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Danish report
by Euro Reporter
2015-08-22 11:37:58
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Denmark foreign minister Kristian Jensen to 'reopen' ties with Russia

Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen said Friday that he intends to reopen political dialogue with Russia, amid growing estrangement between Moscow and the E.U. "The direct dialogue has been frozen in regards to having meetings at various levels. But if we are to tell them our opinions, we need to have them in a room where they can listen to us. Therefore it is my intention to reopen an active dialogue," Jensen told local newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Later, Jensen said on Twitter: “Denmark needs dialogue with Russia in order to gain influence in regard to Ukraine, etc., and to cooperate on the Baltic Sea, among other things."

denmark_400Russia and Denmark are currently locked in a dispute over the ownership of the North Pole. Moscow submitted a claim to the United Nations earlier this month that saw large swathes of the Arctic Ocean fall under its territory. The country’s Foreign Ministry said that over 463,000 square miles of the Arctic sea shelf would be claimed by Russia. However, last year, Denmark pressed a claim to the U.N. which stated that the North Pole is connected to the continental shelf of Greenland, thus making it part of the Danish autonomous territory.

Relations between the two nations grew colder in April, when Russia announced the creation of an Arctic fighting force that it would station in the region. And in March, Russia's Ambassador to Denmark Mikhail Vanin warned that Denmark could find itself a target if it signed up for a NATO- missile defines shield. "If this happens, Danish warships become targets for Russian nuclear missiles," he warned. The tension between Russia and Denmark is part of a wider rift between Moscow and NATO, which has risen ever since Russia’s annexation of Crimea and allegations of its ongoing involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. However, Jensen said that despite rising tensions, dealing with Russia was a diplomatic necessity. “Even though Russia is a major threat, we can’t find a crane large enough to move it. Russia is situated geographically where it is and that means that we need to deal with it,” he said.


Denmark's new wave of museums and galleries

If you suspect cold Scandinavia has never been hotter in Australia, you’d be right. Recent TV screenings of series such as The Bridge and The Killing led to Saturday night being dubbed “Scandi night”, while Danish head chef René Redzepi has just announced his two-Michelin star restaurant Nomawill relocate to Sydney’s Barangaroo for 10 weeks from January 2016. In Jutland, Denmark, meanwhile, the Danish spin-off of Australia’s Sculpture by the Sea has recently finished its fourth iteration, with more than half a million visitors flocking to Aarhus Bay to see 56 sculptures by artists from 24 countries, including seven Australian works. Founder David Handley, who stages the event in Denmark in collaboration with the ARoSmuseum, is preparing for a fifth showing in 2017.

Since Tasmania’s most famous export, Mary Donaldson, met Crown Prince Frederikof Denmark at Sydney’s Slip Inn during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Denmark has moved up on the average Australian’s radar. Then again, it really all began back in 1957, when a 38-year-old Danish architect called Jørn Utzonwon an international competition to design a national opera house at Sydney’s Bennelong Point. That was the moment that crystallised our shared love of the coastal lifestyle, and of culture by the coast. The number of Australian tourists heading to Denmark has surged by 151 per cent to about 80,000 a year over the past decade, according to Danish government figures.

This tiny seafaring nation is famed for its love of water and ice sports, notably ice hockey, skating, sailing and swimming. But its vibrant arts scene is made the more appealing by the fact that many of its leading galleries and museums are located out in the regions, often by the sea. The recent additions of the Moesgaard Museum – dedicated to ethnography and archaeology – in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, and the new M/S Maritime Museum in Helsingør, just north of Copenhagen, make Denmark a timely addition to any traveller’s cultural bucket list.


Denmark is the first EU country planning to run anti-refugee adverts in foreign papers

The Danish words for “marauding” and “swarms” may not yet be a feature of the rhetoric of the country’s politics, but the same sentiment is at work. The government in Denmark has announced plans to advertise in foreign newspapers, beginning in Turkey. This “information campaign” is intended to deter potential refugees from Syria and Northern Africa. No other nation in Europe has yet advertised its desired deterrence so explicitly, or so far away. But the rise of the populist Danish People’s Party, now a dominant force in the new right-wing minority government, reflects a changing tide of opinion that is taking immigration policy into new territory. The plans confirmed by Inger Stojberg, the integration minister, have been controversial. Denmark received 14,815 Asylum applications in 2014, almost double those of the year before. Reports in the Danish press have revealed that documents comparing the benefits of several European countries are given to refugees by smugglers. The suggestion is that the refugees are making a calculated choice to travel to Denmark, to reap the benefits not available elsewhere. 

The new government has swiftly cut benefits for asylum seekers by 45 per cent, with further benefits made conditional on meeting language requirements. Stojberg has asserted that the information campaign will only contain “facts“such as these, and will allow them to reach refugees in Turkey and the Mediterranean who are considering Denmark as a destination. The point is that diminishing the benefits on offer will only have a deterrent effect if the refugees themselves are made aware. The plans have been deeply polarising. Critics insist that the disincentives are pointless: they assert that neither the cuts to benefits, nor the ads themselves, will actually decrease the number of refugees seeking asylum. But the opposition to the plans goes beyond the merits of their effectiveness. Many fear that the ads could diminish more than just the number of people seeking to claim asylum, but also Denmark’s international reputation for tolerance.

A Danish Facebook campaign that started out of opposition to the policy has already funded ads in the Danish newspaper Politiken and in the Guardian, with a message which reads: “Dear refugees, we welcome you to Denmark.” The group, which has over 20,000 followers plan to run a similar ad in Germany’s Taz newspaper this week. As the “ad wars” persist, politicians on both left and right have expressed unease. Some from the ruling Venstre party have labelled the plans “un-Danish”, and business leaders have warned that the ability of Danish businesses to compete for foreign recruits could suffer. One CEO put it starkly to the Berlingske newspaper: “Many foreign graduates are concerned about how their colleagues will look at us and fear that we are a bunch of closet racists.” In truth, the desire of governments to appear intolerant to all forms of immigration has continent-wide resonance. Denmark’s new policy is of a piece with those of Britain where, confronted by the growing migrant crisis in Calais, the government has pushed through new legislation to clamp down on immigrants in private tenancies. Landlords could face up to five years imprisonment for failure to evict migrants whose visas have expired, too.

The implication is clear. Europe’s governments are drawing a line in the sand in front of millions of refugees from war-torn, deprived parts of the world, too desperate not to cross it. Other European countries have advertised in foreign media to dissuade asylum seekers in the past: both Austrian and German governments have advertised in Kosovan newspapers this year. They argued that this was necessary as the vast majority of applicants from these countries were rejected, on the grounds that Kosovo is officially a safe country. The adverts did result in a net decrease in applications to Austria, at least. But the Danish policy is a new frontier: unlike previous such ads, it’s aimed at refugees who would have a good chance of successfully claiming asylum. Austrian ministers have considered adopting the Danish approach but are reticent. “The situation for people from Syria is completely different,” Interior Ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundböck has said. “There is a very high probability that those people will be granted asylum and so there is no reason for an information campaign in these other countries.” With the number of refugees arriving at European borders increasing, this reticence will be tough to maintain. The ethics of this policy are shaky at best – but if it works, countries may turn a blind eye to the morality of it. And it is striking that it is one of the countries that has historically been most accepting of those fleeing war and famine that is pushing the ethics of EU immigration policy. 


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