The Faroe Islands Home Rule Arrangement was established by Act no. 137 of 23 March 1948 (the Faroe Islands Home Rule Act). In pursuance of Section 1 of the Act, the Faroe Islands are a self-governing community within the Kingdom of Denmark. By Act no. 578 of 24 June 2005 (the Takeover Act) supplementary to the Home Rule Act, the Faroe Islands’ options to assume further fields of responsibility were considerably expanded. The Takeover Act entered into force on 29 July 2005.
The Prime Minister's Office has issued guidelines on how the ministries should handle cases concerning the Faroe Islands. The guidelines describe the home rule arrangement and a number of matters of importance to ministries and agencies handling of cases concerning the Faroe Islands.
Together with the Danish Constitution, the Home Rule Act and The Takeover Act, constitutes the Faroe Islands’ constitutional position in the Unity of the Realm. The preamble to the Takeover Act states that the Act is based on an agreement between the Faroese Government and the Danish Government as equal partners. Two members of the Folketing (Danish Parliament) are elected in the Faroe Islands, cf. the Danish Constitution.
The main purpose of introducing Home Rule has been to facilitate that the Faroese authorities can decide to take over authority and thus responsibility from the Danish authorities.
The Faroes authorities comprise a democratically elected assembly – Løgtingið (Faroe Islands Parliament) – as well as an administration led by Føroya Landsstýri (Government of the Faroes). The Home Rule Act and the Takeover Act do not contain specific rules and regulations regarding the composition etc. of these bodies, but have left it up to the Faroese authorities to lay down provisions in this regard.
In the Home Rule Act, the Faroese language is recognised as the principal language in the Faroe Islands. However, Danish must be taught meticulously and well. Danish may be used in official matters just like Faroese, and the Faroese population understand and speaks Danish.
The opportunities for the Faroese authorities' assumption of fields of responsibility
Since its introduction in 1948, the Faroese Authorities have assumed legislative and administrative responsibility in a substantial number of fields that affect the daily lives of Faroese citizens.
These possibilities expanded significantly with the Takeover Act of 2005.
In respect of the Unity of the Realm and special provisions in the Danish Constitution, the Takeover Act provides the Faroese authorities to assume all fields of responsibility apart from the Constitution; nationality; the Supreme Court; foreign, defence and security policy; as well as exchange rate and monetary policy. Fields in lists A and B in the Home Rule Act which have not yet been taken over by the Faroese public authorities will have to be taken over under the provisions in the Takeover Act.
Reference is made to a list updated by the Prime Minister’s Office with an overview of the fields where the Faroe Islands have assumed responsibility in accordance with the Home Rule Act and the Takeover Act.
With the assumption of a field of responsibility, the Faroese authorities assume legislative and executive power in the field as well as the responsibility for the financing of the related expenditure.
The fields of responsibility not taken over by the Faroese authorities fall within the jurisdiction of the central authorities of the Realm (Danish Government and Folketing).
The Faroese authorities decide the time at which fields of responsibility are taken over. Certain fields that are listed in Schedule I to the Takeover Act (including the police, administration of justice, including the establishment of courts of law, aliens) require a high degree of preparation, for which reason the time for taking over these fields is decided by the Faroese authorities after negotiation with the Danish authorities.
Acts passed by the Lagting and ratified by the Prime Minister og the Faroe Islands (lagmanden) in fields of responsibility under the Faroese authorities are called Faroese Parliamentary Acts.
The following fields of responsibility that have not been taken over by the Faroese authorities are inter alia: the administration of justice, including the establishment of courts of law; the police; the prison and probation service; law of legal capacity, aliens and border controls; financial regulation and supervision; aviation.
The economic arrangements
As the general rule the Faroese authorities have taken over the financing of expenditure related to the new fields of responsibility (i.e. assumed under Section 2 of the Home Rule Act).
In accordance with Section 9 of the Home Rule Act and in pursuance of specific legislation (enabling act) the Faroese authorities have assumed responsibility to legislate and administer within social welfare and health sectors. Furthermore, the Faroese authorities have assumed the full economic responsibility within these fields, but receive a general grant from Denmark. The Faroese authorities thus have considerable freedom to prioritise their tasks in accordance with their own wishes.
When the Faroese authorities assume fields of responsibility under the Takeover Act, the Faroe Islands also take over the expenses and real assets that are directly connected to the field. Therefore, it will not be possible, under the Act, to provide grants for these fields. The fields of responsibility in which the Faroe Islands have the responsibility to administer and enact legislation in accordance with Section 9 of the Home Rule Act are not affected by the Takeover Act. Therefore, the Danish Government and the Faroese Government will be able also in the future, to agree on general grants from Denmark conditionary on parliamental confirmation by the Finance Act.
Act no. 528 of 24 June 2005 on certain personnel issues in connection with the Faroese authorities' takeover of fields of responsibility regulates the conditions for the staff, who are affected by a takeover.
The Faroe Islands have their own Economic Council (Búskaparáðið). The Council issues two annual reports on the economic development in the Faroe Islands and advises the Faroese Government on economic matters.
Foreign policy matters
According to the Danish Constitution, the authorities of the Realm have the authority to enter into obligations under international law as well as responsibility for conducting foreign policy.
The Government, the Faroese Government and Naalakkersuisut (the Government of Greenland) share the desire for close, respectful and equal cooperation on matters related to foreign, security and defense policy with particular relevance to the Faroe Islands and Greenland. To promote this common purpose, a political Danish-Faroese-Greenlandic contact committee was established in October 2021. The exchange of classified information is a significant element within the committee.
The authorisation arrangement
After negotiations between the Government and the Faroese Government, Act no. 579 of 24 June 2005 concerning to the concluding of agreements under international law by the Government of the Faroes (the Authorisation Act) was implemented and entered into force on 29 July 2005. The Act entails that the Government of the Faroes may, on behalf of the Realm, negotiate and conclude international agreements with foreign states and international organisations, including administrative agreements, which entirely relate to fields of responsibility taken over by the Faroe Islands.
The arrangement does not cover agreements under international law affecting defence and security policy, as well as agreements under international law that are to apply to Denmark, or which are negotiated within an international organisation of which the Kingdom of Denmark is a member.
An equivalent authorisation arrangement was introduced for Greenland and is now incorporated in the Self-Government Act. The Faroese Government and the Government of Greenland (Naalakkersuisut) may decide to act jointly in connection with negotiating and concluding agreements under international law that concern both the Faroe Islands and Greenland, provided the other conditions are met. If the Faroe Islands and Greenland do not wish to use the option of negotiating jointly, the Foreign Service will participate in the negotiations.
Where international organisations allow membership of entities other than states and associations of states (typically associated membership) the Danish Government may, subject to a request by the Faroese Government decide to submit or support such applications, where this is consistent with the Faroe Islands’ constitutional status.
The Authorisation Act also allows provisions for representatives of the Government of the Faroes to be employed at the Kingdom of Denmark’s diplomatic missions abroad in order to attend to the Faroe Islands interests within fields of responsibility that have been entirely assumed by the Faroese authorities.
The constitutional authority and powers of the Danish Government and the Folketing in the foreign policy field are, according to Section 19 of the Danish Constitution, not limited by the provisions set out in the Authorisation Act.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark has issued guidelines for the cooperation between the Danish Government and the Government of the Faroes regarding the authorisation arrangement and has sent a circular note to the UN and its Member States about the Authorisation Act, etc.
Agreements under international law concluded by the Danish Government
In order to reinforce foreign policy cooperation, the Government and the Government of the Faroes signed in spring of 2005 a joint declaration of principle on the participation and involvement of the Faroe Islands in foreign and security policy (the Fámjin Declaration).
The Declaration establishes, among other things, that: “When such matters of special interest to the Faroe Islands require international negotiations, it is the natural starting point for the Government of the Faroes to participate in such negotiations along with the Government of Denmark in order to assert the Faroe Islands views and interests”.
In addition to the involvement of the Government of the Faroes under the Fámjin Declaration, the Government of the Faroes must also be consulted prior to the ratification of international agreements which are of particular importance to the Faroe Islands, i.e. both international agreements on which the Government of the Faroes has participated in the negotiations under the Fámjin Declaration and other international agreements of particular importance to the Faroe Islands.
Except from special areas, for example relating to human rights or antiterrorism, it will normally be possible to accede to international agreements that exclusively affect Denmark, whereby the Faroe Islands may decide whether it wishes for the agreement in question also to apply in relation to the Faroe Islands.
The Faroese authorities are subject to the obligations that arise out of agreements under international law and other international rules applying to the Faroe Islands.
Co-operation agreement on administrative matters
With the aim of easing and promoting the cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and the Department of Foreign Affairs of Faroe Islands, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the member for foreign affairs in the Government of The Faroese signed an administrative cooperation agreement in spring 2005. The cooperation agreement between Denmark and the Faroe Islands was renewed in the summer of 2019.
Cooperation concerning statutes and administrative orders
According to the Home Rule Act and practice, the Danish Government’s Bills, which comprise or may be brought into force for the Faroe Islands must be submitted to the Faroese authorities for comments before being presented to the Folketing. The Danish Government awaits the Faroese authorities’ comments before presenting Bills to the Folketing which contain provisions that exclusively apply to the Faroe Islands or are of particular importance to the Faroe Islands. Corresponding consultation procedures apply to administrative orders.
In pursuance of Consolidation Act no. 1097 of 10 August 2016 relating to the promulgation of Acts, regulations and executive orders in the Faroe Islands, these statutory instruments must be promulgated in the Faroe Islands before they can take effect there. These statutory instruments are thus promulgated in both the Danish Law Gazette and in the Government of the Faroes’s official Law Gazette in the Faroe Islands, in which the Faroese authorities’ legislation is also promulgated.