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Kingdom of Denmark

Our kingdom for a flagpole

Denmark’s flagpole mystery has become the source of international mirth. It may, in fact, be a serious attempt to secure the country’s future as an Arctic state

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How many flagpoles does it take to keep a kingdom together? The answer may well turn out to be 534.

That is the number of flagpoles standing on Danish state property. We know this fact because the Finance Ministry, earlier this month, ordered all state agencies to report the number of flagpoles they had. It did not, however, state why.

Ever since the request became public this week, Danes have been offering their own suggestions for what the government might be planning: using the unemployed to raise flags as part of a public job programme, an impending abdication by the queen, or possibly they would be sold and leased back as part of a way to raise money for tax cuts.

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The request, which was reported on by the BBC, a British broadcaster, yesterday, even had been-there-done that political insiders admitting they were stumped.

“This sort of thing happens all the time, we just never hear about it,” Christian Nissen, a retired senior civil servant, told Berlingske, a news outlet. “They are the sort of things that can seem absurd to the uninitiated, but might actually serve a purpose. But flagpoles? What’s up with that?”

Now, an official inquiry by a member of parliament has put an end to the guessing. A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office today states that the government intends to introduce legislation that would require all Danish state institutions to fly the Faroese and Greenlandic flags on their respective national days (April 25 and June 21, respectively).

“The Prime Minister’s Office made its request in order to be properly informed as it prepares a bill that it is considering to ask parliament to vote on,” the statement said.

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The Faroe Islands and Greenland are both parts of the Kingdom of Denmark. Both are in are in a process of gaining increasing autonomy from Copenhagen, to the consternation of many in Denmark.

The request makes it clear that the Danish government understands the symbolism of flags. It must hope that flying them has a tangible effect.