Your weekly recap of Danish politics and society – Week 11

Curious about what’s going on in Danish society? Worry no more! Each week we will bring you the main political events, debates, decisions and issues in a neat package of short news stories.

by Anders Bo Andersen and Mie Olsen

Political moves

Støjberg bows for court decision: In January, the Danish Supreme Court decided that people on tolerated stay should not be forced to live at departure centres. Until this week, the Danish Immigration Services had investigated measures to circumvent this ruling, but with no success. Therefore, the Minister for Integration, Inger Støjberg, decided to abide the court’s decision. The Supreme Court found that the former law did not “harmonise with Denmark’s international responsibilities,” according to the Ministry for Immigration. “The Danish authorities have finally recognised that a ruling by the Supreme Court also applies to people on tolerated stay. It is essential to my client that he does not have to stay at Kærshovedgård [departure centre], but with his wife and kids,” said Marianne Vølund, the attorney representing two persons on tolerated stay in Denmark.

Increased punishment for systematic blackmail: Up to eight years of imprisonment for systematic or organised blackmail states a new law proposal backed by a majority in the Danish parliament. The proposal suggests an increase by 1/3 from the current punishment for extortion. The law is only a part of a collective law package that the Danish parliament is currently negotiating. “We have brought this proposal to the table, because we want higher punishment for systematic blackmail. The punishment must be harder if gang members extort other citizens, simply because we want to keep these dangerous people in prison,” said Peter Kofod Poulsen, judicial spokesperson for Dansk Folkeparti, to Berlingske. As his statement implies, the law is mainly aimed at gangs who extort local businesses for money. In the municipality of Odense, systematic blackmail was reported five times last year and four tattoo shop owners recently reported, how the nationwide gang Black Army, had extorted them.

In the media

Controversial ‘refugee cake’ sparks outrage: On Tuesday 14th, Denmark’s Minister for Integration Inger Støjberg once again managed to upset not only the political left wing, her own party members and several Danish debaters, comedians, commentators and civilians, but also international news media including The Bild and the New York Times.  The New York Times wrote: “Not so long ago, Denmark prided itself on its humanism, generous foreign aid budget and welcoming attitude toward foreigners. Times have changed.” With her Othello-cake, decorated with a Danish flag and the number 50 written in marzipan, Støjberg celebrated the passing of the 50th regulation against immigration. However, according to outraged voices in her own party Venstre, the celebratory tone is highly inappropriate. “It is deeply tragic that we have to pass regulations, because we have to, in a time when the world looks like this. But there is no reason to celebrate it,” said former Foreign Minister Uffe-Ellemann-Jensen. Støjberg herself has stated how the cake is a legitimate way to celebrate a political victory and pointed out that she paid for it herself.

Minister criticised for not briefing parliament on Post Nord’s financial deficit: Danish Minister for Transportation Ole Birk Olesen had to fight for his political dignity this week, when both the press and members of Parliament, especially from Dansk Folkeparti and Socialdemokratiet, criticised him for not briefing the political “post-settlement group” of Post Nord’s billiard deficit. Post Nord is a Post Office owned by both the Danish state (40%) and the Swedish state (60%), and as such it takes political decisions on re-distribution of tax money plus negotiations with Sweden to ‘save its business’. “At one point, we gave the treasures an orientation, because there was a reviewing of the state’s companies in the Treasury. At that moment, the spokespersons for postal affairs should have been briefed,” Olesen told Tv2. Minister for Finance Kristian Jensen informs that Denmark wants to negotiate the deficit with Sweden, as Denmark’s neighbour has benefited from profits in the Danish department in the past. However, Swedish Minister for Industry Mikael Damberg has stated that Swedish tax money should not be used to cover a Danish deficit.

Cultural clashes

“Lars Løkke needs a degree in compassion”: Stated Danish musician, Mads Langer, after winning two awards at the prestigious Gaffa show. Mr. Langer spoke out against the recently implemented restrictions on education. “I have six years of SU [educational support] that I would like to share with you, Lars Løkke. You can use them for a degree in compassion,” he said. The new restrictions on education mean that you cannot commence on a second degree until six years after you graduated the first one. Jakob Engel-Schmidt, Venstre’s spokesperson for Education, rebuffed Mr. Langer’s comments by asking him how a person without a long education knows about the struggle of students. The artist’s comments re-spark the debate on whether artists should engage in public and political debates.

Baby boom: Syrian migrants increase population of Denmark. Every fifth newborn in Denmark has a mother from an ethnic minority, says a report from Dansk Statistik. According to the statistics bureau, part of the explanation lies in the increasing number of Syrian women in Denmark –they gave birth to 1181 babies in 2016. In total, 61,000 babies were born in Denmark last year, of which 13,000 had a mother from an ethnic minority. Steven Sampson, professor in Social Anthropology at Lund University, sees the tendency as positive, as it improves a currently declining Danish birth rate. “We get more children to pay for our pensions. That is good. Afterwards, we look at their individual qualities. It is unfortunate if the children live in parallel societies with no contact to the Danish culture and values. However, it is also unfortunate if the children’s mother or father becomes lazy or junkies. In all cases, we have to look at why things turned out the way they did,” he explained to Politiken. Historian Henrik Jensen has a different perspective, arguing in Kristeligt Dagblad that the rise in newborns with other ethnic backgrounds “puts pressure on integration initiatives if you want to maintain a certain level of continuity in this country.”

Denmark in the World

Danish Prime Minister postpones visit from Turkish colleague: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan caused European outcry last weekend when he accused the Dutch people of being “Nazi descendants and fascist,” comparing also contemporary Germany to the former, historical Nazi regime. This heavy, political rhetoric was his reaction to the two NATO partners’ choices to prevent Turkish ministers from campaigning in their countries for the President prior to the referendum on April 16th. This referendum could strengthen Erdogan’s political power markedly, which raises concerns that Turkey will develop to become an autocratic dictatorship. Now, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has chosen to postpone his diplomatic meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim because of the escalating conflict between Holland and Germany, and Turkey. On his Facebook page, Rasmussen wrote how a meeting these days, due to the current attacks in Holland, would send a signal of Denmark being less critical of the development in Turkey; and that is not the case.

mannnThink about it

In a collaborative project called ‘Security for Sale’, Danish newspaper Information works with several other European media outlets to examine the European security and surveillance industry. This week they reported on how a loose interpretation of EU regulations has legitimised Danish export of surveillance technology to dictatorships which violate human rights.


Meet the team that brings you the best Danish news digest: 

Anders Bo Andersen holds a bachelor’s degree in International and European Studies and runs a blog on Danish politics. He is currently enrolled in International Journalism studies at Aarhus University.

Mie Olsen is Jutland Station’s Society Editor. She is currently studying a master’s degree in International Journalism with a specialism in Business and Finance.

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