One from the Vaults: The Buck Stops Where?

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Something prescient from 2011 about Venstre foreign policy hope you enjoy reading it again.

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And so, wearily, on to immigration.

As I noted previously, Venstre allowing certain people from certain “developed” countries to have an easier experience when they try to live here permanently with their Danish husband or wife throws up problems.

The Integration Minister (Søren Pind) said at the time in a newspaper column that he was “sick to death of equality mongers”.

The Press releases from the Integration Ministry are never translated into English. Highlights of a recent one saying how successful the current immigration policies are include “Denmark is internationally seen an example of good integration,” (which is demonstrably untrue, as international reports have noted Denmark is the worst at integration), and “Denmark is today more open to foreigners than ever before but now you come to Denmark to study and work, unlike earlier where you came for asylum or family reunification,”
and my personal favourite
“But at the same time I am in the process of modernising the Danish Immigration legislation, so that for example, now it will be easier to have family reunification with foreigners who come from countries which have a marked similarity with Denmark.”

If Søren “effing” Pind thinks that Japan, Canada, The USA and Australia are “markedly similar” to Denmark, then this guys problems are more serious than we think.
His grounds for choosing the countries that are on the favoured list have nothing to do with similarity with Denmark but are rather
1) No visa required to visit Denmark from their country
2) Member of OECD
3) At the top of the Human Development Index

Which includes South Korea and Israel for all three criteria. He never mentions them in his speeches.

The OECD is a club you can belong to if you like democracy and market economies. There are 34 countries in it, less than 30% are outside of Europe. The President of the OECD is Mexican. If he married a Dane, he would have to sit the language test to be allowed to stay in the country with her.
There are no African countries in the group. Only Japan, S Korea and Israel are from Asia. Only Chile and Mexico are from Central/South America.

The Human Development Index is a calculation made on the basis of life expectancy, education and income… A way of calculating if a country is “developing” or “developed”. Denmark comes 19th, behind all the other Scandinavian countries and, as I have noted, South Korea, Japan and Israel.
Making the cut of “Highly Developed Country” but behind Denmark are countries like Bahrain, Qatar, UEA, Barbados, Singapore and Brunei.
As they are not members of the OECD, these highly developed countries are not “similar” enough for Mr Pind.

Then the visa arrangements. How very strange that this would be requirement for saying a person was more able to integrate. Whether you need a visa or not to enter a country depends on if a visa has been negotiated with the country or not. “Similarity” is a very funny way of putting something like that.

Now, let’s just cut the crap for a second. If a Dane has fallen in love with someone from another country, surely the Dane should be the judge of whether she or he is “similar” enough to be romantically involved with. Why second guess them? Why say that similarity between cultures can only be judged on visa arrangements, a country’s membership of an arbitrary group AND the use of controversial development indicators?
He has enough courage to come out and say things that are not true, like Denmark is internationally recognised as a good place for integration but not enough courage to say that he only wants Danes to marry people from predominantly white, non-muslim, rich, democratic, market-forces led countries.

He has to couch it in terms that are understandable but not easily translated into plain English and spread far and wide. Dogwhistle politics, they call it. He uses the word “similar” to mean a certain thing and that thing is not about cultural values or ability to learn a language or will to integrate but rather a similarity on the most superficial of bases.

We have to watch this development carefully. He is saying that people from certain countries do not have to pass a stupid test to be allowed to stay with their Danish spouse today but tomorrow, he will almost certainly be saying those people should also be allowed welfare benefits like receiving health care without having to pay extra out of pocket.
This will be a way of ensuring that foreign wives of Danes only give birth on Danish soil if there is a good chance they are white. This is what is coming, everyone so try to act surprised when it happens.

This is the State’s Minister being questioned on the new rules that would make exceptions for people from certain countries.

His answers are instructive. Some highlights if I may…
Enhedslisten’s (the Red-Green party), Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen asked the Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen, how is this remotely fair?

Why should an Argentinian man have to sit a test that a Japanese man does not have to? What objective reasons are there?

He tries not to answer it and just goes into some guff which reveals he wants it both ways, he wants tough immigration rules but he wants to be perceived as having an open society. (We want an open society, not a wide-open society)
Johanne gets to ask again and she says that she was not asking about the administration’s immigration policy but the concrete question of “how is that even fair?”

He tries to pass the buck to Søren Pind “because I am indeed not an expert at caseworker level here” (echoing his COP15 performance when he was trying to be chair and when he got it wrong “I am not familiar with the regulations in this system”)
He makes the general point that the thinking of the administration is to be as flexible as possible for those that have “integration potential”, who have “the will (to integrate?)”, who can… fit in our society.

Line Barfod asks the same question “What are the objective criteria that say that people from certain countries should be subject to different rules? What are the objective facts behind the Minister’s opinion that an Argentinian man cannot handle Denmark?”

He blusters, passes the buck to Søren Pind again, he says the grounds have something to do with the UN’s development index.

Lene clarifies that she does not require Lars to go into great masses of detail into individual cases, simply wants him to explain what the objective criteria are for his opinion that an Argentinian man will find it harder to manage Denmark and have a weaker desire learn Danish than a Japanese man. Why would an Argentinian man find learning Danish harder than a Japanese man?

He answers that the debate needs to be had. But later.

This is interesting. They picked “men” on purpose. They picked those countries on purpose.

Why they could not have said “Why would a woman from Pakistan find it harder to learn Danish than a woman from the USA?” goes to the heart of what this is about. They needed to find the most “ridiculous” case thrown up by this law. The case of two men from equally strange but equally non-muslim countries being treated very differently.

If they had brought up women from Islamic countries, there was always a risk he would say “Well, of COURSE, they will find it harder to integrate!” If they had brought up men and women from African countries, would he have made other ignorant observations?

Even if he did not say ignorant things, the Press would dutifully report the story in such a way that they did not need to be said. The prejudice in this country is that people from the US are more able to integrate than people from “Muslim” countries. What objective criteria is this based on? There is none.

Dogwhistle politics.

He claims that he wants to make it easier for those who can and want to integrate to come here. As there is no way of knowing who that is ahead of time, they have just decided to claim those from developed, democratic, rich countries are better at integration than those from “dissimilar” countries.

This would be a lot easier to talk about if they would reveal what integration is. Søren Pind said it was “assimilation”, becoming Danish and a bunch of American immigrants freaked out. They love being here, they said, but they do not want to BE Danish.

Is integration the ability to get a job? They already have a point system in play which allows those with educational backgrounds far in advance of the average Dane to settle here. If you have a PhD from a top 10 university but also come from a “dissimilar” country like Barbados or China, how will that impede job hunting?

If integration is about speaking Danish, then Prince Henrik (bless his heart), never really integrated properly into Danish society and he is FRENCH. As similar as you can get on these development criteria.
Plus, some of my friends are Americans in Denmark who cannot speak Danish. Even luksus Australian Gus does not speak fluent Danish. Meanwhile, all of the immigrants from “dissimilar countries” I know speak fluent Danish (fluent enough to get 12 in their 9th class Danish oral exam, some of them).

What do they mean by integration and why on earth would coming from a muslim, poor, non-democratic country preclude you from finding it easy?

Lars Løkke Rasmussen should have been hounded from office ages ago. He is incompetent, he passes the buck, his ministers make embarrassing mistakes, he presides over an administration which deliberately and accidentally misleads and he seems to be drunk most of the time.

The Danish Press leave him be. He is allowed to make such statements, answer questions in this way and get away with all manner of double-speak without being challenged.

The buck should stop with him but as he refuses to take on that responsibility, it must stop with the Press.

17 thoughts on “One from the Vaults: The Buck Stops Where?

  1. These days, reading Danish news / politics make my blood pressure level dangerously high. Thanks to all the stupid people sitting in the parliament.

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  2. So good that you wrote this excellent post…I don’t want to clog your blog, but perhaps you could read this:
    http://www.e-flux.com/journal/view/203
    The BorderCircus is the latest poison from the policy makers of Denmark, this rollercoaster has been en route for a very long time, I hope it blows up in their face.

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    1. I live in hope that they realise their mistakes and start acting like human beings, these politicians. But yeah. Sometimes I cannot bear to read the news because of how extreme it is.

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      1. Tacky, do you know any info on Malmo, I am trying to do my research of the possibility living there. So far I only have old articles and not very much technical information. Thank you so much.

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  3. An interesting read, both your article and the one from HOXX. I lived in the Netherlands for over a decade, getting more and more irritated by the ‘anti-someone-else-ism’ that now pervades the Dutch psyche. There are similar strands in Dutch politics with a severe shift to the right and a similar set of simplistic ideas about integration (as a disguse for out and out racism and ethnicism) and a similar desire to exclude those who are from a ‘non-western’ background.

    One more recent change in the Netherlands was to insist that non-western European immigrants had to follow an ‘inburgeringscurses’ (citizenship course) and anyone applying for Dutch citizenship, a language proficiency test. This had two interesting results. One was a university lecturer who, by dint of his American passport had to take the ‘inburgeringscurses’. He had been living in the Netherlands for two decades and spoke impeccable Dutch and was about as well integrated as anyone could be. No appeal was possible. He had to take (and pay) for the course.

    Another was a Danish university lecturer, a long term resident of the Netherlands, who wondered about getting Dutch nationality as she loved the country so much. However, despite having a Masters in the Dutch language and teaching Dutch at university level, she discovered that she would have had to take the language test (and course) to be able to get Dutch nationality. Her Masters in Dutch was not on the list of ‘alternative Dutch language qualifications’ that the bureaucrat, at the town council, had in front of them. No appeal was possible. She decided against applying for Dutch nationality.

    I have had my suspicions about Denmark for some time now. I’ve done a few cycle tours in Denmark in the last couple of years. Denmark, like the Netherlands is a good place for an easy summer cycletour. On a visit to Copenhagen I was surprised how like Amsterdam it was, from the behaviour of cyclists to the mixture of the upmarket and the seedy.

    However, I have never had any desire to live in Denmark. Much as I never wish to return to the Netherlands. Something about the Danish churches standing like beacons of Danishness in the Jutland landscape, the pathlogical neatness as in the impeccably painted houses that make up the centre of Skagen, the fairy-tail old towns in places like Odense, just the something intangible that makes Denmark feel very like the Netherlands. Both countries give me the creeps.

    Your blog has given me the set of facts that explain my gut reaction to Denmark, and why Denmark and the Netherlands are similar. Thanks for that!

    My solution was to move to Norway, which is much more to my liking.

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  4. Well, it is very disappointing and also sad to hear all these worse and worser news everyday. I am a new immigrant here (married a Dane) and of course I do feel a lot of pressure in this integration stuff. I had to go through this stupid test that in end doesn’t prove anything, so after 6 months (time frame between marriage and visa) I can have some citizens rights. However, the whole process has been a real pain.
    I follow your blog because I can’t yet read Danish and I stay completely ignorant about what these crazy politicians try to do with this tiny country.
    Seriously? This is a small countries with many problems like any other and they still try to make it sound like the Wonderland. Come on!

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  5. A delusional bully is what Denmark is! I can’t wait to see its humongous ego implode one day and hopefully in my lifetime.

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