Denmark's foreign policy

Just after World War II Denmark was invited to the inaugural meeting of the United Nations which it joined in 1945. By joining NATO in 1949, Denmark cooperated with its Western allies and obtained security through international cooperation.

During the cold war the division of East and West Germany posed a security threat to Denmark due to its close proximity. The Copenhagen-Bonn accord of 1955, which safeguarded Danish and German minorities in Southern Jutland and Northern Schleswig’s civil rights, proved that German and Danish relations could be solved quickly, but the unrest in Germany could pose continued security issues to Denmark.


Denmark was one of 12 founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 along with Belgium, Canada, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

During the Cold War, Danish foreign policy was more limited and Denmark developed a more hands-off approach. Following the Cold War, however, there was an ideological switch, and Denmark strived to cooperate in a liberal world economy while pursuing an international united front. 

Since its establishment, NATO has remained the foundation of Danish Security and Defense Policy. After the Cold War, Denmark has benefited from organizations such as NATO, the UN, the EU and OSCE to protect its security and political interests while supporting peace and human rights. 

Through NATO, Denmark has provided military support through forces and troops to operations including KFOR (Kosovo Force), NTMI (NATO Training Mission), Operation Active Endeavor, Counter-piracy support in the Horn of Africa, AMIS (African Union Mission in Sudan), and ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces). 

Danish defence forces include The Army Operation Command Denmark (Army), Admiral Danish Fleet (Navy), Tactical Air Command (Air Force), Joint Services, and the Home Guard. The Danish Defence Agreement, which was drafted in 2004, states that the goal of Danish foreign and security policies is to work towards international peace and security as designated in the UN Charter. 

OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation)

Denmark formally joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation on 30 May 1961. The purpose of the OECD is to advocate for policies that will develop the economic and social welfare of people across the globe. The OECD gives governments a chance to work together to discuss situations and find solutions to universal problems. The OECD measures data to interpret economic, environmental and social changes, and this data is then analyzed to anticipate forthcoming trends. The OECD sets international standards on a broad range of things, such as agriculture taxes and the safety of chemicals. 

OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)

The OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) is the world’s largest regional security organization. Denmark was admitted into the OSCE on 25 June 1973. Denmark signed The Helsinki Accords on 1 August 1975. The Helsinki Accords was the last act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The goal of the accords was to better the relations between the Communist bloc with the West. Along with The Helsinki Accords, the Charter of Paris for a New Europe (also known as the Paris Charter) laid the foundation for the establishment of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Charter was signed by Denmark on 21 November 1990 and was rooted in the basis of The Helsinki Accords. Together, the Helsinki Accords and the Paris Charter established the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. 

The OSCE works to promote unity and democracy through its 57 participating states as a gathering for countries to discuss issues such as security and economic developments. The OSCE is headquartered in Vienna, with an office in Copenhagen. 

United Nations 

Denmark joined the United Nations on 24 October 1945 as one of the first members of the UN. The Trustee Council chamber in New York was designed by renowned Danish architect Finn Juhl. Denmark first worked with the World Health Organization (WHO), and a host country agreement was established in 1956. Denmark is one of only a small number of countries that meets the United Nations goal of allocating at least 0.7 percent of national GDP income towards development assistance. 

Currently, 11 other agencies have offices in Denmark, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Organization for Immigration (IOM). 

Nordic Council 

The Nordic Council was founded in 1952 and includes the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The Faroe Islands, Greenland, and the Åland Islands are also represented. The 87 representatives from the countries are Members of Parliament from their country and are elected into the Nordic Council from their Parliaments, with the headquarters of the Council located in Copenhagen. The Council meets every year in October or November, with an extra session occurring once a year in April with a special theme. 

Through the Nordic Council, measures such as the Nordic labour market, which passed in 1954, a Nordic Convention on Social Security, which was established in 1955, and the Nordic Passport Union which was implemented in 1958. 

A desire for full economic cooperation amongst the Nordic nations was contemplated with Danish Prime Minister Hilmar Baunsgaard’s proposal of Nordek in 1968, but Nordek ultimately failed as Finland still had financial ties with the Soviet Union. 

The goal of the Nordic Council is to encourage democracy, development, and partnership amongst the Nordic states. The President of the Council changes each year between the member states, and the regular meeting is held in the country who has the presidency at that time.

In Denmark, the Nordic Council’s delegation comprises of 20 members; 16 are from the Danish Parliament (Folketinget), two are from the Faroe Islands and two are from Greenland. Members of the Danish delegation are selected at the start of the parliamentary year. The delegation also selects a Chairperson and a Vice-Chairperson.  

The Danish delegation works within the committees as well as bringing questions up to the Nordic ministers and governments. Each year, the Nordic Council’s work is examined in the Danish Parliament as part of a deliberation that comes from a report on the Nordic Council’s work which is drafted by the Minister for Nordic Collaboration. 

The European Union

The European Economic Community, which started as a regional organization with the goal to lead economic integration amongst its members was initially created through the Treaty of Rome of 1957. Denmark applied to join the European Economic Community on 10 August 1961, wanting to secure its agricultural exports to the United Kingdom. Because Denmark, along with Ireland, were so economically tied to the UK, joining the EEC was deemed necessary if the UK joined.
Denmark was initially hesitant in becoming a member of the European Community. Worried that joining would cause harm to the Scandinavian democratic and social pattern, Denmark voted on whether to join the European Economic Community (EEC) or not in October 1972. The referenda passed, with 63.4% of voters voting ‘yes’, and 36.6% voting ‘no’ with a turnout of 90.1% of citizens.