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Germany and Denmark: bilateral relations Denmark

25.06.2019 - Article

Political relations

Relations between Germany and Denmark are characterised by good neighbourliness and close cooperation in all areas. There are frequent meetings and intensive dialogue at all political levels. High points in political relations have included the visit to Copenhagen by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on 28 April 2015, the visit to Wittenberg by Queen Margrethe II on 2 October 2016 and the talks between Germany’s then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Danish counterpart Anders Samuelsen on 13 December 2016 in Berlin. Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen gave a speech to the German Bundestag in 2016 on the Day of National Mourning. Lars Løkke Rasmussen visited Chancellor Merkel in Berlin on 12 April and 20 November 2018. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his Danish counterpart Anders Samuelsen met most recently on 6 March 2019 at the Federal Foreign Office.

There are also frequent meetings at state and parliamentary level. Land Schleswig-Holstein maintains particularly close relations with Denmark. The new Minister-President of Schleswig-Holstein, Daniel Günther, paid his first official visit to Copenhagen early in his term, in late September 2017, just as his predecessors had done.

Bilateral relations are given a special dimension by the existence of a German minority in North Schleswig and a Danish minority in South Schleswig. The successful minority policies on both sides of the German-Danish border are founded on the Bonn-Copenhagen Declarations of 29 March 1955. The year 2020 will mark the centenary of the plebiscite that determined the border between Denmark and Germany. The two countries will celebrate this anniversary with a joint German-Danish Cultural Year of Friendship, which was announced by the two Foreign Ministers in June 2018.

Economic relations

Economic relations are close and intensive. Bilateral trade declined during the economic crisis but has now recovered and is growing steadily. Germany remains Denmark’s principal trading partner and Denmark, for its part, ranks between 18th and 22nd each year among suppliers of German imports and buyers of German exports. Germany’s main imports from Denmark are industrial products, machinery, food, agricultural produce, medical technology and pharmaceutical products. Its main exports to Denmark are machinery and motor vehicles, semi-finished and finished goods, chemicals, consumer goods and food.

There is also direct investment in both directions: Danish companies have several thousand subsidiaries in Germany, a large number of which are registered with the Danish Trade Mission in Hamburg. Particularly well known are firms like Lego, Netto, Dänisches Bettenlager, Ecco, Rockwool, Velux, Carlsberg and Danfoss. Many German companies, in turn, have a presence in Denmark through their subsidiaries.

With the signing of a State Treaty in September 2008, the go-ahead was given for the most important German-Danish project of the coming years: the building of a tunnel under the Fehmarn Belt. According to current planning, the main construction phase is set to begin in 2020, with construction scheduled to take about eight and a half years.

Cultural exchange

Close cultural ties between Germany and Denmark have existed for centuries. Up until the German-Danish War of 1864 (Battle of Dybbøl), Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg were under Danish rule. What is today the Hamburg district of Altona was once the second largest city in Denmark, and the country’s first railway line connected Altona with Kiel.

Of key importance in cultural exchange is the Danes’ good command of German compared to nationals of other European countries. German is the most frequently learned foreign language at Danish schools – after English – and since 2014 has been taught as early as year five. At folkeskole (unified national schools up to year nine), three-quarters of all students learn German for at least two to three years. A downward trend is, however, evident at grammar schools, where the proportion of students learning German has fallen to below 50 percent.

Germany actively contributes to the good school infrastructure through a number of channels.

The language department of the local branch of the Goethe-Institut offers further training courses for teachers and online language courses.

There are currently eight schools in Denmark – Middelfart Grammar School, Tønder Grammar School, Tønder Commercial College, Sorø Private School, N. Zahles Gymnasieskoles (Primary and Grammar School) and Sorö Akademi as well as Sankt Petri Schule in Copenhagen (a German school abroad) and Marie Kruses Skole in Farum – that are members of the worldwide network of partner schools (PASCH). More schools are interested in joining the network. The German Grammar School for North Schleswig in Aabenraa is a co-opted network partner.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior supports the German School and Language Association for North Schleswig (DSSV), which runs the schools attended by the German minority in North Schleswig.

Sankt Petri Schule in the centre of Copenhagen is the oldest German school abroad, founded in 1575. It is a private school under Danish law at which subjects are taught in German and Danish in equal measure. The school leads to both the level 1 German secondary school-leaving certificate and the Danish elementary school-leaving certificate. Since 2013, it has also been possible to take the German International Abitur examination (DIAP) at the school. Sankt Petri Schule has been certified as an Excellent German School Abroad.

University and student exchange is supported by a German Academic Exchange Service lector at the University of Copenhagen.

There are three German churches in Copenhagen: the Lutheran Saint Peter’s Church, the German Reformed Church and the German-speaking Roman Catholic Church. There are other German-speaking churches in North Schleswig.

Aside from Germany’s official presence in Denmark, cultural exchange between the two countries is extremely diverse. With its numerous festivals, museums, theatres and art galleries, Denmark is very attractive to German artists and performers. Conversely, art, literature and music from Germany are very popular in Denmark. Germany is also a cultural magnet for Danish visitors.

The Goethe-Institut in Copenhagen supports cultural exchange through its wide-ranging programme. Berlin in particular is a favourite with Denmark’s culture professionals. There are now more than 3500 Danes – including more than 300 Danish artists from all disciplines – living and working in Berlin, where they are a valuable addition to the city’s cultural scene.

The close cultural ties form the central element of the German-Danish Cultural Year of Friendship in 2020.

Defence policy cooperation

Germany and Denmark are also pursuing joint cooperation projects in the defence policy sphere. In addition to numerous mutual training activities in the maritime field, Denmark, together with Germany and Poland, is a troop contributor for the Multinational Corps Northeast in Stettin.


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