The week in review.
I guess the past week may end up being seen as a kind of turning point when it comes to Denmark’s international reputation. “Jewellery-Gate” as it has become known in Denmark seems like it may leave a lasting stain on my country’s image abroad. The new law is a particularly egregious — and hard-hitting — example of pandering to the voters that may just have backfired, precisely because its symbolism is conceived for maximum effect. Not even the politicians who proposed and passed it seem to have spent much time arguing that confiscating valuables from refugees would make much of a difference to covering the considerable costs of admitting and accommodating them. It is purely a way of showing their resolve to prevent too many immigrants coming to Denmark. Less attention has been paid to the more consequential and fundamentally more serious decision to delay family reunification for refugees by three years, a measure that has been roundly criticised by human rights groups.
In addition to appeasing the reluctance on many Danish voters’ part to see large numbers of new immigrants, the new law is clearly part of an effort to deter refugees from seeking asylum in Denmark, prompting them to go elsewhere. In this, at least, the government may end up claiming a measure of success. At least in the short term. But at what price? In addition to being inhumane on the face of it, the new law is a flagrant instance of lack of solidarity with the rest of the EU, a demonstration that Denmark is unwilling to do its part to deal with a problem that belongs to everyone. Beyond that, there is a risk that the last shred of Denmark’s good name abroad as a champion of egalitarianism and humanitarianism — gained through the selfless (if also fortuitous) rescue of the country’s Jewish population during World War II and the success of the Danish welfare state in the postwar years — is now history. This will seriously affect our country’s diplomatic credibility and will make it harder for us to forge the kind of international relationships we depend on as a small nation.
This all recalls all too sadly aspects of the 2006 cartoon crisis, another instance of Danish politicians not grasping the international scope of their actions. But where that conflagration, however poorly handled by individual decision makers, erupted in defence of basic democratic principles, this one is happening in contravention of them. And where Denmark could reasonably have expected more support from its allies back then, this needlessly alienates them.
It’s a sordid and depressing case, and one that — because the symbolism is so blatant and so fraught — obscures similar measures taken elsewhere in Europe, putting our country first in a race to the bottom and distracts from real, international solutions to a very real and pressing problem. The crisis in Europe, brought on by the current wave of migration, is potentially existential and at the core of any solution will be the interpretation and integrity of the foundational principles of universal human rights. While it is extremely unlikely that these will go unchallenged by whatever decisions are made in the next few years to solve the problem, it should be clear from this mess that measures that blatantly flaunt them for short-term political gain only make matters worse. In that respect, perhaps, Denmark has done the international community a favour?
No links this week.