.

The population and area of the three countries differ significantly. While Greenland has an area of over two million km² (making it the largest island in the world) it had a population of just 57,695 in 2011 — nearly one hundred times smaller than the population of Denmark. The Faroe Islands too are small in population as well as area. This disparity between the small population of the former colonies and the greater population of Denmark has helped to enforce the hegemonial position that Denmark holds in the Realm. When the areas of the three territories are combined, the Kingdom of Denmark ranks as the 12th largest country in the world, the same rank held by Greenland alone.

Country Legislature Area Population
km²  %   Estimates
 % Density
(per km²)
Denmark Denmark Folketing 43,094 1.95 5,564,219 98.11 128
Faroe Islands Faroe Islands Løgting 1,399 0.06 49,267 0.87 35
Greenland Greenland Inatsisartut 2,166,086 97.99 57,695 1.02 0.027
Denmark Total Folketing 2,210,579 100 5,671,181 100 2.6

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Greenland votes for more autonomy BBC News, 26 November 2008
  2. ^ Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands. "About the Faroe Islands". Retrieved 8 March 2011
  3. ^ Act on Greenland Self-Government 2008 Greenlanders are recognized as a separate people under international law.
  4. ^ Logting.elektron.fo
  5. ^ Retsinformation.dk, Lov om de færøske myndigheders overtagelse af sager og sagsområder
  6. ^ "Faroe Islands" - The World Factbook. Accessed 6 June 2012
  7. ^ Population by region and time[dead link] - Statistics Denmark. Published: 1 April 2011.
  8. ^ Greenland Statistics

External links[edit]