Denmark | Freedom House

Freedom in the World



Freedom in the World 2003

2003 Scores



Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)


Denmark's right-wing minority coalition government, elected November 2001, is composed of the Liberal Party and the Conservative People's Party, headed by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Liberal leader. It relies on the extreme-right Danish People's Party to command a majority in parliament. The coalition is expected to remain in office until the parliamentary term expires in 2005. The government is cutting state administration costs to fulfill election promises to raise spending and freeze taxes. It also supports a strict immigration policy. Denmark took over the six-month rotating EU presidency on July 1, with the primary goal of completing the EU's preparations for the Union's enlargement of up to 10 new members in 2004. Human rights organizations noted some erosion in civil liberties and freedom of the press.

Denmark is the oldest monarchy in Europe. Queen Margrethe II, whose reign began in 1972, performs mostly ceremonial functions. The 1953 constitution established a unicameral parliament, or Folketing, in which 135 of the 179 members are elected in 17 mainland districts. Two representatives from each of the semiautonomous regions of the Faeroe Islands and Greenland are also elected. The remaining seats are allocated on a proportional basis to parties receiving more than 2 percent of the vote. An extensive system of local representation includes both regional and local councils.

Danes voted against adopting the euro in a September 2000 referendum, although the krone remains pegged to the euro and monetary policy is aligned with that of the European Central Bank. In voting against the euro, Danes defied the government, main opposition parties, big business, major trade unions, and economists, all of whom support monetary union. Opponents claimed that monetary union would weaken Denmark's welfare system and sovereignty. Others oppose European integration and immigration as a threat to national identity.

The Council of Europe in April 2002 criticized Denmark for discrimination against its Muslim population, immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. About 7 percent of the population is of foreign descent. The largest immigrant groups come from Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Danes can change their government democratically. Representatives are elected to the Folketing at least once every four years in a modified system of proportional representation. In the most recent elections, 87 percent of Danes voted. The semiautonomous territories of Greenland and the Faeroes each have two representatives in the Danish parliament.

Denmark's constitution guarantees freedom of expression. Danish media reflect a wide variety of political opinions and are frequently critical of the government. The state finances radio and television broadcasting, but state-owned television companies have independent editorial boards. Independent radio stations are permitted but tightly regulated.

As of May, it became legal for authorities to retain a person's phone call records, Internet activity and e-mail details for up to one year in order to combat terrorism. The intelligence services and the police may consult these data without prior permission by a judge and can install e-mail interception technology on Internet service providers. The daily newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten announced in August that one of its journalists had had his telephone tapped and had been ordered by a court to reveal his sources of information among Islamic circles in Denmark.

The judiciary is independent, and citizens enjoy full due process rights. The court system consists of 100 local courts, two high courts, and the 15-member Supreme Court, with judges appointed by the queen on government recommendation.

The rights of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities are widely respected. In the latest elections, a Dane with an immigrant background was elected to parliament for the first time. However, anti-immigrant sentiment has risen, and in 2001 the government proposed strict immigration legislation. In April 2002, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees called on the government to abandon its proposed immigration legislation, which would lengthen the time it takes to receive a permanent residence permit; narrow the definition of a refugee; reserve Denmark the right to return refugees to their home country if the situation there improves; and bar immigrants under age 25 from bringing foreign spouses to Denmark.

Freedom of worship is guaranteed to all. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is the Danish national church, with 95 percent of the population belonging to it. Islam is the country's second-biggest religion. The Evangelical Lutheran faith is taught in public schools, although students are not required to attend religious classes.

As of August 27, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict raised the minimum age for direct participation in hostilities to 18.

In 1989, Denmark became the first country to grant legal recognition to same-sex partnerships. In 2000, homosexuals in registered partnerships gained the right to adopt each other's children.

According to the Swiss-based Inter-Parliamentary Union, Denmark, with 37 percent of parliament members being women, is second in the world only to Sweden in proportional representation of women in legislatures.

Workers are free to organize, bargain collectively, and strike. About 80 percent of the workforce are members of trade unions, and more than 90 percent are covered by collective bargaining agreements, according to the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions.