Report: Denmark’s Social Democrats make a U-Turn on immigration and integration. Will European colleagues follow suit?
De sociaaldemocratische partij in #Denemarken kiest voor hard #migratiebeleid en meer #nationalisme. Europacorrespondent Saskia Dekkers (@saskiadekkers) ontmoet de grondlegger van deze opvallende nieuwe #politiek en kijkt naar de praktijk. pic.twitter.com/Jv6r9YaWTO
— Nieuwsuur (@Nieuwsuur) March 24, 2018
On 24 March, the Dutch Public Television show Nieuwsuur broadcasted a 10-minute video item on the Danish Social Democrats. The clip, which has commentary in Dutch, has most of its interviews done in English, starting at 2:06. The broadcast on Dutch television was followed the next day with an article on the reporting on the website of Dutch Public Broadcaster NOS. The following is an edited version of the article published, with the text of the relevant interviews added.
Under the title “A more nationalist course has to save Danish social-democrats“, Dutch writer and interviewer Saskia Dekkers claims that the social-democrats had lost contact with their voters. The elections went to the nationalist Danish People’s Part. In response, the social-democrats decided on another course. Last month, five party leaders proposed a comprehensive plan for migration: Muslim women are to live to Danish mores and values, there is to be a platform for the number of people with a non-Western background in struggling neighbourhoods and new migrants are to go through a selection-procedure in Northern Africa.
Besides the electoral losses in Denmark, the Danish social-democratic party is worried by the electoral losses suffered by sister-parties in France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. Dekkers writes that the Danish move is engineered to stave off a similar loss in the parliamentary elections to be held next year. She stresses again, that it is a nationalist course, which he admits seems to be off. Election polls show the social-democrats becoming the largest party by far, and on the way to government.
The main man behind the proposals is Henrik Sass Larsen, chairman of the parliamentary faction in the Danish Parliament: “If the social democrats wish to rule again in Europe, people have to be able to trust us controlling migration and integration.”
Or, as he puts it in the interview: “I remember once I met Wim Kok [a former Dutch Prime Minister], and he had over 40% of the popular vote. I asked him how he did that. I was very inspired by him and his reforms and the way he did government, back in the ’90’s. And I saw the last election result in Holland and it was so depressing. So I hope that they will take up these discussions too, because I’m aware that there are severe problems with integration for instance in Holland.”
Larsen is very clear on where the problem comes from, describing the unwillingness to deal with the problems of migration, as caused by “the basic dilemma of being a social democrat,” which when explained by him is more of a way of life than a practical political attitude:
“You want to be a good person, you want to endorse human rights, and you don’t want to get into any kind of discussion of xenophobia or of racism or anything like that. Therefore, the instinct of many social democrats is that, don’t talk about that, that’s the agenda of the right and the far-right…“
When asked if discussing problems with migration and integration were a taboo, Larsen is very outspoken in saying that indeed it was:
“If you criticised Islam in whatever way, or criticised the way Turkish or Middle-Eastern immigrants conducted themselves in society, it was a taboo.”
And he is very clear on where the blame should be put:
“‘Because we ignored the problem, we created a party, the People’s Party, and they have around 20% of the votes, of the popular votes.’
-‘That was your mistake?’
‘Yeah. Fully. That was our core voters. It was working class, middle class voters who were saying to us, we have a problem with integration. And what our leadership in the social democratic party, basically told them was: you don’t have a problem. O.K., you have one problem, that you are racist if you are raising your voice in any way.“
Larsen blames naivety about mass-immigration for many of the problems as well. Decisions were made to make Danish society accommodate to immigrants, instead of integrating immigrants into Danish society. This naivety caused problems, which were then allowed to fester in the taboo atmosphere mentioned earlier.
“Many people thought, that well, we have problems with the first generation of people coming here, but the next generation are going to be like us and they’re going to, well, drink a beer and they’re going to go to the sports and they’re going to let daughters kiss others and so on. But they didn’t.”
“They’re not loyal to Denmark. They’re not loyal to Holland, or something like that. They’re loyal to their family, they’re loyal to their tradition and their culture and they are loyal to the Middle-East, and so on. And then it’s getting very hard to have successful integration in our welfare society.”
Steen Christiansen, mayor of Albertslund, who is also interviewed, says that it’s important, in a multi-cultural society, to also stress the importance of the local culture. That is why, in the day-care centres in his town, pork is back on the menu. Taken off to accommodate Muslim immigrants, it is now back on. Defending his decision, Christiansen says:
“We are not losing our values, we are clear on our values, because we are saying to the Danes and everybody living in Denmark: we have a common society, we are very proud of it, we know that we are very good at technology, we’re very good at social welfare. If we are going to be that, if we’re going to have that kind of society for many years ahead, then there’s a limit to how many we can integrate into the society.“
One of the incentives for the current discussion in Denmark is the sheer cost of migration for the state. As Peter Nedergaard, professor of Political Sciences at the University of Copenhagen says:
“Migration from Third World-countries is costing the Danish state, uh, around 35 billion DKK per year. It’s the same amount of money that we spend on the public schooling system. And this was also a trigger, I think, within the social democratic party that it simply costs welfare to have the migration that we have had so far. So we have to stop.“
Electorally, Nedergaard does not think the tough new line will scare off many voters:”in the headquarters of social democrats everywhere in the EU there should be a sign saying:’it’s the migration, stupid!’ (…) There is no doubt that the majority of the party voters will support a tougher line.” Those that don’t agree, he says, haven’t got many other options. Not just in Denmark:
“I think there’s only one way for the social democratic parties of Europe to regain their popularity and become strong parties again and that is to adopt the Danish social democratic party’s line on migration. Either you adopt this line, or you die.“