The first known settlers in the Faroe Islands were Irish monks, who in the 6th century AD told of the “Islands of the Sheep and the Paradise of Birds”.
The name Føroyar is derived from old Norse and means Sheep Islands, a name given by the Viking age settlers arriving from Norway in the 9th century. The medieval culture and organisation of the Faroes was clearly Norse in origin and form, and they established their Althing (parliament), later named Løgting, at Tinganes in Tórshavn. Tórshavn still is the capital city of modern days Faroe Islands, and it claims to hold the oldest parliament in the world.
Viking age Norwegian kings long aspired to gain control over the islands, but for many years the Faroese managed to fight them off. However, by the latter half of the 12th century the Faroes eventually became firmly attached to the Kingdom of Norway.
The Faroes joined Norway into the dual monarchy with Denmark in the late 14th century. When this union was succeeded by a Norwegian-Swedish union in 1814 the former Norwegian territory of the Faroes remained under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark. Due to, among other factors, remoteness vis-à-vis both Norway and Denmark, the Faroes always maintained a special jurisdiction along with their distinct language and culture, guarded by the ancient Løgting.
The royal trade monopoly long stood in the way of development. When it was abolished in 1856 an export oriented commercial fishing industry rapidly developed kickstarting the development of a modern market economy and population growth.
The special constitutional status, combined with a growing export oriented economy and a cultural national awakening by the late 19th century, fuelled a Faroese nation-building process and the establishment of political autonomy. Since adopting the Home Rule agreement of 1948 the Faroes has had extensive self-government.
Today fisheries and aquaculture are the basis for the production and export of high quality Faroese fish products, which constitute 95 per cent of the total income of exported goods. Diversification of the economy and the development of a welfare society has led to a variety of working opportunities in the modern Faroese society.
With economic wealth the Faroese have developed a welfare society much along the lines of the typical Scandinavian welfare state model, e.g. with free education and healthcare for all.
A Chronology of Key Events:
circa 600 AD - Irish monks settle on the islands.
circa 800 - Norwegian farmers arrive.
circa 1000 - Christianity introduced by order of the king of Norway.
1035 - Faroe Islands become formally a land under the Kingdom of Norway (in reality the rule of Norwegian kings only secured by late 12th century).
1380 - As a land under the Norwegian Crown the Faroe Islands enter together with Norway into a Dual Monarchy with the Kingdom of Denmark.
1655 - Faroe Islands are presented to the von Gabel family. Their oppressive feudal rule ends in 1709 when the Faroes come under direct Danish rule.
1814 - With the Kiel Treaty of 1814 Norway is separated from the union with Denmark. The Faroes are maintained under the rule of the Kingdom of Denmark.
1816 - Faroe Islands status as county of the Kingdom of Denmark.
1850 - The Danish constitution is by Danish order extended to the Faroe Islands, which are given representation in both houses of the Danish parliament.
1856 - Danish Royal trade monopoly abolished. Free trade is established.
1872 - Purchase of the first seafaring fishing vessel heralds the growth of the islands' main economic activity.
1906-09 - First political parties are formed, representing divisions over the self-government issue.
1940 - World War II: British forces occupy the Faroes while Denmark is under German occupation. The Faroese flag is recognised by the British Government.
1946 - Narrow vote for secession from Denmark in referendum. Danish king dissolves Faroese parliament.
1948 - Home rule act is passed. The islands become an autonomous, self-governing nation under the external sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark.
1973 - Faroese parliament decides not to join the European Community (now European Union) with Denmark.
early 1990s - Severe economic crisis, amid falling fish prices and depleted stocks. Unemployment and emigration rise. Almost 10 % decline in population.
1998 - After the General Election a pro-independece Government coalition is formed under Prime Minister Mr Anfinn Kallsberg (People's Party).
2000 - Negotiations on Faroese sovereignty between Faroese and Danish governments commence and fail.
2001 March - Planned referendum on independence is cancelled after Denmark says a pro-independence result would lead to a very sudden halt in Danish subsidies.
2002 January - Faroes take over responsibility of the entire education system and a major part of social security, resulting in a 35 per cent reduction in annual Danish State subsidies.
2002 April - After the General Election a new Government coalition is formed consisting of both independence and unionist parties. A more gradual self-government policy is adopted.
2003 December - Pro-independence party pulls out of coalition.
2004 - After early elections in January a three-party coalition is formed with Mr Jóannes Eidesgaard (Social Democrat) as Prime Minister.
2005 - After negotiations with Denmark, Faroese self-government is widened with greater powers to unilaterally take over new government areas and also to act in foreign policy matters.
2008 January - Parliamentary elections. New governing coalition formed. Joannes Eidesgaard continues as Prime Minister.
2008 September - Mr Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen (Union Party) becomes prime minister and forms new coalition government after the collapse of the coalition led by Mr Joannes Eidesgaard.
2011 October - Centre right Union and People's parties increase their share of the vote in parliamentary elections. Mr Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen continues as Prime Minister.
2015 September - Mr Aksel Johannesen (the Socialist Party) becomes prime minister.
The Faroe Islands is a self-governing territory, encompassed by the external sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark. The Faroese political system is a variation of the Scandinavian type parliamentarian democracy, with its own democratically elected legislative assembly, the Løgting, and an executive government headed by the løgmaður (Prime Minister), who is also responsible for foreign affairs.
The Løgting, which may well be the oldest parliament in the world, has 33 members elected for a period of four years by popular vote in the Faroes as a single constituency. In addition the Faroese elect two members to the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen.
After the election the Løgtingsformaður (the speaker of the parliament) gives the initiative to start negotiations on forming a government to the party leader with the largest number of parliament members - from his own party and possibly also from other parties - behind him or her.
At the local government level the Faroe Islands are divided into 30 municipalities. Tórshavn is the largest with a population of approx. 20,000. Second is Klaksvík with approx. 5,000. The municipalities are run by publicly elected councils, and have taxation powers of their own.
The Faroe Islands are a self-governing country under the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark.
The Faroe Islands are not a member of the European Union and all trade with Europe is governed by special treaties.
The Faroe Islands are believed to have been discovered and inhabited in the 8th century or earlier by Irish settlers. The Norwegian colonization began about a hundred years later and developed throughout the Viking Age.
Norway and Denmark joined in a double monarchy in the late 14th century. When Norway was seperated from Denmark in 1814, the Faroe Islands remained under the sovereignty of Denmark.
Due to the large geographical distance to Norway and Denmark the Faroe Islands have always maintained a special jurisdiction.
The status of the Faroe Islands within the Kingdom of Denmark was defined in the Home Rule Act of 1948. Amendments were made in 2005.
The Home Rule Act defines the political competence and responsibility transfered from Danish political authorities to Faroese political authorities. The Faroese authorities enact legislation and have the economic responsibility for the areas taken over from Danish authorities.
The Faroe Islands have taken over the exclusive competence to legislate and govern independently in a wide range of areas. These include the management of living marine resources and underground resources within the 200-mile economic zone, fiscal and taxation politcy, social security, culture, education and research.
Matters regarding Danish citizenship, defence and foreign policy as well as monetary policy cannot be transfered to Faroese jurisdiction according to current legislation.
Faroese autonomy in foreign relations is provided by a treaty between the Faroe Islands and Denmark. This treaty allows the Faroe Islands to represent themselves and negotiate treaties under international law with other states and international organisations concerning all matters administered by the Faroese authorities.
Although Denmark is a member state of the European Union, the Faroe Islands have chosen to remain outside the Union. Trade with the European Union is governed by a special trade agreement between the Faroe Islands and the EU.
The Faroese Parliament (Løgting) is the legislative assembly for Faroese affairs.
The Løgting is believed to be the oldest parliament in Europe. Its origin can be traced as far back as shortly after the first Norse settlement of the Faroe Islands in the early 9th century. The settlers established their own parliament in Tórshavn where all major decisions affecting the whole country were taken.
In 1816 the Faroe Islands became a Danish administrative district and the Løgting was abolished. In 1852 the Løgting was reestablished as a consultative body for Danish authorities concerning the governing of the Faroe Islands.
In 1948 the Home Rule Act vested all legislative power within branches taken over from the Danish Parliament in the Løgting.
The Løgting has 33 members who are elected for a period of four years. Election of the Løgting can take place before the end of an election period if the Løgting agrees on dissolving itself or the Prime Minister decides to call an election. All Danish nationals over 18 years registered in the Faroe Islands have the right to vote and to stand for election for the Løgting.
The session of the Løgting begins on 29 July (Saint Olaf´s day) with a procession from the parliament building to the Cathedral where a service is held. After the service the procession returns to the parliament, and the Prime Minister delivers his Saint Olaf’s address, in which he gives a general description of the state of the nation.
The sittings of the Løgting are public. The Løgting debates between 150 and 200 various items in one session.
There are two axes in Faroese politics, one concerning the independence question, the other is ideological from left to right.
The Faroe Islands are administratively divided in 30 municipalities (kommunur), with about 100 cities and villages. The municipalities vary in size from almost 20,000 inhabitants in Tórshavn Municipality to around 40 inhabitants in Fugloy Municipality.
The municipal councils are elected for a period of four years. All Danish nationals over 18 years registered in the Faroe Islands and citizens of other countries who have had permanent residency in the Faroe Islands for three years prior to an election have the right to vote and stand for election in municipal elections.
Two members of the Danish Parliament (Folketinget) are elected in the Faroe Islands. All Danish nationals over 18 years registered in the Faroe Islands have the right to vote and stand for elections for the Danish Parliament.
Further information on the Faroese political system: