Freedom in the World 2017 - Denmark

Freedom Status: 
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: 
Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 

Denmark is a robust democracy with regular free and fair elections. Its population enjoys full political rights, the government protects free expression and association, and the judiciary functions independently. However, with some of the strictest European laws for family reunification, long predating the 2015 migrant crisis, as well as more recent due process limitations for asylum seekers, Denmark has struggled to uphold all fundamental freedoms for immigrants and other newcomers.

Key Developments in 2016: 
  • A November law allows foreigners to be detained or electronically tagged if they have been convicted of even minor crimes but cannot be deported due to conditions in their countries of origin.
  • A January law allows border officials to seize refugees’ personal property and also increased the mandatory waiting time for family reunification for people without permanent residence.
  • In May, lawmakers announced that transsexuality will be removed from classification as a mental illness, effective January 1, 2017.
Executive Summary: 

Denmark regularly holds free and fair elections in an open political system. The government functions transparently and institutes strong safeguards against corruption. Most of the population enjoys a full range of unfettered civil liberties, and civil society is vibrant. A May law made Denmark the first country to no longer classify transsexuality as a mental disorder.

However, the Danish government has long imposed restrictions on its foreign-born population that make it stand out among its Nordic neighbors, and these have been further tightened in response to the massive increase in refugees to Europe in 2015. The year 2016 saw a string of legislative measures affecting immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. This began with a January law that extended the mandatory waiting time for family reunification (even for small children) for persons without permanent Danish residence from one to three years, and also authorized the confiscation of valuables carried by asylum seekers when they enter the country. In November, parliament passed a law allowing foreigners convicted of even minor crimes to be confined or electronically tagged without legal recourse if they cannot be deported due to conditions in their countries of origin. The Supreme Court in June ruled that Danish citizenship could be revoked from a man who also held a Moroccan passport after he was convicted of instigating terrorism.

Political Rights

Political Rights 40 / 40

A. Electoral Process 12 / 12

A1. Is the head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
A2. Are the national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
A3. Are the electoral laws and framework fair?


B. Political Pluralism and Participation 16 / 16

B1. Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system open to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
B2. Is there a significant opposition vote and a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
B3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
B4. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups have full political rights and electoral opportunities?


C. Functioning of Government 12 / 12

C1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
C2. Is the government free from pervasive corruption?
C3. Is the government accountable to the electorate between elections, and does it operate with openness and transparency?


Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties 57 / 60 (−1)

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief 16 / 16

D1. Are there free and independent media and other forms of cultural expression?
D2. Are religious institutions and communities free to practice their faith and express themselves in public and private?
D3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free of extensive political indoctrination?
D4. Is there open and free private discussion?


E. Associational and Organizational Rights 12 / 12

E1. Is there freedom of assembly, demonstration, and open public discussion?
E2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations?
E3. Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining? Are there free professional and other private organizations?


F. Rule of Law 14 / 16 (−1)

F1. Is there an independent judiciary?
F2. Does the rule of law prevail in civil and criminal matters? Are police under direct civilian control?
F3. Is there protection from political terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, or torture, whether by groups that support or oppose the system? Is there freedom from war and insurgencies?
F4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?


G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights 15 / 16

G1. Do individuals enjoy freedom of travel or choice of residence, employment, or institution of higher education?
G2. Do individuals have the right to own property and establish private businesses? Is private business activity unduly influenced by government officials, the security forces, political parties/organizations, or organized crime?
G3. Are there personal social freedoms, including gender equality, choice of marriage partners, and size of family?
G4. Is there equality of opportunity and the absence of economic exploitation?


Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology

Explanatory Note: 

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Denmark, see Freedom in the World 2016.