Independence divides Denmark islands

A group of tiny islands in the north Atlantic are fiercely debating the merits of independence. The Faroes have had autonomy from Denmark since 1948, but the 48,000 people who live there are now pushing for more.

Over the years the Faroese have taken control of most matters except defence, foreign affairs and the legal system but Denmark has control of nearby oil deposits.

Conservative Party Chairman Jorgen Niclasen says: “We are a country away from Denmark, totally alone in the North Atlantic. We have our own language, if only 48,000 people. As every child we are growing up and when you grow up you want to move away from your parents and make your own home.”

The islands have already voluntarily reduced Danish subsidies by a third, without significant effect on an economy heavily dependent on fishing.

But for traditionalists and unionists, ties with Denmark are necessary for security and as a means of joining the European Union.

“We are the party who are standing for unity with Denmark and with Greenland because as we are saying usually small is beautiful, our islands are very beautiful and big is powerful,” believes Kaj Leo Johannesen, leader of the Union Party.

Often shrouded in mist, the country has a rugged landscape locked in time. In traditional grass-roofed houses and ancient Viking and Celtic customs are kept alive.

On both sides of the argument, there’s a strong drive to create an economy which is self-sufficient – whether people want independence or not.