On backlash and global opinion

A piece published at The Hill on 11 February by András Simonyi about the global backlash Denmark recently received in light of their response to an influx of asylum seekers caught my attention —

But Danes — politicians and the general public alike — need to realize something that strangely eluded them completely: that they are held to higher standards in the world than the overwhelming majority of other countries, like, say, Hungary (my native country, which has veered off-course as a fully fledged democracy). There is an expectation in the world toward it to show the way. It is seen as one of the true defenders of the liberal and democratic values of society, which includes humanitarian values. Denmark is a nation that is seen as a beacon, a standard-setter for the world for decades; its balanced, humane and tolerant policies the example for others to follow. It has worked hard to obtain this status and should do everything it can to maintain it. Together with the other Nordic countries, they hold the solutions to many of the problems of modern society, a source of inspiration for all of us who believe in freedom and democracy in the midst of the onslaught of Putin-esque illiberal thought.

Denmark’s performance in the field of human rights and social policies as a strong transatlanticist has earned the country the ability to punch above its weight in the world. This is important. Denmark has amassed enormous amounts of goodwill in the past. Its fundamental democratic values are strong. It should make every effort to hang on to them. But then, goodwill is like equity. Stocks can skyrocket based on real value added, but also perceptions. However, negative perceptions can be destructive, and a stock that was valuable one day can lose much or all of its value the next. But if the company is basically healthy, and its fundamentals strong, it will get over it.

Given, of course, that leadership is prepared to do the right things to correct mistakes.

see also: Small States Seeking Status: Norway’s Quest for International Standing (2015), edited by Benjamin de Carvalho and Iver B Neumann.

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On seizing assets

Denmark is considering a new policy — via Dylan Matthews at Vox,

“The Danish Government has on 10 December presented a bill before the Danish Parliament which includes a number of different initiatives on asylum policy, including the initiative on seizing valuable assets,” Mia Tang, a spokesperson for the Danish Ministry of Immigration, Integration, and Housing explained in an email. “The bill will go through Parliamentary debate in January and will enter into force after adoption by the Parliament. The bill is expected to be effective from February 2016.”

Under the law, any possessions worth more than 3,000 kroner — about $440 — would be fair game for immigration authorities to seize. “Foreigners will always be able to keep assets which are necessary to maintain a modest standard of living, e.g. watches and mobile phones,” Tang insists. […]

[Tang] continues:

It follows from current rules that an asylum seeker, who brings sufficient means to take care of him- or herself, should not also receive support from the Immigration Service. The asylum seeker is obliged to inform on any means the asylum seeker brings with him or her. The bill presented on 10 December 2015 provides the Danish authorities with the power to search clothes and luggage of asylum seekers — and other migrants without a permit to stay in Denmark — with a view to finding assets which may cover the expenses mentioned above.

The law would apply both to refugees entering Denmark in the future and to ones there now.

see also: Denmark wants to seize jewelry and cash from refugees.

On bridges

From Feargus O’Sullivan over at Citylab (and The Atlantic) —

When the Oresund Bridge (that’s Öresund in Swedish and Øresund in Danish) opened in 2000, it was taken as a harbinger of a bright, borderless future for Europe.

Linking Danish Copenhagen with the Swedish city of Malmo across five miles of the Oresund Strait, the bridge was an unquestionably bold feat of engineering, featuring a two-mile tunnel connecting to it via an artificial island. The bridge’s role in reshaping Scandinavia’s geography was more impressive still. It joined two countries previously linked only by sea and air and helped to bind Denmark’s first and Sweden’s third cities into a new international metro area.

Now, however, that international link-up is under intense strain—so much so that Sweden is now drawing up a law that would allow it to close the bridge. The reason: Europe’s refugee crisis.

see also: Bridge of Sneers via the Economist; a building war of words, “Sweden has hit its limit. Denmark has not.

On regional tensions

Heightened tensions in the region these days —

Norway:

Sweden:

Denmark:

Norway – Sweden – Denmark comparisons:

08.12.15 edit: Add Finland to the mix: