Jackson Oldfield is a Senior Project Manager at European Alternatives, overseeing the Citizen Rights programme. He was informed by German railway workers that only those with Danish, Swedish or German passports would be allowed to enter Denmark.*
In his State of the Union speech yesterday, Jean Claude Juncker outlined his plan for EU member states to take in 120,000 extra refugees. Angela Merkel warned it might not be ambitious enough, the UK’s David Cameron distanced itself from the mechanism, deciding to take a paltry 4,000 extra Syrian refugees a year, and the media kept criticising the ever criticisable Orban.
But, while overshadowed by Juncker, Merkel, Cameron and Orban, an equally divisive, dangerous and disturbing power play was unfolding in Europe’s north: Denmark closed it borders. Or rather, it closed its borders to all but its citizens and residents and the residents and citizens of its nearest neighbours – Sweden and Germany.
This is both a personal and impersonal account – I should say I too was one of those travelling from Germany to Denmark yesterday, but with the wrong passport (British) – but actually this is not an individual or isolated situation, but rather one that challenges the whole idea of the European Union and something we should all be concerned about.
Why do I say this? First, the closure was apparently in response to Juncker’s plan for refugees. The Swedish Government requested that Denmark stop letting asylum seekers directly through to Sweden and asked Denmark to instead process asylum claims in Denmark, in accordance with the Dublin rules. In a country where non-Danes have faced stigmatism from official sources for over a decade, the logical solution in the un-logic of xenophobia was for Denmark to close its borders.
The founding principles of the EU are human rights, solidarity and human dignity. If this fundamental breach of those principles, and the violation of the Schengen Treaty as a means to uphold the Dublin Regulations go unchallenged, it can only be seen as a serious threat to the EU’s credibility.
Second, the challenge to freedom of movement that this situation has raised is severe. For an EU member state to close its borders to citizens of another EU member state and the selective nature of the closure in limiting entry to nationals of only three countries challenges the very transnational nature of what it means to be a European citizen and can only support xenophobic and extremist parties across the EU.
To allow this action to go unchallenged would represent a total failure of the EU institutions and national governments to live up to the principles of the EU. For at least a day, forget Orban, forget Cameron, forget Juncker – if Europe is going to be the union we want it to be, we need to all look north to claim our rights as citizens and non-citizens of Europe.
*An earlier version stated that he was denied entry into Denmark from Germany due to his British passport. This version has been corrected.