Faroe Islands

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Føroyar (Faroese)
Færøerne (Danish)
Flag of the Faroe Islands
Coat of Arms
(In Detail) (In Detail)
Official languages Faroese, Danish
Capital Tórshavn
Monarch Margrethe II
Prime Minister Jóannes Eidesgaard
 - Total
 - % water
World ranking: 189th
1,399 km²
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
World ranking: 211th
Independence None (part of the Kingdom of Denmark). Home rule was established in 1948.
Currency Faroese króna (DKK)1
Time zone WET (UTC; UTC+1 in summer)
National anthem Tú alfagra land mítt
(My land, oh most beauteous)
National Day 29 July
Internet TLD .fo
Calling Code 298
Electricity 230V, 50 Hz
1The banknotes are Danish kroner printed with Faroese motifs. The islands use standard Danish coins. Faroese krónur use the Danish ISO 4217 code DKK.

Flag of the Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands or simply Faroes (Faroese: Føroyar, meaning "Sheep Islands", Danish: Færøerne) are a group of islands in the north Atlantic Ocean between Scotland, Norway and Iceland. They have been an autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark since 1948 and have, over the years, taken control of most matters, except defense and foreign affairs.

The Faroes give their name to one of the British Sea Areas. They have close traditional ties to Iceland, Shetland, the Orkney Islands, the Outer Hebrides and Greenland. The Faroes have their own representatives in the Nordic Council.



Main article: History of the Faroe Islands

The early history of the Faroe Islands is very clear. According to Færeyinga Saga emigrants who left Norway to escape the tyranny of Harald I of Norway, settled in the islands about the beginning of the 9th century. Early in the 11th century Sigmund, whose family had flourished in the southern islands but had been almost exterminated by invaders from the northern islands, was sent from Norway, where he had escaped, to take possession of the islands for Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway. He introduced Christianity and, though he was subsequently murdered, Norwegian supremacy was upheld. Norwegian control of the islands continued until 1386, when the islands became part of the Kalmar Union and then later the double monarchy Denmark–Norway. The reformation reached the Faroes in 1568. Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands at the Treaty of Kiel in 1814.

The monopoly trade over the Faroe Islands was abolished 1856. Since then, the country developed towards a modern fishery nation with its own fleet. The national awakening since 1888 was first struggling for the Faroese language, thus more cultural oriented, but after 1906 more and more politically after the foundation of the political parties of the Faroe Islands.

On April 12, 1940, the Faroes were occupied by British troops following the invasion of Denmark by Nazi Germany. This action was taken to avert a possible German occupation of the islands, which would have had very grave consequences for the course of the Battle of the Atlantic. In 194243 the British Royal Engineers built the only airport in the Faroes, the Vagar Airport. Control of the islands reverted to Denmark following the war, but in 1948 a home rule regime was implemented granting a high degree of local autonomy. The Faroes declined to join Denmark in entering the European Community (now European Union) in 1973. The islands experienced considerable economic difficulties following the collapse of the fishing industry in the early 1990s, but have since made efforts to diversify the economy. Support for independence has grown and is the objective of the government.


Tinganes in Tórshavn, seat of the government
Tinganes in Tórshavn, seat of the government

Main article: Politics of the Faroe Islands

The islands are administratively divided in 34 municipalities with about 120 cities and villages.

Traditionally, there are also the 6 sýslur (Norðoyar, Eysturoy, Streymoy, Vágar, Sandoy and Suðuroy). Sýsla means district and although it is only a police district today, it is still commonly understood as a geographical region. In earlier times, each sýsla had an own ting, the so called várting (spring ting).

Today, elections are held in the municipalities, on national level for the Løgting, and inside the Kingdom of Denmark for the Folketing. For the Løgting elections there are 7 electoral districts, each one comprehending asýslur, while Streymoy is divided in a northern and southern part (Tórshavn region).

The Government of the Faroes holds the executive power in locally government affairs. The Head of the government is called the Løgmaður or Prime Minister in English. Any other members of the cabinet are called a landsstýrismaður.

The Faroes and Denmark

On September 14 in 1946 a referendum was held in the Faroes about complete independence or continued presence within the Danish state. There was a majority in favour of complete independence but the Danish government overruled the result, claiming the margin was too small.

A high degree of self-government was instead attained in 1948 and the Faroese are supported by a substantial annual subsidy from Denmark. The islanders are about evenly split between those favouring complete independence and those who prefer a continued presence within the Danish state. Within both camps there is, however, a wide range of opinions. Of those who favour independence some are in favour of an immediate unilateral declaration. Others see it as something to be attained gradually and in full consent with the Danish government and the Danish nation. In the unionist camp there are also many who foresee and welcome a gradual increase in autonomy even as strong ties to Denmark are maintained.

The Faroes and the EU

The Faroe Islands are not part of the EU, as explicitly asserted by both Rome treaties. Moreover, a protocol to the treaty of accession of Denmark to the European Communities stipulates that Danish nationals residing in the Faroe Islands are not to be considered as Danish nationals within the meaning of the treaties. Hence, Danish people living in the Faroes are not citizens of the European Union. The Faroes are however covered by the Schengen free movement agreement.


Main article: Geography of the Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands
Faroe Islands
The uninhabited island Lítla Dímun
The uninhabited island Lítla Dímun

The Faroe Islands are an island group consisting of 18 islands, off the coast of Northern Europe, between the Norwegian Sea and the north Atlantic Ocean, about one-half of the way from Iceland to Norway. Its coordinates are 62°00′ N 06°47′ W, and has 1,399 km² in area, and includes no major lakes or rivers. There are 1,117 km of coastline, and no land boundaries with any other country. The only island that is uninhabited is Lítla Dímun.

Faroe Islands NASA satellite image
Faroe Islands NASA satellite image

The Faroe Islands generally have cool summers and mild winters, with a usually overcast sky and frequent fog and heavy winds. The fog often causes delays of airplanes. The islands are rugged and rocky with some low peaks; the coasts are mostly bordered by cliffs. The highest point is Slættaratindur, 882 metres above sea level.

See also:


Main article: Economy of the Faroe Islands

After the severe economic troubles of the early 1990s, brought on by a drop in the vital fish catch, the Faroe Islands have come back in the last few years, with unemployment down to 5% in mid-1998. Nevertheless, the almost total dependence on fishing means the economy remains extremely vulnerable. The Faroese hope to broaden their economical base by building new fish-processing plants. Petroleum found close to the Faroese area give hope for deposits in the immediate area, which may lay the basis to sustained economic prosperity.

Since 2000, new information technology and business projects have been fostered in the Faroe Islands to attract new investment. The result from these projects is not yet known but is hoped to bring a better market economy to the Faroe Islands.

The Faroes have a low unemployment rate, but this is not necessarily a sign of a recovering economy, as many young students move to Denmark and other countries once they are finished with high school. This leaves a largely middle-aged and elderly population that may lack the skills and knowledge to take IT positions on the Faroes.


Main article: Demographics of the Faroe Islands

The majority of the population is of Scandinavian descent.

Faroese is spoken in the entire country and the majority also speaks danish. Many Faroese people are fluent in English as well, particularly those in larger cities and the youth, who are taught English in school.

According to official statistics from 2002 84.1% of Faroese people are members of the state church, the Faroese People's Church (Fólkakirkjan), a form of Lutheranism.


Main article: Culture of the Faroe Islands

The phrase "Faroe Islands" is in some sense redundant, since øerne or oyar means "islands" in Danish and Faroese respectively. The Faroes have a culture very much their own, but it holds elements in common with Norway, Iceland, and Denmark.

The Faroese language, spoken by all Faroese people, is most similar to Icelandic and Old Norse.

Traditional food

Traditional Faroese food: Dried mutton and whale meat and blubber.
Traditional Faroese food: Dried mutton and whale meat and blubber.

Traditional Faroese food is mainly based on meat and potatoes and uses few fresh vegetables. Mutton is the basis of every meal, and one of the most popular treats is skerpikjøt, well aged, wind-dried mutton which is quite chewy. The drying shed, known as a hjallur, is a standard feature in many Faroese homes. Other traditional foods are rast kjøt (semi-dried mutton) and rastan fisk, matured fish. After the bloody grindadráp, a speciality is grind og spik, whale and blubber. Fresh fish also features strongly in the local diet, as do seabirds, such as puffin, and their eggs.

The Faroe Islands in pop culture

In the book Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, a weapons platform is being positioned between the Faroe Islands and Iceland on ca. 4 April 1984.

Miscellaneous topics

Faroese Topics
Islands Borðoy | Eysturoy | Fugloy | Hestur | Kalsoy | Koltur | Kunoy | Lítla Dímun | Mykines | Nólsoy | Sandoy | Skúvoy | Stóra Dímun | Streymoy | Suðuroy | Svínoy | Vágar | Viðoy
History Timeline | Færeyinga Saga
Politics Parliament | Folketing | Political Parties | Military
Geography Geology | Mountains | Lakes | Rivers | Transport
Economy Economic History | Companies | Currency | Taxation
Demographics Language | Religion | Cities | Towns
Culture Art | Literature | Music | Cinema | Television | Sport | Media
Symbols of the Faroe Islands Merkið | Tú alfagra land mítt | Coat of Arms

See also

External links

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