Denmark Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

Denmark is a country located in Northern Europe. With the capital city of Copenhagen, Denmark has a population of 5,792,213 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. Although Denmark had not contributed so much to the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, the country was still accepted, thanks to the efforts of the resistance movement, which allied with the victorious powers. Denmark could thus join the UN from the founding of the organization in 1945.

Negotiations with Sweden and Norway on a Scandinavian defense union failed, as Norway and Denmark considered it necessary to join the Western powers, while Sweden wanted to maintain its freedom of alliance, partly because of Finland, which after the war was forced to sign a so-called friendship and aid pact with USSR. In 1949, Denmark, Norway and Iceland joined and signed the Atlantic Pact, which quickly developed into the NATO defense alliance. But Denmark, like Norway, made two reservations: nuclear weapons must not be stationed on Danish territory in peacetime and foreign troops may not be permanently based in the country.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Denmark. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

By the end of the 1940s, Denmark was poor. But Marshall’s assistance from the United States to war-torn Europe and the establishment of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC, now the OECD) marked the beginning of two decades of rapid economic growth and increased welfare. Above all, the industry and the service sector grew.

The political arena was dominated by two blocs: the Left Party and the Conservative People’s Party on the right and the Social Democrats with some support from the Socialist People’s Party on the left. On top of that came the small but influential middle party Radical Left. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Denmark.

Economic crisis and EC membership

The 1970s meant major changes in the economy and domestic and foreign policy. Because Denmark had said no to nuclear power, the country depended on coal and oil imports. In addition, Denmark had for many years had a deficit in the state budget and in its economic exchange with the outside world. The country was therefore vulnerable when the oil crisis of 1973-74 led to a five-fold increase in oil prices. The economy was hit hard, production growth stopped, real incomes stagnated and unemployment grew.

The old parties lost voters and several new small parties were elected to the parliament, including the populist dissatisfaction party Progress Party, led by the self-assured Mogens Glistrup. Since then, the Danes have only been able to form coalition governments or relatively weak minority governments.

The biggest foreign policy event in the 1970s was that Denmark, together with the United Kingdom and Ireland, joined the EC in 1973 (now the EU). Thus, Denmark left the free trade association Efta which Denmark helped to found in 1960 together with, among others, Sweden, Norway and the UK. The decision to join the EC was preceded by a referendum in which 63.5 percent of voters voted in favor of the proposal.

In 1982, the Social Democratic government could no longer get the Radical Left’s support for its economic policies. Social Democratic Prime Minister Anker Jørgensen gave up, and a bourgeois coalition government under Poul Schlüter from the Conservative People’s Party was formed with parliamentary support from the Radical Left. This and three subsequent Schlüter governments remained in power for more than ten years until January 1993. Through a tight economic policy and an international boom, they succeeded in reversing economic development. The budget deficit was reduced and the Danish krone’s rate was locked to the stable German D-mark. Inflation fell as production and exports grew. In 1987 Denmark gained a surplus in foreign trade in goods and services and this situation has continued since then. However, unemployment remained high.

Controversy over security policy

Foreign policy was characterized by a party-political struggle during the 1980s. The Social Democrats in opposition could not easily profile themselves by attacking economic policy after their own failure and instead focused on security policy. In this area alone, they could count on the support of the Radical Left and thus gain a majority in the parliament if they opposed only the policy they themselves had for years in reasonable agreement with the bourgeois parties.

Together with the Radical Left and Socialist People’s Party, the Social Democrats could force the government to renounce certain NATO decisions (see Foreign Policy and Defense). However, the government chose to remain, as a new election would hardly have changed the situation and the economy was the highest priority. For the same reason, the Radical Left did not want to conduct a vote of no confidence to force the government to resign.

After the parliamentary elections in 1988, the Radical left instead joined the government and thus an extremely problematic period in Danish foreign policy was largely over. After the upheavals in Eastern and Central Europe from 1989, the Social Democrats rejoined the mainstream of foreign policy.

Exceptions to the Maastricht Treaty

In the summer of 1992, the Danes held a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, which meant that the EC would be strengthened and transformed into the EU, including an economic and monetary union (EMU) with a common central bank and currency. Together with the bourgeois government, the Social Democracy advocated a yes to the EU, but the party failed to bring its electorate with it. The vote ended with an overweight for the no-side of just over 1 percentage point (50.7 percent versus 49.3).

The subsequent French vote turned out to be an equally scarce yes. These two results caused political and financial turmoil throughout Europe. In Denmark, a compromise was formed as the basis for a new referendum. The goal was to get the Socialist People’s Party leadership to agree to a yes. The party thus gained decisive influence over the design of the compromise and demanded that Denmark should be outside certain parts of the treaty. The EU accepted four Danish exemptions. Among other things, Denmark did not participate in the currency union EMU, in judicial and police cooperation and in any defense cooperation (see Foreign Policy and Defense). Thus, the Danes had a pretext to hold a referendum again. In May 1993 they voted in favor of the Maastricht Treaty.

Social Democratic Government

In 1993, Schlüter’s government resigned following a scandal surrounding the Justice Department’s treatment of Tamil asylum seekers. The Social Democracy, under Poul Nyrup Rasmussen’s leadership, formed a minority government with the Radical Left, the Christian People’s Party and the small middle party Centrum-Demokraterne. The government remained after the 1994 elections, but without the Christian People’s Party that fell out of the parliament.

Before the 1997 budget, the government tried in vain to settle with the bourgeois opposition on a program that would wipe out the deficit in the state budget. Nyrup Rasmussen was instead forced to turn left to the Socialist People’s Party and the Enhedslisten, who agreed to a budget settlement in exchange for the government increasing social spending. The result was that the Center Democrats left the government ahead of the threat that the coalition would continue to depend on the left parties. Social democracy then ruled on with only the Radical Left.

Ahead of the municipal elections in November 1997, a new party, the Danish People’s Party, attracted considerable attention through its rapid success in public opinion. The party had been formed in 1995 by Pia Kjaersgaard, who, after a long power struggle, was appointed leader of the Progress Party. The party’s message was to safeguard the “Danish” and the welfare of the little man in front of what the party saw as threats from immigrants, refugees and the EU. This gave growing opinion figures and in the municipal elections the party got 6.8 percent of the votes.

1998 – dramatic election

At the 1998 general election, the Social Democracy and Prime Minister Nyrup Rasmussen won by the lowest possible margin (176 votes in the Faroe Islands). The major winner of the election became the Danish People’s Party, which entered the parliament with 13 seats. The Social Democrats formed government with the Radical Left. In the parliament, the government parties had an overweight mandate over the opposition.

The government announced a new referendum on joining EMU in 2000. Despite the fact that the government, three quarters of the MPs, the trade union movement, the business community and the serious press argued for a membership, more than 53 percent of Danes voted against the proposal. The result was a severe blow to the government, which lost power the following year.

Nyrup Rasmusen announced elections in the fall of 2001. After just over eight years in power, the government seemed tired and insecure, especially when it came to issues such as how welfare would be secured, immigration issues resolved and EU membership handled.

The election was won by Venstre, who went ahead strongly and became the country’s largest party while the Social Democrats lost support. Left leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen formed a minority government with his own party and the Conservative People’s Party. The coalition, however, became dependent on support from the Danish People’s Party, which made a strong choice and almost doubled the number of seats.

One year after the election, the Social Democrats replaced Nyrup Rasmussen with Mogens Lykketoft, who was previously Finance Minister and Foreign Minister.

Tighter refugee policy

The election result meant that immigration and refugee policies were tightened. Among other things, a person must have spent seven years in the country, as opposed to three years earlier, in order to obtain a permanent residence permit. In order to prevent arranged marriages, the government set an age limit, so that Danish citizens and immigrants living in Denmark may only get a partner to the country if they are both at least 24 years old and their overall connection to Denmark is greater than to the other country (there are, however, a number of exceptions).

The bourgeois government put a stop to tax increases, but increased funding for the health care and the elderly to cut queues. For this to come together, it cut down on a number of other areas, including aid to developing countries being reduced from 1.0 to 0.9 percent of GDP. The aid share of GDP has subsequently fallen to 0.87 percent (2015), but is still among the five highest in the world. By comparison, the contributions to the country’s two small autonomous countries Greenland and the Faroe Islands are 0.23 percent of GDP.

As a result of the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, in June 2002, Denmark tightened its preparedness against terrorism with a legislation called “Anti-terrorism package 1”. It was followed by the terrorist act in London in 2005 of “Anti-terrorism package 2”.

During the second half of 2002, Danish politics became dominated by the Danish Presidency of the EU during the decisive phase of the negotiations on the enlargement of the Union with ten new member states. After several compromises, the 13 old members were able to welcome the 10 new ones at the Copenhagen EU summit in December of the same year.

The government’s decision to participate in the 2003 US invasion of Iraq (see Foreign Policy and Defense) caused much criticism. Denmark has already participated in the NATO effort against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Fogh Rasmussen left after the 2005 election

Fogh Rasmussen’s government continued to receive support in the parliamentary elections in February 2005. The Left rebelled slightly, while the Conservative People’s Party and the Danish People’s Party went ahead. Radical left the best. Social democracy made its worst choice in 40 years. A former minister analyzed the decline like this: The Danish People’s Party has taken our workers, Radical left our intellectuals and Venstre our politics.

After the election, the focus was soon shifted back to Denmark’s military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and to the Danish view of Muslims and Islam. In September 2005, the Jyllands-Posten newspaper asked twelve subscribers to relate to the threats and violence committed in the name of Prophet Muhammad. Especially one of the drawings, which was said to represent the Prophet Muhammad dressed in a turban and with a bomb, aroused anger among many Muslims in Denmark and a few months later also abroad (see further Foreign Policy and Defense).

In 2006 and 2007, ten people (from three different groups) were sentenced to between five and twelve years in prison for preparations for terrorist acts and in one of the cases for threats against the Prime Minister and the Jewish population of Denmark. Most of them were Danish citizens of foreign origin.

New election adversity for the government

The November 2007 election became a hardship for Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen. Left went back again but remained the biggest party. The coalition partner Conservative People’s Party retained its mandate, and the support party Danish People’s Party increased slightly. Thus, the minority government could remain in power. The election’s big winner became the Socialist People’s Party, which more than doubled its number of seats.

Police powers were debated in 2008. At the beginning of the year, the security police arrested three people of North African descent suspected of murder plans against one of the Jutland Posten’s Mohammed cartoonists. The arrest of one of the arrested persons was tried and rejected by the Supreme Court.

Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen was elected Secretary-General of NATO in the spring of 2009 and succeeded as head of government by his party colleague, Finance Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. He was also elected new party chairman in Venstre.

The financial crisis is reaching Denmark

The political debate was dominated by economic issues. There was uncertainty in the outside world and the global economic crisis began to feel in Denmark as well. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank in 2008–2009 and property prices fell. The political debate was mainly about how tax and pension systems would be reformed. The asylum and immigration issue discussed how to deal with rejected asylum seekers and to some extent restrict immigration and improve integration.

In August 2009, the Social Democracy and Socialist People’s Party began a new collaboration aimed at the government after the next election. They proposed tax increases for high-income earners and lower taxes for low-income earners. The Social Democracy thus changed political partner after many years of cooperation with the Radical Left.

In early 2010, Løkke Rasmussen tried to make his own mark on the government through a major transformation. Defense Minister Søren Gade and six other ministers resigned, and Denmark got its first female foreign minister, Lene Espersen, and its first female defense minister, Gitte Lillelund Bech.

Savings packages receive criticism

Løkke Rasmussen’s government was subjected to harsh criticism from the left because of a savings package in the spring, with a halt to state and municipal spending increases. The aim was to meet the EU’s requirements for a limited budget deficit.

In the autumn, the prime minister launched an offensive against the immigrant-tight neighborhoods of the big cities, which he believed had been transformed into ghettos. In October, the government presented a plan to return the ghettos to society, as it was called. This included, among other things, better housing, better conditions for children and young people, help to move to other areas, increased police efforts against crime and immigration stops for immigrants.

In November 2010, the government and the Danish People’s Party agreed on a new foreign law, which included a contentious points system for immigrants. Well educated, linguistic and vocational people would sooner be granted permanent residence permits, similar to those in large immigrant countries such as Canada and Australia. The system was criticized as discriminatory and was abolished in May 2012.

Attestation plans against the Jutland Post and Politiken offices in Copenhagen were revealed and five suspects were arrested in Copenhagen and Stockholm at the end of 2010. According to the government, Denmark was the most serious terror threat to date.

In the spring of 2011, the government succeeded in agreeing with the Danish People’s Party and the Radical Left on long-term savings, which among other things meant worse pension conditions. The so-called early retirement pension for those who retire prematurely would be gradually reduced from five to three years, and the retirement age would be increased from 65 to 67 years, but not until 2022.

Negotiations continued on an economic growth package. On this issue, however, the government could not win the support of the Danish People’s Party, and the Prime Minister thus announced the parliamentary elections until September 15, 2011.

Denmark Modern History