Faroe Islands 

Flag of Faroe Islands

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The population of the Faroe Islands is largely descended from Viking settlers who arrived in the 9th century. The islands have been connected politically to Denmark since the 14th century. A high degree of self-government was attained in 1948.


Northern Europe, island group between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, about one-half of the way from Iceland to Norway

Geographic coordinates:

62 00 N, 7 00 W


total: 1,399 sq km
water: 0 sq km (some lakes and streams)
land: 1,399 sq km


mild winters, cool summers; usually overcast; foggy, windy


rugged, rocky, some low peaks; cliffs along most of coast

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Slaettaratindur 882 m

Natural resources:

fish, whales, hydropower, possible oil and gas

Land use:

arable land: 2.14%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 97.86% (2001)

Geography - note:

archipelago of 17 inhabited islands and one uninhabited island, and a few uninhabited islets; strategically located along important sea lanes in northeastern Atlantic; precipitous terrain limits habitation to small coastal lowlands


46,662 (July 2004 est.)

Ethnic groups:



Evangelical Lutheran


Faroese (derived from Old Norse), Danish

Dependency status:

part of the Kingdom of Denmark; self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark since 1948



National holiday:

Olaifest, 29 July


5 June 1953 (Danish constitution)

Legal system:


Economy - overview:

The Faroese economy has had a strong performance since 1994, mostly as a result of increasing fish landings and high and stable export prices. Unemployment is falling and there are signs of labor shortages in several sectors. The positive economic development has helped the Faroese Home Rule Government produce increasing budget surpluses, which in turn help to reduce the large public debt, most of it owed to Denmark. However, the total dependence on fishing makes the Faroese economy extremely vulnerable, and the present fishing efforts appear in excess of what is a sustainable level of fishing in the long term. Oil finds close to the Faroese area give hope for deposits in the immediate Faroese area, which may eventually lay the basis for a more diversified economy and thus lessen dependence on Danish economic assistance. Aided by a substantial annual subsidy (15% of GDP) from Denmark, the Faroese have a standard of living not far below the Danes and other Scandinavians.

Labor force - by occupation:

fishing, fish processing, and manufacturing 33%, construction and private services 33%, public services 34%

Agriculture - products:

milk, potatoes, vegetables; sheep; salmon, other fish


fishing, fish processing, shipbuilding, construction, handicrafts

Exports - commodities:

fish and fish products 94%, stamps, ships (1999)

Exports - partners:

Denmark 37.7%, UK 33.9%, Norway 6.7%, Netherlands 6.5% (2003 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery and transport equipment 29%, consumer goods 36%, raw materials and semi-manufactures 32%, fuels, fish and salt (1999)

Imports - partners:

Denmark 53.5%, Norway 19.6%, Iceland 4.6%, Germany 4.1% (2003 est.)


Danish krone (DKK)

Telephones - main lines in use:

23,000 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

30,700 (2002)


total: 463 km
paved: 454 km
unpaved: 9 km (1999)

Ports and harbors:

Torshavn, Klaksvik, Tvoroyri, Runavik, Fuglafjordhur

Merchant marine:

total: 7 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 24,051 GRT/11,998 DWT
by type: cargo 3, container 1, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 1, short-sea/passenger 1
registered in other countries: 1 (2003 est.)
foreign-owned: Denmark 2, Norway 1, United Kingdom 1


1 (2003 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2003 est.)

Military - note:

defense is the responsibility of Denmark

Disputes - international:

Faroese are considering proposals for full independence; Denmark dispute with Iceland over the Faroe Islands fisheries median line boundary of 200 nm; Denmark disputes with Iceland, the UK, and Ireland the Faroe Islands claim extending its continental shelf boundary beyond 200 nm