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Denmark/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

The only official recognised minority in Denmark is the German minority living immediately north of the Danish-German Border. It is difficult to determine the precise size of the minority, for the control of matters relating to the minority has not been permitted since the Copenhagen-Bonn Declaration in 1955. However, it is estimated that the minority has 15-20 000 members in North Schleswig. Of a total population of 250 000 in the region, this number corresponds to a segment of 6-8% of the population.

The German minority in North Schleswig runs its own private schools and a wide spectrum of social and cultural institutions. The minority, although marked by the many changes of history, today plays an important part in the borderland. Previous conflicts have been overcome, and the German minority, together with the minorities south of the border, is a good example of peaceful co-existence of minorities and majorities in Europe.

Bund Deutscher Nordschleswiger (the association of North Schleswigers) is the German minority's central organisation. Its objective is to promote and develop further the German language and culture in North Schleswig. At the same time, the minority wants to act as a bridge between Denmark and Germany and as a bridge to Europe (Further information see:

Within the framework of the United Kingdom of Denmark (Rigsfællesskabet), the Faeroe Islands and Greenland have extensive freedom to improve, manage and finance their internal affairs, i.e. public cultural policy. The Faeroe Islands is an autonomous nation within the realm of the Danish National State of Denmark, governed by the Lagtinget (Parliament) and Landsstyret (the government). Pursuant to the Faeroese Home Rule Act of 1948, the government is in charge of cultural affairs. Consequently, the parliament legislates, while administration of the cultural fields is the responsibility of the Faeroese Home Rule Government.

Similarly, Greenland is an autonomous nation within the realm of Denmark. By establishment of the Home Rule Government in 1979, Greenland took over the responsibility for its own libraries, archives, museums, art institutions, high schools, Greenland Radio / TV and the church. The common constitution of the United Kingdom of Denmark primarily manifests itself in the common royal house, common currency and common foreign policy.

On 21 June 2004, The Danish and the Greenlandic Home Rule Government appointed The Greenland-Danish Commission on Self-Governance. The purpose was to consider how the Greenlandic authorities could take over more competences, especially in the economic field, from Denmark (see:,,

The Greenlandic self-government system

On 21 June 2009, the Law on Greenland's Self Government (Self-Government Act) came into force, which superseded the Greenland Home Rule system. The Act is based on the Greenlandic-Danish Self-Government Commission report No. 1497 from 2008 which is available at

Before the new law came into effect, a consultative referendum was held in Greenland on 25 November 2008. Of the votes cast, were 75.5% and 23.6% opposed the introduction of self-government. (Author: the last part highlighted is not clear, please clarify.

The new law increases the Greenlandic people's autonomy to the greatest extent possible within the existing national community. The Self-Government Act's preamble recognises that the Greenlandic people are a people under international law with the right to self-determination. The Act is accordingly based on an agreement between the Greenland Self-Government and the Danish government as equal partners.

A main objective of the introduction of self-government has been to enable a transfer of additional powers and thus responsibility for Greenland authorities, where this is constitutionally possible, and the principle of conformity between rights and responsibilities.

The Autonomy Law recognises the Greenlandic language as the official language of Greenland. Danish must still be used in public affairs and in public administration. The question of instruction in Danish is not regulated by the Autonomy Law, but it is assumed that instruction in Danish and other relevant languages would qualify Greenlandic youth for further education in Denmark and other countries.

Under the Home Rule Act, Greenland has already taken over the legislative and administrative authority in a significant proportion of areas, such as cultural policy, that affect the Greenlandic people's daily lives.

The new Autonomy Law implies that Greenland may decide to acquire a new set of responsibilities, including procedural law (including the establishment of courts), prisons, police force, corporate accounting and auditing, the mining industry, aviation, personal law, family and succession law, immigration and border controls, workplace law, and financial regulation and supervision, as listed in section II of the Annex to the Autonomy Law.

In 2008, Denmark received refugees from around 70 countries in the world. The biggest population groups are from the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Iran and the stateless Lebanese from Palestine. In total, 8.4% of the Danish population have a foreign background; this amounts to 452 095 people – 39% of whom are Danish citizens - of a total population of 5 million.

One of the main priorities in the new governmental programme A Denmark That Stands Together amended October 2011 is to implement a more open identity and integration policy (see chapter 4.1).

This also poses new challenges to the formation of art policy: How can arts policies, on the one hand, take into account the different traditions and form cultural expressions in multicultural societies and, at the same time, avoid a cultural stigmatisation of minority groups?

Many second generation migrants experience cultural stigmatisation, often within families, but also by a romanticised cultural policy which concentrates on their original cultural patterns and folkloristic artistic expressions. Artists with a different cultural background, to a high degree, prefer to be regarded on an equal footing with other citizens, but also wish to experience the right to participate in cultural life, to protect and develop cultural and linguistic identities, to create their own artistic expressions etc. But most of the migrant artists do not want to be locked into cultural or artistic norms of the past, by their families or by a regressive, stigmatising multicultural cultural policy. A romanticising cultural policy can be displayed by their own ethno-national minority community as much as by the national artistic conventions of the majority culture. This emerges strongly in, for example, the young Greenland artists who were forced into an ethno-national straight-jacket, knitted by the first Greenland cultural policy after home rule was established in 1979.

These huge challenges to cultural policy have been integrated, in 2008, in the Danish Arts Councils new plan of action 2007-2011. The main priority decided by the Councils, to meet these challenges and to create a coherent and progressive development of Danish Arts Policy for the future, is among other priorities to include more artists with a non-Danish ethnic background (see chapter 5.1.3).

Other targeted measures and support programmes to give migrants and minorities a voice in and access to the cultural landscape are:

  • setting up the Council for Ethnic Minorities (Rådet for Etniske Minoriteter / REM). The council serves as an advisor for integration in the local municipalities and it consists of ethnic minorities that are contributing to the creation of prosperous dialogues and exchange of experiences for mutual inspiration in the local area. The council has shown great potential in educating new citizens on how Danish citizenship works in practice; and
  • the Danish Royal Theatre's initiative to support refugees and Danes with an immigrant background. With a donation from the Bikuben Foundation, tickets can be purchased for reduced prices, in order to attract audiences who would not normally visit the theatre very often. In spite of this well-meaning initiative, audiences have not grown in this sector.

See also  chapter 3.4.5,  chapter 3.4.6 chapter 4.1, chapter 4.2.2,  chapter 5.1.1 and  chapter 8.3.3.

Chapter published: 10-04-2012

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