Faroe Islands

Introduction The population of the Faroe Islands is largely descended from Viking settlers who arrived in the 9th century. The islands have been connected politically to Denmark since the 14th century. A high degree of self government was attained in 1948.
History

The early history of the Faroe Islands is not well known. Irish hermits (monks) settled in the sixth century, introducing sheep and oats and the early Irish language to the islands. Saint Brendan, who lived circa 484–578, is said to have visited the Faroe Islands on two or three occasions (512-530 AD), naming two of the islands Sheep Island and Paradise Island of Birds.

Later (~650 AD) the Vikings replaced the early Irish and their settlers, bringing the Old Norse language to the islands, which locally evolved into the modern Faroese language spoken today. The settlers are not thought to have come directly from Norway, but rather from the Norwegian settlements in Shetland, Orkney, and around the Irish Sea, and to have been so-called Norse-Gaels.

According to Færeyinga Saga, emigrants who left Norway to escape the tyranny of Harald I of Norway settled in the islands about the end of the ninth century. Early in the eleventh century, Sigmund, whose family had flourished in the southern islands but had been almost exterminated by invaders from the northern islands, escaped to Norway and was sent back to take possession of the islands for Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway. He introduced Christianity and, though he was subsequently murdered, Norwegian supremacy was upheld. Norwegian control of the islands continued until 1380, when Norway entered the Kalmar Union with Denmark, which gradually evolved into Danish control of the islands. The reformation reached the Faroes in 1538. When the union between Denmark and Norway was dissolved as a result of the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands.

The trade monopoly in the Faroe Islands was abolished in 1856 and the country has since then developed towards a modern fishing nation with its own fleet. The national awakening since 1888 was first based on a struggle for the Faroese language, and thus more culturally oriented, but after 1906 was more and more politically oriented with the foundation of the political parties of the Faroe Islands.

On April 12, 1940, the Faroes were occupied by British troops. The move followed the invasion of Denmark by Nazi Germany and had the objective of strengthening British control of the North Atlantic (see Second Battle of the Atlantic). In 1942–43 the British Royal Engineers built the only airport in the Faroes, Vágar Airport. Control of the islands reverted to Denmark following the war, but in 1948 a home-rule regime was implemented granting a high degree of local autonomy. The Faroes declined to join Denmark in entering the European Community (now European Union) in 1973. The islands experienced considerable economic difficulties following the collapse of the fishing industry in the early 1990s, but have since made efforts to diversify the economy. Support for independence has grown and is the objective of the government.

Geography Location: Northern Europe, island group between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about one-half of the way from Iceland to Norway
Geographic coordinates: 62 00 N, 7 00 W
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 1,399 sq km
land: 1,399 sq km
water: 0 sq km (some lakes and streams)
Area - comparative: eight times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 1,117 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm or agreed boundaries or median line
Climate: mild winters, cool summers; usually overcast; foggy, windy
Terrain: rugged, rocky, some low peaks; cliffs along most of coast
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Slaettaratindur 882 m
Natural resources: fish, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas
Land use: arable land: 2.14%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 97.86% (2005)
Irrigated land: 0 sq km
Natural hazards: NA
Environment - current issues: NA
Environment - international agreements: party to: Marine Dumping -associate member to the London Convention and Ship Pollution
Geography - note: archipelago of 17 inhabited islands and one uninhabited island, and a few uninhabited islets; strategically located along important sea lanes in northeastern Atlantic; precipitous terrain limits habitation to small coastal lowlands
Politics

The government of the Faroes holds the executive power in local government affairs. The head of the government is called the Løgmaður or prime minister in English. Any other member of the cabinet is called a landsstýrismaður.

Today, elections are held in the municipalities, on a national level for the Løgting, and inside the Kingdom of Denmark for the Folketing. For the Løgting elections there are seven electoral districts, each one comprising a sýsla, while Streymoy is divided into a northern and southern part (Tórshavn region).

The Faroes and Denmark

The Treaty of Kiel in 1814 terminated the Danish-Norwegian union. Norway came under the rule of the King of Sweden, but the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland remained as possessions of Denmark. Subsequently, the Løgting was abolished (1816), and the Faroe Islands were to be governed as a regular Danish amt, with the Amtmand as its head of government. In 1851 the Løgting was resurrected, but served mainly as an advisory power until 1948.

At the end of the Second World War a portion of the population favoured independence from Denmark, and on September 14, 1946 a public election was held on the question of secession. It is not considered a referendum, as the parliament was not bound to follow the decision of the vote. This was the first time that the Faroese people were asked if they favoured independence or if they wanted to continue as a part of the Danish kingdom. The outcome of the vote produced a small majority in favour of secession, but the coalition in parliament could not reach a resolution on how this election should be interpreted and implemented, and because of these irresolvable differences the coalition fell apart. A parliamentary election was held just a few months later, in which the political parties that favoured staying in the Danish kingdom increased their share of the vote and formed a coalition. Based on this increased share of the votes, they chose to reject secession. Instead, a compromise was made and the Folketing passed a home-rule law, which came into effect in 1948. The Faroe Islands' status as a Danish amt was brought to an end with the home-rule law; the Faroe Islands were given a high degree of self-governance, supported by a substantial annual subsidy from Denmark.

The islanders are about evenly split between those favouring independence and those who prefer to continue as a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Within both camps there is, however, a wide range of opinions. Of those who favour independence, some are in favour of an immediate unilateral declaration. Others see it as something to be attained gradually and with the full consent of the Danish government and the Danish nation. In the unionist camp there are also many who foresee and welcome a gradual increase in autonomy even as strong ties to Denmark are maintained.

The Faroes and the European Union

As explicitly asserted by both Rome treaties, the Faroe Islands are not part of the European Union. Moreover, a protocol to the treaty of accession of Denmark to the European Communities stipulates that Danish nationals residing in the Faroe Islands are not to be considered as Danish nationals within the meaning of the treaties. Hence, Danish people living in the Faroes are not citizens of the European Union. (Other EU nationals living there remain EU citizens.) The Faroes are not covered by the Schengen free movement agreement, but there are no border checks when travelling between the Faroes and any Schengen country since the Faroes are part of the Nordic Passport Union since 1966 and since 2001 there are no border checks between the Nordic and the rest of the Schengen area as part of the Schengen agreement.

People Population: 47,511 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 20.6% (male 4,882/female 4,904)
15-64 years: 65.3% (male 16,353/female 14,668)
65 years and over: 14.1% (male 3,041/female 3,663) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 35 years
male: 34.8 years
female: 35.3 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.543% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 14.12 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 8.69 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 0.996 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.115 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 1.045 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.01 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.25 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.49 years
male: 76.06 years
female: 82.93 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.15 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: NA
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Faroese (singular and plural)
adjective: Faroese
Ethnic groups: Scandinavian
Religions: Evangelical Lutheran
Languages: Faroese (derived from Old Norse), Danish
Literacy: definition: NA
total population: NA%
male: NA%
female: NA%
note: probably 100%, the same as Denmark proper
Government Country name: conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Faroe Islands
local long form: none
local short form: Foroyar
Dependency status: part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark since 1948
Government type: NA
Capital: name: Torshavn
geographic coordinates: 62 01 N, 6 46 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: none (part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 34 municipalities
Independence: none (part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark)
National holiday: Olaifest (Olavasoka), 29 July
Constitution: 5 June 1953 (Danish constitution)
Legal system: the laws of Denmark, where applicable, apply
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Queen MARGRETHE II of Denmark (since 14 January 1972), represented by High Commissioner Birgit KLEIS, chief administrative officer (since 1 November 2001)
head of government: Prime Minister Joannes EIDESGAARD (since 3 February 2004)
cabinet: Landsstyri appointed by the prime minister
elections: the monarch is hereditary; high commissioner appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually elected prime minister by the Faroese Parliament; election last held 20 January 2004 (next to be held no later than January 2008)
election results: Joannes EIDESGAARD elected prime minister; percent of parliamentary vote - NA
Legislative branch: unicameral Faroese Parliament or Logting (33 seats; members are elected by popular vote on a proportional basis from the seven constituencies to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 19 January 2008 (next to be held no later than January 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - Union Party 21%, Social Democratic Party 19.4%, Republican Party 23.3%, People's Party 20.1%, Center Party 8.4%, Self-Government Party 7.2%, other 0.6%; seats by party - Republican Party 8, Union Party 7, Social Democratic Party 6, People's Party 7, Center Party 3, Independence Party 2
note: election of two seats to the Danish Parliament was last held on 13 November 2007 (next to be held no later than November 2011); results - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Republican Party 1, Union Party 1
Judicial branch: none
Political parties and leaders: Center Party [Jenis A. RANA]; Independence Party [Kari P. HOJGAARD]; People's Party [Jorgen NICLASEN]; Republican Party [Hogni HOYDAL]; Social Democratic Party [Joannes EIDESGAARD]; Union Party [Kaj Leo JOHANNESEN]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: Arctic Council, IMO (associate), NC, NIB, UPU
Diplomatic representation in the US: none (self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark)
Diplomatic representation from the US: none (self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark)
Flag description: white with a red cross outlined in blue extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted toward the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag)
Culture Culture of the Faroe Islands has its roots in the Nordic culture. The Faroe Islands were long isolated from the main cultural phases and movements that swept across parts of Europe. This means that they have maintained a great part of their traditional culture. The language spoken is Faroese. It is one of three insular Scandinavian languages descended from the Old Norse language spoken in Scandinavia in the Viking Age, the others being Icelandic and the extinct Norn, which is thought to have been mutually intelligible with Faroese. Until the 15th century, Faroese had a similar orthography to Icelandic and Norwegian, but after the Reformation 1538, the ruling Danes outlawed its use in schools, churches and official documents. This maintained a rich spoken tradition, but for 300 years the language was not written down. This means that all poems and stories were handed down orally. These works were split into the following divisions: sagnir (historical), ævintyr (stories) and kvæði (ballads), often set to music and the mediaeval chain dance). These were eventually written down in the 19th century.
Economy Economy - overview: The Faroese economy is dependent on fishing, which makes the economy vulnerable to price swings. Since 2003 the Faroese economy has picked up as a result of higher prices for fish and for housing. Unemployment is minimal and government finances are relatively sound. Oil finds close to the Islands give hope for economically recoverable deposits, which could eventually lay the basis for a more diversified economy and lessen dependence on Danish economic assistance. Aided by a substantial annual subsidy (about 15% of GDP) from Denmark, the Faroese have a standard of living not far below the Danes and other Scandinavians.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $1 billion (2001 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $1.7 billion (2005 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 2.4% (2005 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $31,000 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 27%
industry: 11%
services: 62% (1999)
Labor force: 24,250 (October 2000)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 33%
industry: 33%
services: 34% (October 2000)
Unemployment rate: 2.1% (2006)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.8% (2005)
Budget: revenues: $588 million
expenditures: $623 million (2005)
Agriculture - products: milk, potatoes, vegetables; sheep; salmon, other fish
Industries: fishing, fish processing, small ship repair and refurbishment, handicrafts
Industrial production growth rate: 8% (1999 est.)
Electricity - production: 290 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 62.4%
hydro: 37.6%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 269.7 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 4,600 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 0 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 4,580 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Exports: $634 million f.o.b. (2006)
Exports - commodities: fish and fish products 94%, stamps, ships (1999)
Exports - partners: Denmark 31%, UK 27.4%, Norway 10.3%, Nigeria 9.5%, Netherlands 5.6% (2006)
Imports: $751 million c.i.f. (2006)
Imports - commodities: consumer goods 36%, raw materials and semi-manufactures 32%, machinery and transport equipment 29%, fuels, fish, salt (1999)
Imports - partners: Denmark 52.6%, Norway 20.7%, Iceland 6.1%, Sweden 4.3% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $105 million; note - annual subsidy from Denmark (2005)
Debt - external: $64 million (1999)
Currency (code): Danish krone (DKK)
Currency code: DKK
Exchange rates: Danish kroner per US dollar - 5.4797 (2007), 5.9468 (2006), 5.9969 (2005), 5.9911 (2004), 6.5877 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 23,000 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 50,000 (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: good international communications; good domestic facilities
domestic: digitalization was completed in 1998; both NMT (analog) and GSM (digital) mobile telephone systems are installed
international: country code - 298; satellite earth stations - 1 Orion; 1 fiber-optic submarine cable to the Shetland Islands, linking the Faroe Islands with Denmark and Iceland; fiber-optic submarine cable connection to Canada-Europe cable
Radio broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 13, shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios: 26,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 3 (plus 43 repeaters) (September 1995)
Televisions: 15,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .fo
Internet hosts: 8,490 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 2 (2000)
Internet users: 34,000 (2006)
Transportation Airports: 1 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 463 km (2006)
Merchant marine: total: 16 ships (1000 GRT or over) 92,454 GRT/63,291 DWT
by type: cargo 10, container 2, passenger/cargo 3, petroleum tanker 1
foreign-owned: 8 (Iceland 4, Norway 4) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Torshavn, Vagur
Military Military branches: no regular military forces
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 10,695 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 8,852 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 366 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: NA
Military - note: defense is the responsibility of Denmark
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: because anticipated offshore hydrocarbon resources have not been realized, earlier Faroese proposals for full independence have been deferred; Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm