Public Diplomacy


The end of WWII marked a significant change in modern Danish public diplomacy. After suffering from Nazi occupation, Denmark realized that it could no longer cling to its small state ideology and remain neutral in global affairs.

As a result, Denmark’s public diplomacy focuses on national security, a strong economy, and the promotion of its high moral standards of right and wrong. To accomplish these goals, Denmark acts within four institutions that are the principal cornerstones of its foreign policy and public diplomacy: the EU, NATO, the UN/development assistance, and the Nordic Council.

Vital Information

Map of Denmark

  • Capital - Copenhagen
  • Population - 5,450,661 (July 2006 est.)
  • Government – Constitutional Monarchy
  • Queen Margrethe II
  • Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen

Government Agencies

Office of the Prime Minister

Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Culture Minister of Denmark

International Broadcasting

Danish Broadcasting Corporation

TV2 Danmark

Radio Denmark

Historical Background

Denmark and the EU

Since the beginning of a unified Europe, Danes have developed a reputation as “reluctant Europeans.” As a small state with a homogenous society, Denmark is very suspicious of European integration. Preservation of national identity, protecting the welfare state, and economic uncertainty are all factors that contribute to this reluctance.

Denmark’s Europhobia is illustrated through a history of national referenda on European integration, beginning with the Treaty of Rome in 1957. This treaty created the European Economic Community (EEC) and jumpstarted the European project.

Denmark declined to sign the Treaty of Rome because it was afraid the treaty would jeopardize a number of fledgling domestic social and economic reforms.

It wasn’t until 1972 that Denmark finally joined the EEC. Danish voters approved the treaty along economic lines after Britain, who was Denmark’s largest trading partner, received membership into the club.

The passage of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 transformed the EEC into the European Union, which permanently altered the nature of the original European agreement from solely an economic pact to a political union. This alteration bolstered Danish opposition towards further European integration. As a result, Danish voters immediately rejected the Maastricht Treaty to protect their sovereignty from the newly granted supranational authority of the EU.

However, Danish voters eventually agreed that they would approve the Maastricht Treaty if the EU granted them four opt-outs from the pact, in what became known as the Edinburgh Agreement. The opt-outs concerned the following areas:

1. Economic and Monetary Union

A set of Danish coins called "kroner"

Denmark will not adopt the Euro and participate in the third phase of Economic and Monetary Union. Denmark wanted to retain its currency because it was linked to national identity and economic security. Danes felt they would lose control over their economic policies if they converted to the Euro.

2. Union Citizenship Denmark will declare that union citizenship is a supplement to national citizenship and not a replacement.

3. Common Defense Denmark will not participate in the preparation and implementation of European actions with defense implications. Denmark refuses to be drawn into a large conflict led by the EU. Its primary security policy lies with NATO and Danes are interested in maintaining security cooperation across the Atlantic. Much of this is because Denmark feels it has more influence in NATO than it would in any EU security arrangement.

4. Justice and Home Affairs Denmark will only participate in EU judicial cooperation at an intergovernmental level. This means that Denmark is precluded from taking part in certain areas of EU judicial cooperation. Denmark didn’t want to soften their immigration policies. Its welfare state could wrongly be taken advantage of by losing control over immigration.

The opt-outs were approved and Danish voters passed the Maastricht Treaty, officially placing Denmark in the European Union in 1993.

Today, Denmark remains cautious of further European integration. They rejected the Amsterdam Treaty in 2000, which would have adopted the Euro in Denmark, and rejected it again in 2002. The Euro has yet to emerge in Denmark and adopting the currency remains a divisive issue today.

Denmark and NATO

Denmark has been a dedicated member of NATO since its founding in 1949, and membership remains very popular with the public. Over the years, NATO has become the central pillar and the ultimate guarantor of Danish security, and is the basis for Danish security cooperation across the Atlantic.

Denmark is also one of NATO’s strongest proponents for international peacekeeping. Danish forces were heavily engaged in the former Yugoslavia in the UN Protection Force as well as in NATO's Operation Joint Endeavor/Stabilization Force in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Kosovo.

Since 9/11, Denmark has been a staunch supporter of the global war on terror. It has contributed substantially to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and is planning on increasing troop levels to that region in 2008. In 2003, Denmark was among the first countries to join the "Coalition of the Willing," providing 500 troops to assist the coalition’s efforts in Iraq.

Denmark and the UN

Participation in the United Nations is one of the cornerstones of Danish foreign policy and public diplomacy. Denmark attaches particular importance to the role of the UN in common security, peacekeeping, democracy, environmental protection and most importantly, human rights.

Approximately 45 per cent of Danish development assistance is channelled through multilateral institutions, including the UN. Denmark is one of the largest contributors to many of the UN development funds and programs.

Since 1948, Denmark has had observers in more than 20 UN observer missions. Danish soldiers were also involved in large-scale peacekeeping operations for the UN on a number of occasions, including Bosnia and Croatia. Furthermore, Denmark is host to the Multinational Standby High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG), which provides the UN with a well-prepared, rapidly deployable international force for peacekeeping operations mandated by the UN Security Council.

Denmark and the North

Denmark’s relationship with its Nordic neighbors is critical to its public diplomacy. A common history, culture and language bind many Danes to a shared identity with Scandinavia.

Much of Denmark’s public diplomacy in the North is conducted through the [Nordic Council], which is a cooperation forum for the parliaments and governments in the Nordic countries. It was established after WWII and launched a common labor market, social security reforms, and free movement across borders for Nordic citizens. This long-standing tradition of cooperation has created close ties between Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia.

One of Denmark’s greatest public diplomacy challenges is to combine this community with its European policy. The Nordic countries’ EU policies differ significantly mostly because Norway, Iceland, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands are outside the EU. There are also cultural reasons for policy differences between Scandinavia and Europe. To Denmark, being Scandinavian is about being “better” than Europe. It’s about upholding a higher moral standard at home and abroad.

Danish Public Diplomacy

A majority of Danish public diplomacy is coordinated through the Danish Foreign Ministry. The department is well-funded to maximize the promotion of Danish values abroad, usually amounting to development aid.


Because of Denmark’s strong moral values, Danish public diplomacy places particular importance on development assistance to the Third World. The Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) is the organization within the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs that is responsible for this task.

Since 2001, the Danish Government has worked consistently to ensure that its development assistance reflects current global development challenges. DANIDA’s primary focus is to reduce poverty around the world and provide critical investments in health, education, and infrastructure to fulfill that pledge.

Denmark also places special emphasis on human rights and equal opportunity for women, stressing the vital role they play in the development process.

Today, Africa south of Sahara remains the main recipient of Danish aid, accounting for 60 percent of total aid given by DANIDA.


Danish NGO's also play a pivotal role in Denmark's public diplomacy. They have achieved special status as important partners for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in implementing Danish humanitarian assistance.

Government allocations through Danish NGOs amounted to a total of DKK 402.3 million, which is approximately 36.4 pct. of total Danish humanitarian assistance and 3.7 pct. of total development assistance. Denmark rarely grants humanitarian assistance through non-Danish NGOs to ensure that its strict moral standards are met.

Danish Cartoon Crisis

Muslim Protestors in Palestine

The Danish cartoon crisis presented Denmark with one of its greatest public diplomacy challenges since WWII. The controversy began in September 2005, when Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten published 12 editorial cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, which broke the Islamic taboo against creating visual images of the prophet. Moreover, the cartoons themselves not only violated this taboo but depicted the prophet in several satiric and/or insulting scenarios, enraging Muslims around the globe. The most controversial of these images featured a picture of the prophet with a bomb in his turban, which many Muslims argued falsely equated Islam with terrorism. The newspaper argued that the publication was an exercise in free speech and a contribution to the debate regarding criticism of Islam and self-censorship.

The controversy worsened when newspapers around the globe reprinted these and other cartoons satirizing Muhammad. This led to massive protests across the Muslim world, some of them violent, including setting fire to the Norwegian and Danish Embassies in Syria, and the storming of European buildings and desecration of the Danish and German flags in cities around the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.

While a number of Muslim leaders called for protesters to remain peaceful, other radical Muslim leaders, including Mahmoud al-Zahar of Hamas, issued death threats. Furthermore, consumer boycotts targeted Danish companies such as Lego and dairy maker, Arla. These boycotts cost Denmark billions of dollars in revenue.

In the West, newspapers throughout Europe published the cartoons as a show of solidarity. Groups supportive of the Jyllands-Posten and Danish policies, promoted "Buy Danish" campaigns and other displays of support for free speech in Denmark.


A group of Pakistani students burning the Danish flag

Denmark has become increasingly sensitive about its image abroad after the cartoon controversy. As a result, the Danish government has implemented a public diplomacy campaign using a number of programs and cross-cultural dialogues designed to repair the damage.

Danish state channel DR2, employed a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf to present a TV program that stressed the importance of “respect towards different thoughts and beliefs." A Palestinian by descent, Asmaa Abdulhamid hosted the eight week program that featured a guest each week to discuss the importance of cross-cultural understanding.

Denmark also hosted a conference with Muslim preachers and scholars that increased calls for dialogue. The Danish Foreign Ministry funded the conference, which featured Amr Khaled, a 38-year-old preacher from Egypt who has developed a large following among young Muslims and women for his youthful style and sermons that apply Islam to the issues of modern life. Mr. Khaled sought to emphasize that we are here to build bridges for dialogue, and suggested that a continuing boycott of Danish goods in Arab countries could stop if Danes and their government reached out to Muslims.

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the cartoon crisis underlined the need for a marketing campaign to boost Denmark's image abroad. The Danish government will spend $74 million over the next four years on a public-relations campaign designed to boost Denmark’s image as well as attract tourists and foreign investment.

The cartoon crisis continues to be a critical symbol of the hurdles to dialogue and public diplomacy between Western and Middle Eastern countries.

Websites About the Cartoons

Support Denmark

“Why I published Those Cartoons”

Further Reading

Useful Links

Public Diplomacy Watch