Denmark (dĕn´märk), Dan. Danmark, officially Kingdom of Denmark, kingdom (2005 est. pop. 5,432,000), 16,629 sq mi (43,069 sq km), N Europe. It borders on Germany in the south, the North Sea in the west, the Skagerrak in the north, and the Kattegat and the Øresund in the east. Copenhagen is Denmark's capital, largest city, and chief industrial center. In addition to the capital, other important cities include Ålborg, Århus, Esbjerg, Frederiksberg and Gentofte (suburbs of Copenhagen), Lyngby, Odense, and Roskilde.
Land and People
The southernmost of the Scandinavian countries, Denmark proper includes most of the Jutland peninsula; several major islands, notably Sjælland, Fyn, Lolland, Falster, Langeland, Als, Møn, Bornholm, and Amager; and about 450 other islands. The Faeroe Islands and Greenland, in the North Atlantic, are self-governing dependencies within the Danish realm. A part of the European plain, the country is almost entirely low-lying, and more than half of its land area is cultivated. The North Atlantic Drift (a warm ocean current) usually ensures a relatively mild climate, but occasionally ice closes the Baltic Sea, thus cutting off warmer waters and making the winter quite severe.
In addition to Denmark's Scandinavian majority, there are Eskimo, Faeroese, and German, minorities and, more recently, Turkish, Iranian, and Somali immigrants. Almost all the inhabitants of Denmark speak Danish (there are several dialects), and Faeroese, Greenlandic (an Eskimo dialect), and German are also spoken. The great majority of Danes belong to the established Lutheran Church; there are small minorities of other Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Muslims.
Once essentially an agricultural country and still possessing a visibly rural landscape, Denmark after 1945 greatly expanded its industrial base so that by 2006 industry contributed about 25% of the gross domestic product and agriculture less than 2% (Denmark's other traditional industries of fishing and shipbuilding have also declined). Financial and other services, trade, transportation, and communications are also important.
The main commodities raised are livestock (pigs, cattle, and poultry), root crops (potatoes and sugar beets), and cereals (barley, wheat, and oats). There is a large fishing industry, and Denmark possesses a commercial shipping fleet of considerable size. The leading industries include food processing (especially meat and dairy goods) and shipbuilding and the manufacture of iron and steel, nonferrous metals, chemicals, machinery and transportation equipment, textiles and clothing, electronics, furniture and other wood products, windmills, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment. Metal products are made almost entirely from imported raw materials, as Denmark has scant mineral resources. Tourism is also a substantial industry.
Denmark's main exports are processed foods, agricultural and industrial machinery, pharmaceuticals, furniture, and windmills; the chief imports are machinery and equipment, raw materials, chemicals, grain and foodstuffs, and consumer goods. The country's leading trade partners are Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, and other European Union countries.
Denmark is a constitutional monarchy governed under the constitution of 1953. The monarch is the head of state. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the monarch with the approval of the People's Assembly. The 179 members of the unicameral People's Assembly or Folketing are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. Administratively, Denmark proper is divided into five regions, which are subdivided into 98 municipalities.
Ancient History to 1448
The Danes probably settled Jutland by c.10,000 BC and later (2d millennium BC) developed a Bronze Age culture there. However, little is known of Danish history before the age of the Vikings (9th–11th cent. AD), when the Danes had an important role in the Viking (or Norse) raids on Western Europe and were prominent among the invaders of England who were opposed by King Alfred (reigned 871–99) and his successors. St. Ansgar (801–65) helped convert the Danes to Christianity; Harold Bluetooth (d. c.985) was the first Christian king of Denmark. His son, Sweyn (reigned c.986–1014), conquered England. From 1018 to 1035, Denmark, England, and Norway were united under King Canute (Knut). The southern part of Sweden (Skåne, Halland, and Blekinge) was, with brief interruptions, part of Denmark until 1658.
After Canute's death, Denmark fell into a period of turmoil and civil war. Later, Waldemar I (reigned 1157–82) and Waldemar II (reigned 1202–41) were energetic rulers who established Danish hegemony over N Europe. With the end of the Viking raids and the development of a strong and independent church, the nobles were able to impose their will on the weaker kings. In 1282, Eric V (reigned 1259–86) was forced to submit to the Great Charter, which established annual parliaments and a council of nobles who shared the king's power. This form of government persisted until 1660.
Waldemar IV (reigned 1340–75) again brought Danish power to a high point, but he was humiliated by the Hanseatic League in the Treaty of Stralsund (1370). Waldemar's daughter, Queen Margaret, achieved (1397) the union of the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish crowns in her person (see Kalmar Union). Sweden soon escaped effective Danish rule, and with the accession (1523) of Gustavus I of Sweden the union was dissolved. However, the union with Norway lasted until 1814.
Denmark and Norway
In 1448, Christian I became king and established on the Danish throne the house of Oldenburg, from which the present ruling family (Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg) is descended. He also united (1460) Schleswig and Holstein with the Danish crown. The Reformation (early 16th cent.) gradually gained adherents in Denmark, and during the reign of Christian III (1534–59) Lutheranism became the established religion. In the late 16th and early 17th cent., Denmark had a brilliant court, with a brisk intellectual and cultural life; the astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) was a major figure, and the Danish Renaissance style of architecture (strongly influenced by that of the Low Countries) was developed.
The division of power in Denmark between the king and the nobles seriously handicapped the country's attempt to gain supremacy in the Baltic region. Denmark was involved in numerous wars with Sweden and other neighbors; the participation of Christian IV (reigned 1588–1648) in the Thirty Years War (1618–48) and the wars of Frederick III (reigned 1648–70) with Sweden caused Denmark to lose its hegemony in the north to Sweden. The Danish-Swedish Treaty of Copenhagen (1660) confirmed most of the Danish losses imposed by the Treaty of Roskilde (1658).
The wars weakened the nobility by reducing its numbers and strengthened the monarchy by increasing the power and importance of the royal army. Frederick III and Christian V (reigned 1670–99), aided by their minister Count Griffenfeld, were able to make the kingdom an absolute monarchy with the support of the peasants and townspeople. Denmark maintained an imperial status by continuing to rule over Iceland and by establishing (late 17th cent.) the Danish West Indies (see Virgin Islands). In the Northern War (1720–21) against Charles XII of Sweden, Frederick IV (reigned 1699–1730) gained some financial awards and the union of ducal Schleswig with royal Schleswig.
The later 18th cent. was marked by important social reforms carried out by the ministers Johann Hartwig Ernst Bernstorff, Andreas Peter Bernstorff, and Johann Friedrich Struensee. Serfdom was abolished (1788), and peasant proprietorship was encouraged. In the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Denmark, having sided with Napoleon I, was twice attacked by England (see Copenhagen, battle of; Copenhagen). By the Treaty of Kiel (1814), Denmark lost Norway to Sweden and Helgoland to England, but retained possession of Greenland, the Faeroe Islands, and Iceland.
1814 to the Present
In the early 19th cent., Denmark's modern system of public education was started, and there was a flowering of literature and philosophy (led by Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard). As a result of plans for a liberal, centralized constitution, Frederick VII (reigned 1848–63) became involved in a war with Prussia (1848–50) over the status of Schleswig-Holstein. Denmark was defeated and agreed in the London Protocol of 1852 to preserve a special status for the two duchies. In the meantime, a new constitution was promulgated (1849), ending the absolute monarchy and establishing wide suffrage.
The new government attempted (1855) to incorporate Schleswig into the Danish constitutional system, and soon after the accession (1863) of Christian IX war broke out again (1864), this time with Prussia and Austria. Denmark was defeated badly and lost Schleswig-Holstein. This loss of about one third of the Danish territory was, however, offset by great economic gains that transformed Denmark, in the second half of the 19th cent., from a land of poor peasants into the nation with the most prosperous small farmers in Europe. This change was achieved largely by persuading the farmers to specialize in dairy and pork products rather than in grain (which was more expensive to produce than the grain imported from the United States). The folk high schools, originated by N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783–1872), played an important role in reeducating the Danish farmers. At the same time, the cooperative movement flourished in Denmark. Electoral reforms (1914–15) granted suffrage to the lower classes and to women and strengthened the lower chamber of the legislature.
Denmark remained neutral in World War I and recovered North Schleswig after a plebiscite in 1920. In the interwar period and after World War II, Denmark adopted much social welfare legislation and a system of progressive taxation. Although the Social Democratic government of Denmark had signed a 10-year nonaggression pact with Germany in 1939, the country was occupied by German forces in Apr., 1940. Christian X (reigned 1912–47) and his government remained, but in Aug., 1943, the Germans established martial law, arrested the government, and placed the king under house arrest.
Most of the Jewish population (including refugees from other countries) escaped, with Danish help, to Sweden. Among the escapees was Neils Bohr, the Danish physicist who went on to the United States and worked on the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos. The Danish minister in Washington, although disavowed by his government, signed an agreement granting the United States military bases in Greenland. Danish merchant vessels served under the Allies, and a Danish resistance force operated (1945) under the supreme Allied command. Denmark was liberated by British troops in May, 1945. After the war, Denmark recovered quickly, and its economy, especially the manufacturing sector, expanded considerably.
Denmark became (1945) a charter member of the United Nations and, breaking a long tradition of neutrality, joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949. Frederick IX became king in 1947. In 1960, Denmark became part of the European Free Trade Association, which it left in 1972 in order to join the European Community (now the European Union). Denmark granted independence to Iceland in 1944 and home rule to the Faeroe Islands in 1948 and to Greenland in 1979. Frederick IX died in 1972 and was succeeded by Margaret II. In 1982, the first Conservative-led government since 1894, a center-right coalition headed by Poul Schlüter, came to power.
Having initially rejected (June, 1992) the European Community's Maastricht Treaty, an agreement that represented a major step toward European unification, Danish voters approved the treaty with exemptions in May, 1993. In 1993, Schlüter resigned; Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, a Social Democrat, became prime minister, heading a center-left coalition that was returned to office in 1998. In a blow to Rasmussen, Danish voters rejected adoption of the euro (see European Monetary System) in a referendum in Sept., 2000. Parliamentary elections in 2001 brought a Liberal party–led conservative coalition to power, and Anders Fogh Rasmussen became prime minister in the minority government. The government remained in office after the 2005 elections.
The publication of cartoons with images of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper in Sept., 2005, brought protests from Danish Muslims and ambassadors from Muslim nations, because of Islamic prohibitions on any representation of Muhammad. The protests initially drew tepid responses from the newspaper and Danish officials. The subsequent distribution by Muslim clerics of the cartoons combined with even more offensive images, and the republication of the original cartoons in some other Western and non-Western papers, sparked sometimes violent anti-Danish and anti-Western protests and boycotts of Danish goods in many Muslim nations in early 2006, and led to apologies from the newspaper and Denmark.
After snap parliamentary elections in Nov., 2007, the Liberal-led government remained in office. Rasmussen stepped down in Apr., 2009, to become NATO's secretary-general (beginning in August); Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the finance minister, succeeded him as prime minister. Parliamentary elections in Sept., 2011, resulted in a narrow victory for a three-party center-left alliance led by the Social Democrats, and Social Democratic leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt subsequently became prime minister (and the first woman to hold the post). The June, 2015, elections were won by the Liberal-led center-right coalition, but after Lars Løkke Rasmussen failed to reach an agreement with other center-right parties, he formed a Liberal party minority government.
See K. E. Miller, Government and Politics in Denmark (1968); W. G. Jones, Denmark (1970); P. V. Glob, Denmark: An Archaeological History (tr. 1971); S. Oakley, A Short History of Denmark (1972); H. C. Johansen, The Danish Economy in the Twentieth Century (1986); P. Lauring, Denmark (tr., 7th ed. 1986); K. E. Miller, ed., Denmark (1987).
"Denmark." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/denmark-0
"Denmark." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/denmark-0
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Rasmussen, Anders Fogh
Danish politician Anders Fogh Rasmussen (born 1953) served as his country's prime minister during the early and middle 2000s. He found himself confronted after his election in 2001 with some of the hot-button international issues of his time: relations between the West and the Islamic world, immigration, and war in the Middle East.
Acharismatic figure who led his center-right party to its first victory over Denmark's left-leaning Social Democrats in many years, Rasmussen was emblematic of a new breed of conservatives coming to power in Western Europe. He hoped to slash the size of Denmark's large social welfare bureaucracy without eliminating the basic protections it offered, and he implemented restrictions on immigration while offering as few concessions as possible to far-right nationalist groups.
Raised on Farm
Rasmussen (ROS-muess-en) was born on January 26, 1953, in Northern Djursland, in Aarhus County in the rural eastern part of Denmark's Jutland Peninsula mainland. He grew up on the family farm with his parents, Knud and Martha Rasmussen, but he showed an instinct for political life from the start: according to an article in the Financial Times, he and his brothers often played a game they called "politics" and he would invariably choose the role of prime minister. In 1969 he enrolled at the centuries-old Viborg Cathedral School, taking courses in languages and social studies.
While he was there, he organized a chapter of a Danish national organization called Young Liberals. The term "liberal" has a connotation in Denmark (and many other countries) opposite to its meaning in the United States but close to the classical sense of the term, indicating a philosophy or political party devoted to minimizing governmental interference in the affairs of private industry. What motivated Rasmussen to become involved was the outbreak of student demonstrations around Europe in May of 1968, many of which were oriented toward Marxist or Communist ideas. "That was my reaction to the events of May 1968," he told the Economist. Rasmussen remained involved with Denmark's Liberal Party after he entered the University of Aarhus in 1972, and by 1974 he had become chairman of the party's national youth wing. He joined its national central committee in 1976.
In 1976, while still a university student, Rasmussen began doing consulting work for the Danish Federation of Crafts and Small Industries, and he continued to do that work until 1987. Finishing a master's degree in economics at Aarhus in 1978, Rasmussen was immediately elected to Denmark's Folketing, or parliament, from the Viborg district. He married, and he and his wife, Anne-Mette, raised three children. In the early 1980s Rasmussen served as vice-chairman of the Folketing's housing committee.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Rasmussen worked his way up through the Liberal Party hierarchy, moving in and out of the top echelons of government as the party's fortunes fluctuated. In 1984 he was named to the Liberals' parliamentary management committee, and he became vice-chairman of the national party the following year. From 1987 to 1992 he was Minister for Taxation in the Danish cabinet, adding the title of Minister for Economic Affairs to his portfolio in 1990. For much of the 1990s he was out of the Folketing, but he worked as the Liberal Party's national spokesman from 1992 to 1998. In 1998 he became the party's national chairman, after his predecessor, who had been expected to win that year's election, failed to come out on top. Rasmussen held several other administrative posts in the 1990s.
Authored Economic Studies
Denmark enjoyed one of the highest per-capita income figures in the world, but it had correspondingly high tax rates, second only to Sweden in personal income tax rates, by one calculation. Rasmussen's Liberals believed that the country's cradle-to-grave social welfare system had become bloated and could be pared, and a series of books authored by Rasmussen himself provided ammunition for the arguments of party members. Those books included Showdown with the Tax System (1979), The Struggle for Housing, and From Social State to Minimal State (1993).
As party chairman, Rasmussen led the Liberals into Denmark's 2001 national elections against the ruling Social Democratic party and its leader, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (not a relative). In Denmark's parliamentary system, the leader of the party that wins the most seats in the parliament is given the chance to form a government. Rasmussen's platform was toned down from the conservative economic policies he advocated in his books; in place of the "minimal state" of his free-market 1993 broadside he merely advocated a system in which some of the services of Denmark's welfare state would be opened up to participation by private industry. Rasmussen's telegenic appearance also played a positive role in the campaign when placed in contrast with that of his bearded, lumbering opponent. The Economist called him "a professional politician to his fingertips." He also campaigned on promises to freeze taxes, reduce crime, reduce growing hospital waiting lists in the country's government-run health system, and introduce measures that would help Denmark's large elderly population.
The results of the election displaced the Social Democrats from power for the first time since the 1920s, with the Liberals taking 31 percent of the vote to the Social Democrats' 29 percent. The result was ambiguous, however, for Rasmussen was forced to seek the support of several more conservative parties in order to form a government. These included the Conservative People's Party (Konservative Folkeparti) and Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti), the latter a nationalist group that called for new immigration restrictions and specifically deplored the influence of immigrant Muslims on Denmark's ethnically homogeneous society (with an immigrant population of just over 5 percent, the country was less diverse than most of the rest of Western Europe).
Anti-immigrant sentiment was rising in Denmark in the wake of the U.S. terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Danish People's Party, which had received just over 7 percent of the vote in the elections, was still seen as extreme, but Rasmussen finessed the issue by lining up the party's support in parliamentary votes but excluding it from his cabinet. He became Danish prime minister on November 27, 2001.
Eliminated Government Boards and Committees
Rasmussen's working majority held together early in his term, and he was able to implement major sections of his agenda. By June of 2002 the governing Liberals had shaved almost $830 million of spending from Denmark's $53 billion budget. They had taken steps to benefit Danish business interests, and Rasmussen took the seemingly noncontrover-sial step of closing down 103 government boards, councils, and committees, a step that was projected to save $35.5 million. "We wish to tidy up the intermediate layer [of government], which drains our resources and removes attention from the essential matters," Rasmussen explained in his New Year's speech of 2002, according to Maria Bern-born of Europe.
One of those panels eliminated, however, was the Board for Ethnic Equality, whose disappearance drew widespread criticism. The controversy arose because the move was viewed as a concession on Rasmussen's part to the Danish People's Party. Rasmussen cut legal immigration levels, and he put new curbs on foreigners who claimed refugee status when trying to enter Denmark; refugees had to prove that they had actually been victimized by religious, political, or ethnic persecution. The number of refugees seeking asylum dropped from 12,000 in 2001 to 3,000 in 2004. Many refugees headed for other European countries, particularly Sweden, which criticized the actions of its Scandinavian neighbor.
The economic specialist Rasmussen was quickly faced with issues that had international implications. In 2003 he backed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, making Denmark one of just a few continental European countries to line up behind the U.S. and Britain, and he sent 500 Danish troops to Iraq in support of the war effort. Danish public opinion first backed the move but later turned decisively against it. A Continental economic slowdown toward the middle of Rasmussen's first term in office dented his popularity, and a massive train bombing in Madrid, Spain, on March 11, 2004, affecting one of the war's other European supporters, raised speculation that Rasmussen could be headed for defeat in the next election.
Rasmussen's Liberals bounced back after he called an election for February 8, 2005, however. Rasmussen campaigned once again on economic issues, claiming that an assortment of tax cuts had added an average of $3,000 to annual Danish family incomes. Teenagers were denied certain welfare benefits, but, noted the Economist, such moves were seen by the Danish electorate as "necessary tweaks, not a conservative revolution." And the new immigration restrictions won support across a wide spectrum of Danish public opinion, excluding only the leftmost segments of the political spectrum. In the February elections, both Rasmussen's Liberals and the Social Democrats actually lost seats, while parties farther to the left and right made gains. Rasmussen's majority in the new Danish parliament was unchanged, standing at 94 of the Folketing's 179 seats.
The major challenge in the first part of Rasmussen's second term came in early 2006, when Islamic anger exploded worldwide after a series of cartoons were published in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten (Jutland Post) newspaper late the previous year. The cartoons depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a disparaging way, with one of them showing him with a bomb-shaped turban. Protests flared in Copenhagen and in many Islamic capitals, and Danish consumer goods were removed from shelves in Islamic markets.
Rasmussen referred in his 2006 New Year's message, quoted in the Economist, to "unacceptably offensive instances" of attempts "to demonize groups of people on the basis of their religion or ethnic background," but he maintained that owing to the principle of freedom of the press in Denmark, the government had no control over what Danish newspapers printed. A group of 11 ambassadors from predominantly Islamic countries asked to meet with Rasmussen. He initially refused, drawing strong condemnation from a group of Danish foreign service officers, but later met with several of the Islamic ambassadors. The controversy simmered down slowly, and the threat of terrorist attacks in Denmark reportedly remained high through 2006 as Rasmussen turned to other aspects of his foreign agenda that included support for the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Early in 2007, Rasmussen unveiled a plan to cut Denmark's dependence on imported energy, aiming to provide 30 percent of Denmark's energy needs from wind power, hydrogen, and biofuels by 2025.
Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations: World Leaders, Gale, 2003.
Economist, November 24, 2001; March 20, 2004; December 18, 2004; February 5, 2005; January 7, 2006.
Europe, June 2002.
Financial Times, November 22, 2001.
New York Times, November 22, 2001.
"Denmark unveils plan to reduce fossil fuels, double use of renewable energy," International Herald Tribune, http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/01/19/europe/EU-GEN-Denmark-Cleaner-Energy.php (January 23, 2007).
"Prime Minister of Denmark: Anders Fogh Rasmussen," Prime Minister's Office of Denmark, http://www.stm.dk (January 23, 2007).
"Rasmussen, Anders Fogh," Parliament (Folketing) of Denmark, http://www.folketinget.dk (January 23, 2007).
"Rasmussen, Anders Fogh." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rasmussen-anders-fogh
"Rasmussen, Anders Fogh." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rasmussen-anders-fogh
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Rasmussen, Anders Fogh
Anders Fogh Rasmussen (än´dərs fō räs´mŏŏsən), 1953–, Danish political leader, prime minister of Denmark (2001–9), b. Ginnerup. Trained as an economist at the Univ. of Aarhus, he joined the Danish Folketing (parliament) as a member of the Liberal party in 1978 at age 25, becoming the body's youngest member. He was minister for taxation (1987–92) and minister for economic affairs (1990–92). From 1992 to 1998, he was the Liberal party's national spokesperson, becoming party chairman in 1998. After the 2001 elections, he became prime minister of a Liberal-led center-right coalition; it remained in office after the 2005 and 2007 elections. He resigned as prime minister after being chosen as NATO's secretary-general (2009–14).
"Rasmussen, Anders Fogh." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rasmussen-anders-fogh
"Rasmussen, Anders Fogh." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/rasmussen-anders-fogh
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Rasmussen, Anders Fogh
Prime Minister of Denmark
Born on January 26, 1953, in Ginnerup, Nørre Djurs, Denmark; son of Knud (a farmer) and Martha Rasmussen; married to Anne-Mette; children: three.Education:Earned degree in economics from the University of Århus, 1978.
Addresses: Office—Statsministeriet (Prime Minister's Office), Christiansborg, DK-1218 Copenhagen K, Denmark.
Founder and chairman of the Young Liberals organization at Viborg Cathedral School, 1970-72; first elected to Folketing (legislative assembly of Denmark), 1978; served as minister for taxation, September, 1987-November, 1992; served as minister for economic affairs, December, 1990-November, 1992; leader of Denmark's Liberal Party, 2001—; became prime minister, November, 2001, elections, and formed coalition government; reelected February, 2005.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, head of Denmark's Liberal Party, has served as prime minister since 2001. That year's election results marked the first time since the 1920s that Denmark's politically dominant leftist party, the Social Democrats, had been spurned by voters. As party leader, Rasmussen became prime minister and formed a center-right coalition government with another party. In his first years in office, Rasmussen's government enacted several sweeping reforms, most aimed at curbing immigration and increasing free-market competition inside the Danish economy.
Rasmussen was born on January 26, 1953, in Ginnerup, a town in the Nørre Djurs coastal region of Denmark's Jutland peninsula. He grew up on one of the many small family farms that dotted the Århus county area, and emerged as a political leader while still in his teens. At the Viborg Cathedral School, he became one of the founders of the Young Liberals group, a youth group affiliated with Denmark's center-right Liberal Party. It was an era of widespread protest among his generation, but the Young Liberals were formed in reaction to the sweeping student movement in Western Europe that had taken a decidedly leftist tone. Denmark's Liberal Party—called Venstre ("left")—was actually less of a left-of-center group than the term "liberal" commonly denotes in North American political terminology. Generally known as a pro-business party, the Liberals called for less government regulation and lower taxes.
Rasmussen studied economics at the University of Århus, and became the national chairperson for the Young Liberals group in 1974. In 1978, the same year he earned his degree, he was elected to the Folketing, Denmark's national legislative body, on the Liberal Party ticket. Since the 1920s, the seats in the Folketing had been dominated by the Social Democrats, Denmark's traditional center-left party. Other competing factions included the Danish People's Party, the far-right group; the Conservative Party, the Socialist People's Party, and the Christian People's Party.
Rasmussen served several years in the Folketing, and became known for his economic expertise. He authored a number of books on the subject, including 1979's Opgør med skattesystemet ("Showdown with the Tax System") and Fra Socialstat til Minimal-sta ("From Social State to Minimal State"), which was published in 1993. Denmark has one of the highest tax-per-person ratios in the world, but the taxes pay for a generous social-service net and its citizens enjoy one of the world's highest standards of living. In his writings and in his political speeches, Rasmussen argued that such a system fosters a dependency on the government, and quells initiative and free enterprise.
In 1987, Rasmussen was appointed to the important cabinet post of minister for taxation. Three years later, he was made minister for economic affairs for a two-year stint; after 1992, he held his seat in the Folketing while retaining various roles in the Liberal Party leadership, including party spokesperson. In 2001, the Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen—no relation—thought November would be a good time for his Social Democrat Party to capitalize on a wave of solidarity stemming from the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11 of that year, and called for national elections that month. The poll results, however, brought a surprise, with the Social Democrats winning just 29 percent of the Folketing seats, and Rasmussen and the Liberal Party taking 31 percent. It marked the first time that the Social Democrats had been bested by another party since the 1920s. Another surprise was the votes cast for the far right Danish People's Party, which amounted to 12 percent of the tally. Its leader had made anti-Muslim statements that seemed to resonate with nervous Danes in the fearful post-9/11 climate, despite the country's reputation for tolerance. About six percent of Denmark are immigrants, and three percent of the total population list their faith as Muslim in what has historically been a country with a strong Lutheran tra- dition.
Since Rasmussen and his party did not win an outright majority in the Folketing, he formed a coalition government with the Conservatives, which had won nine percent of the vote. The new center-right government, led by Rasmussen, succeeded on most of the reforms it pledged to push forward during the campaign. There were new restrictions on immigration, for example, and in July of 2002 the government issued a decree that Denmark would only to accept refugees who could prove that they were victims of religious, political, or ethnic persecution. That resulted in a dramatic drop in number of those applying for asylum in Denmark, from 12,000 in 2001 down to just 3,000 in 2004.
Rasmussen supported U.S. president George W. Bush and his plans for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, unlike many Western European leaders. Denmark even sent a contingent of troops, but public support lessened considerably for Denmark's participation over the next two years. In February of 2005, Danes went to the polls again, and though Rasmussen's Liberal Party lost four seats, it maintained its lead in the Folketing and kept control of the government. The prime minister received a high number of personal votes, more than 61,000, which was said to be the most ever won by a Danish politician. His main rival was Mogens Lykketoft, head of Social Democrat Party. Rasmussen is known for his telegenic looks and ease before both the Folketing and television cameras, by contrast to the stodgier, bearded Lykketoft, who resigned from his party leadership after the 2005 election.
Rasmussen surprised many in the spring of 2005 on the 60-year anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, when he issued a formal apology for Denmark's wartime collaboration with Nazi Germany. The country had been invaded by Nazi Germany, and initially refused to comply with orders to identify and round up its Jewish citizens. Some 7,000 Jews were rescued by a collaborative effort between Danish authorities, the resistance movement, and ordinary citizens, but about 450 were transported to Nazi extermination camps in Eastern Europe. Rasmussen specifically apologized for the government's cooperation in the extradition of those Jews, calling it "shameful" and "a stain on Denmark's otherwise good reputation" according to a BBC News report.
Rasmussen is married and has three children. Known for his healthy lifestyle, he runs every morning, which he claims clears his head for the day's work ahead.
Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations: World Leaders, Gale, 2003.
Europe, December 2001, p. 25; June 2002, p. 26.
Independent (London, England), February 8, 2005, p. 20.
New York Times, November 22, 2001, p. A16.
Times (London, England), November 22, 2001, p. 19.
"Anders Fogh Rasmussen," Folketingnet, http:// www.folketinget.dk/BAGGRUND/Biografier_ english/Anders_Fogh_Rasmussen.htm (August 23, 2005).
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