- -  Day # 343  + +

EU > Denmark > Copenhagen

Looking for trouble

Copenhagen, DK (View on map)

As far as the previous four articles on Us Europeans showed, Denmark seem to be a rather problem-free country. That obviously makes me quite eager to find out about the problems there are, because how can a country ever be perfect? I guess there`s no better way to look for bad stuff than to open up a newspaper, so here we go with a quick round-up of Danish problems, issues and challenges.

Stine (22):

`The Tour de France has fallen out of grace with many Danes, despite big Danish successes in the past`
The Danish press used to go mostly unnoticed between big titles from England, Germany, France and Italy. All of that drastically changed after the `cartoon unrests` in 2006, when allegedly insulting cartoons in Jyllands Posten drew the attention of Muslim leaders outside Denmark. Danes were shocked to see their flags and even a couple of embassies being put on fire in the wake of the event. The situation back home in Denmark never got really tensed, but unrests related to the cartoons still ended up claiming more than 100 lives across the world.

Denmark itself was shown in a negative way in 2007, when riots about the city`s Youth House got the country to be shown on CNN. One year later, the situation with the Youth House (Ungdomshuset) is at least partly solved. Niklas (18) explains what free newspaper Urban writes about the issue. `The Ungdomshuset served as a relaxation and entertainment haven for alternative young Danes. It worked in a way similar to our anarchist colony Christiania. Both Ungdomshuset and Christiania gather people with an alternative lifestyle: politically leftish, a bit punky, wearing leather jackets and usually having many piercings. They are fed up with the Danish society and have, sort of, founded their own.`

`Last year`s riots related to the evacuation of the old Ungdomshuset. The city council had sold the estate to a religious organisation who wanted to construct a new building on the premises. The police then tried to kick a handful of squatters out, but the operation did not run as smoothly as they would have hoped. After a couple of noisy nights, police forces did manage to get the place empty and the building was recently demolished.`

`Following the demolition of the old building, local youth committees obviously demanded a new place to organise their activities. They ended up being given one, somewhere just North West of the city centre. It was opened yesterday, which explains why the topic is covered by the newspapers today. Reactions to the new location are mixed. People living in the close to the new Ungdomshuset are not too happy about it because they feel that it will degrade the neighborhood. The youngsters themselves are only moderately happy. They still preferred the old location.`

Like Niklas, his friend Marie (18) has never been to Ungdomshuset and she doesn`t have many reasons to go there either. `I know they have cultural programs: some theatre plays or they play movies, maybe even some sports. The people who go there are quite alright, although I doubt whether really everybody is welcome there, like they claim. I think I would be regarded as a stranger, not looking like them and not behaving like them. But otherwise, I would not walk around the block if I happened to meet them in the street. There`s nothing evil about them.`

Tour de France
Being a fanatic cycling nation, Denmark and especially its male inhabitants used to carefully follow the Tour de France in the past. After the troubled Tour de France editions of recent years, today`s newspaper MetroXpress (MX) comes up with yet another blow in the face of the cycling sport ? on the front page: 62% of the Danes believe that the majority of cyclists in the Tour de France take doping.

Stine (22, photo) knows a lot about the Tour de France. She explains that even the Danish starts from the past have been accused of not being clean. `We had Rasmussen who is now spending two years in quarantine. I wonder if he will manage to make a comeback after that. Then we had Riis, who won the Tour some 10 years ago. He has even confessed, but he was still allowed to keep his Tour de France title. He is now the director of the only Danish team that is participating: CSC Saxon Bank. I think many Danes refuse to watch this year Tour de France because they are disappointed about their sportive heroes not being as sportive as they should be.`

Lisbeth (23) explains another article, which deals with psychological help for children. `A change of the law implies that children who have been abused or maltreated by their parents can only get psychological help if they are over six years old. The article even states that the young victims of domestic violence are younger than six in more than 50% of all cases. The argument of the ministry of health is that children below six may not be strong enough to deal with psychological treatment.`

Lisbeth tells that the well-being of school pupils is though of as very important in Denmark. `Every school has a school psychologists, where children can either go on their own or after being sent their by a teacher or by their parents. The service is free of charge. In many cases, kids seeing these psychologists are either bullying other kids, or they are the victims of other kids bullying them. The psychologist also provides help in case kids have problems in their families, for example when a family member dies. Still, I think seeing a school psychologist is still a bit of a taboo. Kids won`t go there until somebody sends them there. A better way for children to get support is for them to call the free-of-charge Children`s phone line, which any child can call if he or she has problems. Whether that be with family members, with school, or with themselves.`

The treatment of refugees is quite a sensitive topic in Denmark. Compared to its neighbours Sweden and Germany, Denmark only grants citizenship to a very limited number asylum seekers each year. Line (22) tells me about the immigration issue: `There is a debate going on about those who have not yet been awarded citizenship. Parts of Iraq are now considered safe enough for them to return. But this article actually explains how many of the Iraqi`s have started voluntarily returning home.`

`The immigration problem is complicated because Denmark is facing shortages of personnel in the health care sector. At the same time, we cannot import doctors, because they first of all need to have Danish citizenship which they can`t possibly get within seven years. Secondly, they need to be qualified according Danish standards, which delays the process even further. I`m happy that unemployment is so low in Denmark, but if there is no solution to the labour shortage in health care, we will still get in trouble in the next couple of years. The population is getting older and older, which means that more care is needed, which means that we need more people.`

Internal affairs
Line explains me that Danish politics are at least as complicated as the immigration issue: `We have one party that is called Left Party, but they are actually very rightish. Then, we have one party that is very big and influential even though they are not in the government. They decided to stand on the side, but the result is that their vote is decisive. If they support a plan, the government will be able to carry it out. If not, the government will have insufficient support to get their plans through. Another party from the centre is quite popular but they have right to more seats than they have members. They have messed up big time in the last couple of months, which will cost them votes in the next election so the problem will solve itself.`

On the pages for domestic news, MX further describes the tragic death of a two-year old baby who fell from a window on the sixth floor and died instantly. Another article describes how a 16-year old boy raped and killed a 85-year old woman. Most other items are a bit more lighthearted. One of them is titled `Water on the way`, and it shows how a road stretch of 10 metres got covered by half a meter of water after a big rain shower.`

Mette (20) says that the weather in Denmark got more extreme over the last 10 years, which serves as a nice illustration to MX`s article `A big step for Bush, a small step for the world`. Ecological-sensitive Denmark has no good words for the small progress made during the G-8 Climate Top that is taking place in Japan. Mette thinks that Danes are sufficiently conscious about environmental issues, `but they could still be more active in reducing them.` Mette thinks that few Danes will leave the car at home to make sure that next summer will be sunnier, or to make sure that farmers in Africa will have a good harvest. `People are also quite aware of the fact that it won`t be Denmark who suffers most from global heating`, she says, then joking: `We don`t mind if the summers get a bit hotter here.`

One topic that is not top of mind with the Danes, but it still makes headlines: Russia`s threat to use military power to prevent Czech Republic from building rocket protection bases. As I reported earlier from Czech Republic, the USA and NATO wish to build these bases to protect their allies against attacks from Slyngelstater (terrorist states). Urban shows a photo of Czechs demonstrating against the NATO plans. `Don`t turn us into shooting target`, is one of the slogans quoted in the newspaper.

Equally international but less urgent is the article about a Bulgarian pub owner who describes the wild partying habits of Danish visitors in Sunny Beach. The manager of Den Glade Viking (The Happy Viking) is quoted saying: `Danish youngsters are very wild, drink a lot and they want to dance on the bar. They really go crazy. Bulgarians are not accustomed to that, but they are too proud to be intimidated.`

What remains
The rest of the newspapers consist of 10 pages of job vacancies and one article about Danish girls thinking they are too fat. The supporting statistics show that most of them worry for nothing: 44% of the 15-year olds think that they are overweight, while only 11% of them actually are.

Allow me to end today`s article with a nice proverb that I found in the Urban newspaper. Det er ikke leverpostej (That ain`t liver paste), is what a Dane living in Indonesia says about his life. `It`s not the most usual thing`, would be the best translation. Very exciting material. Det er ikke leverpostej.

Enlarge photo | Link to this article