Location & Population
The Faroe Islands are located in the North Atlantic approximately 430 kilometers southeast of Iceland, 600 kilometers west of Norway and 300 kilometers northwest from Scotland. The Faroe Islands are comprised of 18 islands, separated by narrow sounds or fjords.
1399 square kilometers; 545.3 square miles
Main population centers
Tórshavn (capital): 18,688 (2003)
Klaksvík: 4,846 (2003)
Language, Religion & History
Written and spoken language is Faroese. The Faroese language is a Nordic language closely related to Icelandic and to the dialects of western Norway.
Nordic languages and English are understood and spoken by most Faroese. English and Danish are mandatory subjects in school. Literacy is 99,9%.
Evangelical Lutheran Church: 80% – Christian Brethren: 10 % – Other: 10%
The Faroe Islands are believed to have been discovered and inhabited in the 8th century or earlier by Irish settlers. The Norwegian colonization began about one hundred years later and continued throughout the Viking Age. The settlers established their own parliament with local Tings in different parts of the islands and the main Ting on Tinganes in Tórshavn. The Faroese Parliament is believed to be the oldest in Europe.
Norway and Denmark joined in a joint monarchy in the late 14th century. When Norway was cessioned in 1814 to the King of Sweden, the Faroe Islands and Greenland remained under the sovereignty of the Danish monarch. Due to the large geographical distance to Norway and Denmark, the Faroe Islands always remained a special jurisdiction and their distinct language and culture was guarded by the ancient parliamentary Ting or Løgting.
The end of the 19th century saw the emergence of a Faroese national movement that sought to protect Faroese language and culture even more against a growing Danish influence. This national awareness resulted in the formation of the first political parties in the Faroe Islands in 1906.
During the Second World War, the Faroe Islands were occupied by the British, and Denmark by the Third Reich. The islands were thus cut off from Denmark and became virtually self-governing in domestic matters as the Løgting once again assumed full legislative authority. At the end of the war, it was clear that a return to the old status of a Danish county was not desirable.
Following a referendum on independence, negotiations between the Faroese and Danish authorities led to an agreement on a Home Rule form of government that was officially adopted in 1948. This agreement defines the Faroe Islands as a self-governing community within the Kingdom of Denmark.
Political & legal system
The Faroese Political System
Together with Denmark and Greenland, the Faroe Islands constitute the Kingdom of Denmark, which is a constitutional monarchy.
The Home Rule form of government provides that certain so-called Joint Affairs are under Danish state authority, while Faroese Affairs are under the Faroese Home Rule administration and governed by Faroese legislation.
The Faroe Islands are, for example, an independent international customs and excise area and administers its own taxation system.
Judicial matters, defence and foreign affairs are among those administrative areas that cannot be taken over by the Faroese Government according to the Home Rule Act. The Danish Government is also responsible for all expenses relating to purely state affairs, such as the police and court system. It is the general practice that Danish legislation only takes effect in the Faroe Islands after ratification by the Faroese Parliament (Føroya Løgting), but this is not a guaranteed right. Areas designated as special Faroese Affairs are fully financed by the Faroese themselves.
The Løgting is the legislative assembly for Faroese affairs, and also appoints the prime minister (Løgmaður), who – along with the cabinet ministers – constitutes the Faroese Government (Landsstýri).
The Løgting has at most 32 MP’s elected in seven constituencies.
In addition to the elections to the Løgting the Faroese people elect two representatives to the Danish Parliament, the Folketing.
The 48 local municipalities (Sept. 2003) enjoy a high degree of autonomy and they cooperate in great many areas, such as electricity supply, environmental protection, education, childcare and primary health services. The local municipalities are in a process of consolidation and their number grows smaller year-by-year. By the end of the year 2004 the amount of municipalities is expected to be reduced from 48 to 34.
Head of State
The Prime Minister is Jóannes Eidesgaard. He assumed office on 3rd February 2004.
By law, the Føroya Landsstýri consists of no less than two cabinet ministers led by the Prime Minister. The present central administration consists of the Office of the Prime Minister and six ministries: Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Family, Health and Social Affairs, Ministry of Culture and Education, Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The Faroese Government coalition is currently (Feb. 2004) made up of representatives from the Social Democrats, the Unionist Party and the People’s Party, headed by the Prime Minister – Mr. Jóannes Eidesgaard from the Social Democrats.
Relations to the European Union
Although Denmark has been a member of the European Community since 1973, the membership does not include the Faroe Islands. The Faroe Islands have negotiated a trade agreement with the EU. In principle, the agreement with the EU has been a mutual free trade agreement similar to the type made by the EU and the EFTA countries in the 1970s. The agreement with the EU originates from 1992 and has been adjusted and amended over the years. On 28th of November 2003 the Faroe Islands and the EU made an agreement on Faroese membership in the Pan-European System of Cumulation of Origin. This was a positive breakthrough in the negotiations with the EU, and for the Faroese industry and society as a whole.
The Legal System
The Court of the Faroe Islands is part of the Danish court system. The Administration of the Justice Act is especially adapted to Faroese conditions and in accordance with this act, all cases may be heard in the first instance in the Court of the Faroe Islands.
The Faroe Islands are a jurisdiction under the High Court (Eastern Division) in Copenhagen. Decisions reached by the High court in appeal cases, may be brought before the Danish Supreme Court.
The Faroe Islands are part of the Danish currency area. The Faroese currency unit, the króna, has the same value as the Danish krone.
The Faroe Islands have its own bank notes while the coins are Danish.
1 Euro = 7.45 DKK
1 US$ = 5.85 DKK*
Fishing, fish processing and fish farming
9,745 m. DKK (2002)
Export of Goods
4,107 m. DKK (2002)
Fish and fish products: 99.6%
Import of Goods
3,896 m. DKK (2002)
Labor Force by occupation
Fishing, fish processing, and manufacturing: about 1/3
Construction and private services: about 1/3
Public services: about 1/3
Education & Transportation
Education is mandatory for young people from 7 to 16 years of age. Elementary education is compulsory up to the ninth grade or class, after which education can be continued along a variety of career paths and programs: baccalaureate (high school), trade schools, technical schools, industrial fisheries school, or a mariners school.
There are also colleges for business, marine engineering, nautical training, teacher training, and a training school for nurses. There is one university in the Faroe Islands. This is the University of the Faroe Islands – Fróðskaparsetur Føroya.
The transportation of people and goods to and from the Faroe Islands is by both air and sea.
Regular flights are available all year round to Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Great Britain. The main travel connection by air to Vágar Airport is via the Copenhagen Airport in Denmark. There are also flights to Billund in Denmark, Aberdeen in Scotland, Oslo and Stavanger in Norway, London in England and Reykjavik in Iceland. There are daily flights between the Faroe Islands and Denmark. The flight time is 2 hours and 15 min. There is weekly car ferry service to Denmark, Norway and Shetland Islands throughout the year, and from May to September, this service is expanded to include Iceland. Cargo ships sail weekly throughout the year to Iceland, Great Britain and the European continent.
The Faroe Islands have a modern infrastructure with good roads and many tunnels. The roads are mainly asphalted dual lane carriageways. A bridge connects the two largest islands.