Denmark joined the European Union in 1973, while the Faeroe Islands and Greenland currently are not part of the EU, but remain as associated Members
A large number of areas have greatly benefited from EU membership, both in terms of commerce and social activities.
Denmark has retained 4 (3 Remains, as of July 2012) areas in which it choose not to join the EU common set of legislation.
The Edinburgh Agreement or Edinburgh Decision is a December 1992 agreement reached at a European Council meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, that granted Denmark four exceptions to the Maastricht Treaty so that it could be ratified by Denmark. This was necessary because, without all member states of the European Union ratifying it, it could not come into effect. Denmark had first rejected the Maastricht treaty, but with the addition of the Edinburgh Agreement, ratified the treaty in a 1993 referendum. The member states that already ratified the Maastricht Treaty, did not have to do so again.
The provisions of Part Two of the Treaty establishing the European Community relating to citizenship of the Union give nationals of the Member States additional rights and protection as specified in that Part. They do not in any way take the place of national citizenship. The question whether an individual possesses the nationality of a Member State will be settled solely by reference to the national law of the Member State concerned.
With the adoption of a similar clause applying to all member states in the Amsterdam Treaty, this opt-out is now de facto meaningless.
The Protocol on certain provisions relating to Denmark attached to the Treaty establishing the European Community gives Denmark the right to notify the Council of the European Communities of its position concerning participation in the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union. Denmark has given notification that it will not participate in the third stage. This notification will take effect upon the coming into effect of this decision.
As a consequence, Denmark will not participate in the single currency, will not be bound by the rules concerning economic policy which apply only to the Member States participating in the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union, and will retain its existing powers in the field of monetary policy according to its national laws and regulations, including powers of the National Bank of Denmark in the field of monetary policy.
Denmark will participate fully in the second stage of Economic and Monetary Union and will continue to participate in exchange-rate cooperation within the EMS.
Note: The benefit of this exception is also debatable. Some other EU members have opted out of the common currency without an agreed exception. The United Kingdom has its own exception, but Sweden for instance does not.
The Heads of State and Government note that, in response to the invitation from the Western European Union (WEU), Denmark has become an observer to that organization. They also note that nothing in the Treaty on European Union commits Denmark to become a member of the WEU. Accordingly, Denmark does not participate in the elaboration and the implementation of decisions and actions of the Union which have defence implications, but will not prevent the development of closer cooperation between Member States in this area.
Denmark will participate fully in cooperation on Justice and Home Affairs on the basis of the provisions of title VI of the Treaty on European Union.
Greenland originally joined the EU with Denmark in 1973, but opted out in 1985, in a dispute over fishing rights.
Greenland is the only Danish territory that is included in the list of OCTs (Overseas Countries and Territories) associated to the Community. Its capital is Nuuk. Greenland has a population of 56 376 inhabitants. Greenland’s economy is highly dependent on payments from Denmark and on fishing and fish exports, to the EU.
The EU and Greenland entered into a special free trade agreement.
The Faroe Islands are party to an agreement between the EU, the Government of Denmark and the Home Government of the Faroe Islands.
The EU and the Faeroe Islands entered into a free trade agreement in 1997.
"Free trade must be a tool to generate prosperity, stability and development. When supported by the right rules and institutions, free trade delivers win-win outcomes. When part of a wider set of measures, it is a potent lever promoting European values abroad, like sustainable development and human rights. In addition, the openness of our own market fosters innovation and creativity at home and is the best way to ensure, thanks to our weight in global trade, similar openness abroad."
– Karel De Gucht (EU Trade Commissioner)