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The rise of the right in Denmark and Sweden

NOTE: if you’re arrived here thanks to the seven59.dk post about this programme, this is NOT a blog that is in ANY WAY associated with the programme. These are my own thoughts as a listener to the programme, no more. I don’t work for the BBC and have no association with them.

BBC Radio 4 is running a series entitled “Europe: Driving on the Right”, and the first programme in the series was aired this afternoon, looking at far right parties in Denmark and Sweden. It’s on iPlayer here.

Programmes like this are fiendishly hard to get right. The aim is to make a story clear but also enjoyable, and tell that story in a way that’s appealing to listeners.

Speaking as a politics nerd fascinated by all things Nordic, and with more knowledge of Swedish politics than Danish politics, it strikes me the programme was a fair description of what’s happening in the politics of these two countries, but did not begin to investigate why these changes have happened.

The programme starts with the presenter – Chris Bowlby – attending a social event outside Copenhagen of the Dansk Folkeparti attended by the ‘mother’ of the party Pia Kjærsgaard whose measured tone belies her danger. Interviews with a bouncer and a professional woman in the audience testify to the breadth of support for the party. A counter position is provided by a married Danish-Mexican couple who cannot remain in Denmark as the Mexican does not have the right to remain, while a spokesperson for the Socialdemokraterne explains why they have adopted an immigration policy that’s not too distant from that of the Folkeparti.

Bowlby then crosses the Øresundsbroen / Öresundsbron to Malmö (which he pronounces Malmo – if he can’t get his head around an ö, then can he get his head around Nordic politics – or am I too harsh?) and first of all interviews Nina Kain, a local politician from the Sverige Demokraterna. She describes areas of Malmö as ghettoes, and says she will not go there. Perhaps this (Google translation here) has something to do with it, but my experience visiting Rinkeby, supposedly Stockholm’s worst suburb, is very mild in comparison to downtrodden areas of British towns – how bad is Malmö really? Bowlby at least explains that things are perhaps not as bad as Kain says, but then he’s back on the train to Denmark again… No balance as to what’s really happening in Sweden.

So what could the programme have looked at?

I’m always struck by the rather schizophrenic approach to the rest of the world in the Nordic countries – reliant on trade with the rest of the world to power the economies that make sure the welfare state still works, but also peculiarly defensive when it comes to culture, language and history. Proud, but this often manifesting itself in a negative way internally, in juxtaposition to the way these small countries are seen as a beacon anywhere else in Europe.

There’s also something about the nature of the state in the Nordic countries that can help manifest discontent – provision of a flat, a job, language training is not the same as feeling at home or feeling part of a society if you’re not originally from one of these countries. If you can’t get your head around hygge or kräftskiva then do you feel at home? I suspect not. Can the state help you? Again, I suspect not, being that the state is a functional guarantor of the basic needs of a citizen, and is perhaps less inclined to do the soft stuff the British state might do. And if you’re in the position of the Danish-Mexican couple mentioned above, or you’re under 24, then you could be in Denmark (and, to a lesser extent, Sweden) and rightly feel very discontent.

I’m aware I haven’t fully answered my own question – why the right rose to prominence in Denmark and Sweden – but at least the roots of it lie deep, deep in these societies, and in the respective national psyches, and the relationship between state, family and individual (pursued further by Bagehot here).


23 Comments

  • Jens Peter Hansen |

    Well a BBC program persisted that some foreighners were dead from cold in Denmark. This is not true. It’s a legend. A polish man and a swede, both addicts has been found the last 4 years. One was dead in august, the hottest month of the year and the other in december. None of them had been rejected to sleep over night in the hostals for homeless. It is correct that the public houses is not for forreigners, except from other nordic states like Sweden, but there are private institutes, where they can and do sleep. It may be that Denmark is a hostile society, but opposite UK where a lot of poor people are dying from cold every day in their homes in this , we don’t treat people that way in ” rigthwing” Denmark.
    The social welfare, where alll people freely can join the universities, hospitals, doctors without any fee is what many danes fear will disapear, because the immigrants generally are bad educated and cannot find a work. You could criticise a lot of things in Denmark, but do it correctly please.

  • Jon |

    @Jens – I am in NO WAY associated with the programme. I do not work for the BBC, never have, and I make no reference to the homeless issue in my blog entry. Please read what I write before making such accusations!

  • Peter, Nicolai, Laurits and Anja |

    Dear Bloggers
    Would Nick Griffin be the synonymous for Pia Kjaersgaard in the United Kingdom?
    We are four students from Tietgen Business College in Denmark. We have heard a radio program from BBC, where they talk about immigration in the Danish community.
    We have been offended of the way that the reporter shows our country as a right-winged society.
    When we hear the interview, we get a feeling that in the Scandinavian countries the immigrant groups are outcasts and the society is divided in two parts.
    In the radio show, they talk about the point system for immigrants made by the Danish Peoples Party. Our opinion of the point system is that, in some ways the system is good, but we think that it is too hard to get the points that they need. We think that if they make it a little bit easier to get point s, then it could be a good system so the most people that immigrate, is the immigrants with the best terms to immigrate properly.
    The host Chris Bowlby makes false accuses in the broadcast “Driving on the Right. It shows that some people see Denmark as an economic divided society, where we only think about our own citizens and not foreigners. This statement is not true, we are a country that takes care of our society and our values that we have in Denmark. And we welcome foreigners who want to contribute to our society and values.

  • Jesper |

    Money or immigrants?

    One the issue of immigration in Denmark we are discussing is the right wing parties divided view on the immigrants, who are trying to get residence permit. The typical right wing voters view on an immigrant is very stereotypical. They believe most of the immigrants do not want to contribute to the Danish society; people who are going to live in Denmark, should adapt more to the culture and traditions of the Danes.
    On one hand, we have a desire of helping the poor people in desperate need.
    On the other hand, we expect so many things of them. We have all types of immigrants, those who come with an education looking for more work, the ones coming here in hope of getting a better education and some of them come to Denmark as refugees. Some of them adapt very well here in Denmark, and some do not. Those who do not adapt, do not want do adapt and generally do not take active part in the Danish society, they are the ones so many people from the right wing have a hard time dealing with. Because they do not think the immigrants should have any support financial from the state, when they do not make an effort to adapt themselves to the Danish society. With the new point system test, Denmark hope to keep out all who does not contribute to the Danish society and only cost money for the Danish state. The Danish economy is already bad enough, so the current Danish government does not want to spend more money on immigrants.
    Some immigrants want to move to Denmark, but they still want to live in a according with some of the rules, traditions and values, they had where they came from. For example did many Muslims get angry because of the Muhammad cartoon controversy but freedom of speech and expression is a very important value in Denmark.
    The immigrants cost Denmark a lot of money as well because of a higher crime rate.

    So the problem is that the Danish government rates money higher than people and own values over freedom of the individuals, who will maybe never get a job and contribute to the Danish society. Every person deserves a chance of happiness, but when some immigrants do not want contribute for the country, which had given them a chance to pursue happiness, is it then worth the money? What do you think?

  • Marc, Jonas and Siw |

    Portrayed as racists

    We are students from Tietgen high school in Denmark. We have heard your BBC broadcast and read the article about the immigrations politics here in Denmark which we would like to comment on. Over the last 10 years, Denmark has tightened their rules on integration and immigration such as the new point system. This has brought critic over Denmark saying we are violating European norms, including human rights legislation. Is the criticism of Denmark fair and what is your overall opinion about the new point system and immigration in general?

    In the broadcast they interview the politician Pia Kjærsgaard, who founded the party because she thought that Denmark had to much immigration. She doesn’t like that we have to change the Danish system because of immigrants. The DPP is against immigrants because they think that they only create problems.
    Because of the new immigration politics in Denmark, the number of immigrations has gone from 30.000 to 4.000 over a 10 year period.
    In the BBC broadcast they talked to Tomas Miller and his wife from Mexico. They don’t feel at home in Denmark because of the new “point system”. They want to move back to Canada because they think the Danish politicians don’t want a Danish citizens marrying immigrants.

    How is your perspective on all of this? Our opinion is: First of all, Denmark is being portrayed as a racist country which is not fair because it is far from all who have the same opinion as Pia Kjærsgaard. Second, the point system is ridiculous because it also affects immigrants who might as well could be more Dane than any of us. Immigrants are more than welcome to live here in Denmark but then they must also adapt to our rules. However their lives shouldn’t be hampered because they are immigrants. With that said there are troublemakers and they have nothing to do in our country if they only are here to complicate the lives of others, so we wouldn’t mind if there were stricter rules for them.

  • Christina, Signe and Lennarth |

    Dear fellow bloggers

    Recently we listened to a programme made by a British journalist called Chris Bowlby, the programme was called “Europe: Driving on the right.” He portrayed Denmark as a country ruled mainly by the “right-winged” party, Danish Peoples Party, as a country that hates people of a different descent. What we think he tries to do, is to frighten the people of Britain away from changing the electoral system.

    When we first heard this radio programme, we felt that our culture and our country was attacked. In the beginning of the programme he is standing outside the Danish parliament close to a demonstration. With abhorrence we listened to his comment to the event: “The dream of freedom never ends.” It was like he had told us and the rest of the listeners, that Denmark was not a free country, and afterwards a woman said that in Denmark, the government tell (I think it should be understood as) the immigrants who to love and who to marry, that they do not have the same rights as the normal Dane.

    What she might be referring to is the 24-years law; the law is that you cannot bring a person under 24 to marry you in Denmark. This prevents forced marriages, which we in Denmark believe is wrong.

    Overall we think it depicts Denmark as a country controlled by Pia Kjaersgaard and the right-wing, which is not at all true. Politics in Denmark is much more social liberal, it is true though that we are moving in a right-winged direction when only having immigration policy in mind.

    Also it seems as though Chris Bowlby wants to depict the Danish Peoples Party as a very right-winged party. A man called Thoeger Seidenfaden points out that DPP is in fact more centralistic than what it seems in the beginning of the programme.

    Mr. Bowlby does also give us incorrect information; there have not been a lot of foreign people dying from cold weather in the winter, and most certainly not because they were rejected from government-supported institutions. There have only been two homeless foreigners dying since 2007, and as he wrongly states, it was not two Polish people, but one Polish man, who in fact died an August night (which means not from cold). The other death was a Swede, who could have slept in an institution if he wanted and knew about it.

    To the BBC and other stations alike, please make sure your claims are well documented, and you should also look at the big picture instead of only looking at one subject, when you accuse an entire country of “driving in the right”. This one subject is of course immigration policy.

    This programme makes it clear what his opinion towards an electoral reform is. He does not want a change. This is the reason why he tries to make Denmark look like a “driving on the right”-country to use his expression. The fact that this actually is wrong means that Mr. Bowlby abuses his office, which is being a communicator of information for the people, which he is trough his occupation as a journalist.

    It seems as though he thinks that the BNP will “become” the DPP of the United Kingdom, if a change to the electoral system called PR, short for propositional representation, is made. But is this a bad thing? We do not think so, because it will only be the choice of the people to give them this power, and is that not the purpose of having a democracy?

  • Thomas |

    Danish policy vs. UK policy

    In Denmark the DPP has got a huge influent with their votes, and in the last 10 years, their immigration policy has been accepted by the government and the Danish people. Other countries like UK thinks that the policy in Denmark is to right winged and almost like racism. They are angry at Denmark for letting the DPP get so much influent on Danish politic.
    Denmark and UK is two different countries, with very different politic. As Naser Khader said in the BBC Broadcast, “we welcome immigrants if they support the Danish society more than they cost for having here”. Denmark is a welfare state where welfare payment is good, but also very expensive. If you are a Danish citizen and you pay your taxes you should get these welfare payments. So we have to have a strict immigration policy to make our welfare state work.
    Immigrations represent an increasing represent of the criminal class and sponge on the welfare payment. UK fears that the right winged parties will get to much influent and change their immigration policy, to something bad. UK has to realize that they could improve their economy and decrease the criminal class, with a more strict immigration policy.

  • Nicolai |

    BBC’s doubtful arguments and a Danes point of view

    I must agree with Jens Peter Hansen. Chris Bowly and BBC claims that foreigners arriving in Denmark were forbidden from using state hostels for the homeless, which apparently, according to BBC’s sources led to several deaths in the harsh Danish winter conditions. This is not just a doubtful argument, but simply untrue. BBC has no reliable sources substantiating those awful statements, and personally I am of the belief that it is unbelievably poor journalism and under the general journalistic standards to claim such things without having any kind of proper documentation. BBC’s sources cannot, according to Denmark’s Radio (DR http://www.dr.dk/P1/Detektor/Udsendelser/2011/02/16111537.htm), entirely tell where they had the information about the deaths from.
    Beside the above-mentioned I generally think that some parts of the radiobroadcast is built on dubious arguments, and conducted in an, in some parts, more or less exaggerated tone.
    For example, the BBC claims that immigrants who have married Danes often try to escape the Danish immigration laws, by traveling to Sweden. That might be true, but I think that the reason why couples travel to Sweden more likely is because of the sky-high Danish house prices.

    I am not a supporter of the DPP (Danish Peoples Party), and never will be, but I do think, that the immigrants who travel to Denmark, need to at least try to integrate into the Danish society, accept the Danish values, and make an effort to get a satisfying education and job. Fortunately many immigrants do integrate, do get an education, and do get a proper job, the problem is just that there in my opinion are too many who do not, and instead take advantage of the Danish welfare society and its many assets.

  • Jon |

    Look folks, and especially Christina, Signe and Lennarth – I have approved the comments here, but PLEASE read the blog entry. I know you might have problems with the programme, and the way Denmark was portrayed, but I am not associated with the programme and do not agree with its line.

  • Jacob Gadegaard |

    Dear John

    Thanx for your fine blog. Two questions for you and other bloggers

    How do you think the immigration issue will influence the current debate about – and upcoming referendum on – electoral reform in the UK?

    Will traditional British Euro-scepticism also become an issue in relation to this and how?

  • Emil Heltborg |

    We are 3 guys from Tietgen business college in Denmark, our opinions to the radio broadcast “Europe – driving on the right” are:

    We agree that immigration laws are too strict here in Denmark, for example the point system.
    We think that it is a stupid addition to the already existing system; it excludes immigrants with low education but with other qualities. For example immigrants who make music or have some other profession that doesn’t require an education.
    We would rather see another kind of system, for example immigrants can immigrate to Denmark without all the problems. We think that they should be able to immigrate to Denmark with out going through all kind of systems.
    But if they choose to immigrate to Denmark, then they should be able to support themselves.

    If we did open up the boarders with our present system we would have some huge expenses covering all of them. These days, you actually get money if you immigrate to Denmark. We would really change that, because we think it’s too high an expense for our government. Especially in these days, where the financial crises is everywhere.

    If we were to change the system, we would have to cut down on the immigration support. Because the current Danish economical situation won’t support it.

    Frederik G, Emil Heltborg & Christian Watson 101.

  • Thomas |

    Jon you write: “Speaking as a politics nerd fascinated by all things Nordic, and with more knowledge of Swedish politics than Danish politics, it strikes me the programme was a fair description of what’s happening in the politics of these two countries”

    About you saying that the program had a fair description of the Danish politic. In the radio broadcast they say that the DPP have got their influents because of their immigration politic, but that is not true. Before 1995 in Denmark we had “The future Party”. It is totally right like yours British National Party. In 1995 Pia Kearsgaard, changed the Party, so it become more into the middle and now it is only their immigration politic there are right politic. With this change the DPP stole voters from other parties. Without DPP the government couldn’t get majority, and that’s why they got so much influents in Danish politic.
    Don’t you think that if your BNP did the same as our DPP, they could also get much more influents?

  • Christina, Signe and Lennarth |

    We understand that you are not associated with the BBC Programme, and we apologize for giving you another impression. But you wrote that you believed that the programme gave a fair description of what have happen in Denmark and Sweden. We do not think that Denmark is not driving on the right, if you look at the big picture. But when it comes to immigration policy, we might tend to “drive on the right”.

    Please correct us if we are wrong. You want to know why Denmark and Sweden has developed in a right-winged direction. We can help you to find an answer and also specify what Thomas has told you and the other bloggers.

    As he said: quite a few years ago there was a party called “Fremskridtspartiet” (Progress Party or as Thomas says “Future Party”), they had all right views; such as low tax and stop immigration. The party was split and out of the rubbles Pia Kjaersgaard founded the DPP, and as Thomas says, they do not only have right-winged policies, but they are in some ways similar to the “Socialdemokraterne”. Thomas is also right, when he tells you, why the DPP has so much influence in Danish politic, they tip the scale, you might say.

    We also think it is a common misunderstanding that Denmark is right-winged, and as you say, we are a small country, but we are very proud of our history and culture, which is the reason why we do not like to have others telling us to change. This might also make us seem right-winged.

    If we may ask you a question, then we would like to know if you really do believe that Denmark and Sweden is “driving on the right”? And if yes, then why do you think so?

  • Jon |

    OK, now time for a full reply…

    @Peter, Nicolai, Laurits and Anja (first comment) – no, Nick Griffin and Pia Kjaersgaard are not the same, or synonymous. The former is much harsher in his line, more to the right. But the appeal of the BNP is more narrow than the Folkeparti.

    As for whether Denmark is more to the right on these issues than the UK (or anywhere else) – I think it’s surely fair to say that Denmark has a harder line on these matters than it did 20 years ago, and the same could be said for the UK too. The question is more, I think, how strongly a country and its politicians articulate their values, and here Danish politicians (not just Kjaersgaard) are much tougher in their vocabulary than any UK mainstream politician would ever be.

    @Jesper – I don’t agree with you that that Danish economy is ‘already bad enough’ – admittedly I don’t live in Denmark, but viewed from the outside it looks rather healthy! Also don’t underestimate the fact that immigrants often do the jobs the locals would not want to do. I just do not agree with your premise that all of this is a one way street, that those coming to Denmark are a burden on society. I would like to see some stats to back up your case.

    @Marc, Jonas and Siw – I think the Danish-Mexican couple is very right to feel annoyed and disappointed! They are causing no-one any problems, they are actively contributing to society and to the economy, but according to their story Denmark has no place for them. The situation would be very different in almost all other EU countries.

    @Christina, Signe and Lennarth – I too believe that forced marriages are wrong. But the problem is that Denmark cannot deal with this issue on its own, not least because Sweden is at the other end of the Öresund bridge. Plus there might be very legitimate reasons for people under 24 to get married, and the law excludes this.

    As for the issue of the homeless people – I believe BBC made an apology for this as it was inaccurate.

    @Jacob Gadegaard – I do not think this will be an issue in the electoral reform referendum because the only option on the table is AV which isn’t a proportional system. Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP, is actually in favour of NO in the referendum. A proportional election system would give the BNP and others on the political extremes more of a chance, but if STV (like Ireland) or AMS (live Germany, with a 5% hurdle) were chosen as proportional systems in the future it would still be very hard for the BNP to gain a foothold in Parliament.

    I do think UK scepticism about the EU is mixed in with all of this, because there is little understanding in the UK about the legal differences between migration from within the EU and from outside the EU.

    @Thomas – if the BNP behaved more like the Folkeparti then they would gain some more influence… if the electoral system were different. For now they need to stay more on the traditional hard right, as that separates them from the right of the Conservative Party. Kjaersgaard also strikes me as a more intelligent politican than Griffin.

    @Christina, Signe and Lennarth (comment 2) – no I don’t think Denmark or Sweden are inherently right wing, but the immigration agenda is more to the right now than it was. Also note that those words are not mine, but the choice of the BBC programme.

  • Jacob Gadegaard |

    Dear Jon

    Thank you for your insightful replies to the many different postings.

    I have always admired the way Britain has handled its multicultural reality with a minimum of conflict and racism. Yes, I know you have also had your share of it – eg. different riots in Brixton – but you have generally managed to keep it out of mainstream politics and have interpreted and handled inccidents such as those in Brixton in social and economic terms rather than cultural.

    Therefore, Cameron’s speech on mulitculturalism in Munich surprised me and had me thinking that he was beginning to sound a lot like many Danish politicians.

    I agree with you that the BNP of today will never gain a serious foothold in British politics – be it AV, AV+ or FPTP – and PR will probably never happen in the UK – but isn’t it a possibility that the one-nation-EU-sceptic wing of the Conservative party could be attracted to such views; there are many votes in it – thereby bringing these views into mainstream politics?

  • Nicolai, Louise, Jens and Nikolaj |

    Dear Jon

    In your blog you do write, ”.. it strikes me the programme was a fair description of what’s happening in the politics of these two countries”, but, “… did not begin to investigate why these changes have happened”.
    We will try to explain why we think this happened. In the 90’s the DPP was named “Fremskridtspartiet” (The progressive party). Their opinions were way more extreme than the DPP is today. They sounded a lot like the BNP in the UK today. In Denmark “Fremskridts partiet” did not have any influence, so Pia Kjærsgaard established the DPP based on the least extreme of the old members of Fremskridtspartiet. The DPP had softer policies in all areas but immigration, and in that way they have gained way more influence in Denmark, but is still a right wing party.

  • Anne |

    I am a British citizen and have lived in Denmark for the majority of the last 3 years, so I was interested to hear this radio show and read all the comments in this blog. I moved to Denmark to play a higher level of Volleyball than is available in the UK, although the Danish league is not fully professional, so during my time there I was employed in a regular job, paying taxes and contributing to the economy!

    Firstly, when listening to the show I did not get the impression that Denmark in its entirety was being labelled right wing, but simply that on the the particular policies being discussed, namely immigration, Denmark has moved toward a more right wing position. I also thought it was clear that the views of Pia Kjærsgaard and the DPP are not the views of the entire population, and that their influence on the immigration policy was possible because of their participation in a coalition government, not because they had gained a majority vote. I do concede though that perhaps my own experience and prior knowledge and understanding of the country and it’s political situation may have allowed me to hear the program in a more balanced way than it came across to others. For example, I know of the comprehensive support which is available to Danes who are students, parents (for childcare), unemployed or low income, and countless other situations due to the welfare state, which is funded in large part by the high taxes paid by Danes (I was paying nearly 50% income tax). In these areas it would be fair to say that Denmark is far more left wing than the UK.

    As a foreigner living in Denmark, and knowing several other foreigners living there through volleyball I feel I have some insight in the immigration issue, and some personal experiences that might be of interest to the people on this blog.

    Regarding the inclusion of the DPP in the coalition, I know several people who had voted for the Social Democrats but were outraged when they then formed an alliance with the DPP. These voters had assumed that any coalition would be formed with other parties whose policies were closer to those of the Social Democrats (the center party I think?) and felt betrayed when the coalition was formed with the DPP allowing policies which they felt they had not endorsed or voted for to be followed by government.

    In respect of the rules as they now stand though, I do know that Denmark is a more difficult country to be granted permission to reside in, even for an EU citizen, due to their strict assessment criteria. Having said that, once the criteria are satisfied, I was very impressed to be offered free Danish lessons in a variety of locations at a variety of paces and frequencies, all for free. I felt this was an excellent way to encourage people to learn the language (despite the fact that most Danes I encountered are either fluent or proficient in English) and make it possible for as many people as possible to do so.

    Some of my friends have, however, experienced racism from Danes in day to day situations. One friend is a fellow Brit who actually has a Danish passport as her mother is a Dane, and she learned some Danish in childhood and went on to study the language at university. When she was working in a bakery in Denmark and had difficulty understanding a gentleman making an order, he retorted in Danish “if you don’t speak Danish get out of our country”. This friend had addressed the gentleman in Danish, but had simply failed to understand him and asked him to repeat the order several times – due to the precise and difficult pronunciation of the Danish language it is very rare that a native speaker could not very easily identify a speaker who had learned Danish as a second language.

    In a separate incident, a Canadian friend, having been cut up by a van in the cycle lane whilst riding his bicycle, and only closely avoiding a collision, got off his bike to speak to the van driver. The van had pulled over, so my friend stopped and waited as the driver approached him. Not understanding the man when he spoke my friend said “sorry I don’t speak Danish, do you speak English”. To this the van driver said “fuck English” and punched him in the face.

    Of course I understand that these are individual incidents and of course I am sure that people have had similar experiences in the UK and other countries. I am simply demonstrating that there is some hostility to foreigners in Denmark, by some people. Neither of these friends are demonstratively religious, both are Caucasian, so I would also conclude that in some cases the hostility is not only toward Islamic immigrants who hold different cultural values, nor solely towards those who are not contributing to society by working and paying tax, or attempting to integrate by speaking the language.

    My third “case study” as it were, is of a another Canadian friend who, having been on a 1yr working holiday visa in Denmark met, fell in love with and married a Danish man. The couple were both over 25, but in order for the Canadian to legally reside in the country and be granted a work permit several financial criteria had to be met that were impossible for people on their income level. The application process to the foreign office for their family reunification status took more than 4 months to be processed before the hurdle of these financial stipulations was reached, during which time my friend had been been living with her husband in Denmark but legally unable to work or earn any kind of living. To touch on a point mentioned in the radio show, it was suggested to the couple by some other friends that they move to Malmo and commute, since the working visa regulations for immigrants married to Scandinavians there are far more lenient. I have heard that other couples do this for the same reason, so it is not just house prices that draw couples across the bridge to Sweden as a previous blogger suggested. In the end, this couple were by this point already in such a difficult financial situation due to one of them being unable to work and earn and income for four months that it was impossible for them to meet the financial criteria required of them to be granted the family reunification status, and they therefore legally could not remain in Denmark. They both moved to Canada so that they could live together as husband and wife legally, and work to pay their own way in the world.

    Again, I appreciate that these are the experiences of individuals and can not be assumed to be those of the majority, but as there had been so many responses to this blog from Danes I felt another perspective might be interesting.

    I should add that although I am aware of some hostility towards foreigners in Denmark from some people, I also met many wonderful and welcoming people and I do not generalize that the Danish people as a whole are right wing or racist at all. It is important that we in the rest of Europe are aware that there are factions of the population which do hold these more right wing views, and I think the program aimed to highlight this, and the fact that the popularity of such policies and groups does seem to be on the increase over recent years. I don’t know if there was an agenda involving scare tactics prior to the referendum on the electoral system here in the UK, but I do think that being knowledgeable about the politics of our fellow European states and the movements and trends which occur can only be an advantage in understanding our own countries politics and what there may be to come. I think everyone agrees that we must learn from history in order to move toward a happy and successful future, so why should we also not learn from each other.

    Comments welcome, although most of this is personal opinion rather than a studied or professional viewpoint!

  • Jon |

    @Anne – thanks for taking the time to post such a comprehensive comment! These are just the sorts of stories that are important so as to build up a picture of what’s going on. The Canadian marrying a Dane one is rather typical it seems.

    As for irate drivers – not sure this is due to nationality – I (sadly) get the same on the streets of London as a cyclist!

  • Vincent |

    Hi Jon, I appreciate you ‘giving space’ to this discussion and acknowledge you are not in any way ‘responsible’ for the BBCs output or this programme. Having just listened to the programme this is my review/opinion of it:
    I feel that the presenter gave a definite slant to his report at every turn which could be summed up as: “These horrible Danes are trying to restrict immigration, and we all know that is horribly right-wing and abominable (asking how other parties could possibly even talk to these right wing pariahs!). So we must accept that he showed a strong bias throughout the programme against any idea of limiting immigration. OK that was his opinion.
    However, I would contend, (and I come from a strongly left-wing and anti-racist background) that to restrict the entry into Nordic countries of anyone who would undermine the liberal, secular and egalitarian way of life of the citizens is not a ‘Right Wing’ attitude, but a ‘Left Wing’ attitude! We should all be struggling daily to protect our hard-gained liberal and secular rights (and, being from Ireland, where we have just gained freedom from religious tyranny, I know what I am talking about).
    Yes, I am anti Islam, and I am anti Christianity, and anti Judaism and any other group which indoctrinates children with dangerous judgemental myths. It has taken us 400 years of struggle, wars and deaths to get religion out of political power in Europe and we must not let it back in every again, until it dies out eventually. I do not advocate repression or denial of full human rights to any religious person (who have full rights under our systems to ‘worship’ whom ever they want) but just that they keep their homophobia and misogyny to themselves.
    Defending our human rights against religious oppression is a liberal and left-wing cause, nothing at all to do with race but lots to do with ancient myths.
    Thanks for letting me get off steam but I think the programme presenter was very biased and had a political world-view which is twenty years out of date.

  • Sun |

    As someone who has been anti racist my entire life, I’ve migrated due to the fact that I do want to preserve the ethnic and culture of a given group. I no longer believe in multiculturalism and I do endorse that idea of preservation. If that makes me “racist” then so be it. Unless “the left” wants to kill off every right winger (i.e. concentration camp) it is something that is going to exist. People are waking up and seeing that this is what they want.

    The ironic thing is that most left wingers would be fully fine with going along with the customs of people who weren’t white in some non western country. It is part of being respectful to the group that is giving you hospitality. This somehow becomes “racist” when Europeans demand it.

    This is a perfect example of how “economic” and “rise of the right” is in fact a myth. If it was real then the Scandinavian countries (including Switzerland) would have no such rise.

    “When in Rome, you do as the Romans do.”

So, what do you think ?