The Political and Legal Status of The Faroes

Declaration by the Government of the Faroe Islands:

“All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” This is stated in both Covenants of 1966, and reconfirmed as a general principle in the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. These provisions and the consistent practice of states and international organisations constitute the legal basis for the right of self-determination that the People of the Faroes have and retain, including the option of independence if and when the People so decide.

The Faroes were settled in the beginning of the ninth century by Norwegian Vikings. These Norsemen came both directly from Norway and via the British Isles according to Icelandic sagas. Archaeological and genetic evidence support this.

They founded an independent Nordic nation, which had its own political and legal structure fully based upon Old Norse traditions, in which the Ting (parliament) was the supreme seat of power. Over the centuries, the people of the Faroes have kept their own national, historic, linguistic and cultural identity.

The Kingdom of Norway and the Kingdom of Denmark entered into a union in 1380 through an inter-Nordic regal marriage that was formally enshrined in the Treaty of Bergen of 1450. In 1814, this union was abolished by the Treaty of Kiel, which instead set up a new union between the Kingdom of Norway and the Kingdom of Sweden. Pursuant to the Treaty of Kiel, the treaty-provided-relationship between the Faroes and the Kingdom of Norway was now replaced by an identical relationship with the Kingdom of Denmark.

After 1814, the Faroes can be classified as an overseas colony or protectorate under the King of Denmark. They were not regarded as an integral part of the Kingdom of Denmark.

The Danish authorities sought a gradual political and legal integration of the Faroes into the Kingdom of Denmark during their democratisation process in the second half of the nineteenth century. Notwithstanding this development, the Faroes fully preserved their status as a distinct territory and jurisdiction. At no point have the People of the Faroes approved such integration.

During the Second World War, all links between the Faroes and the Kingdom of Denmark were abolished and the Faroes, which were defended by British forces, were responsible for all their internal and external matters.

In 1946, a referendum was organised in the Faroes in which the People of the Faroes for the first time in history were asked to determine their future. The People decided at this referendum – which was formally approved of by the Danish authorities – to establish the Faroes as an independent state.

As soon as the Parliament of the Faroes had recognised this decision, the Danish authorities dissolved the Parliament and a general election was ordered. The newly elected parliament accepted a negotiated settlement, which was based upon a home government arrangement that entered into force in 1948.

In 2005, the Government of the Faroes and the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark agreed on a new negotiated settlement that is composed of two new arrangements, which in concert establish full internal self-government as well as a certain degree of external self-government. This settlement is not seen or understood to be an exercise or replacement of the right of full self-determination.

Prime Ministers of the Kingdom of Denmark have on several occasions and also most recently declared that the Faroes shall be established as an independent state as soon as the People of the Faroes so decide. These declarations are reiterated in a corresponding decision by the Parliament of the Kingdom of Denmark in 2001.

A new Constitution of the Faroes has been prepared and the Constitutional Committee of the Faroes submitted a draft proposal on 18 December 2006. The new Constitution will inter alia contain provisions with regard to a future referendum in respect of secession of the Faroes from the Kingdom of Denmark. This new Constitution will enter into force if and when endorsed at a referendum by the People of the Faroes.

In summation, the People of the Faroes have and retain their inalienable and sovereign right to self-determination under international law.