Inspired from Danish TV series, Borgen, I become really interested in learning Denmark political affairs. Copenhagen Post and Politiken newspaper seem not enough to satisfy my thirst in getting to know political representatives in Denmark. So, when I knew that different political parties would be having open house at the parliament (folketinget) during the Købehavn Kulturnatten (Copenhagen Culture Night) last weekend, I decided to pick and focus in this event, among thousands other events went around that night.
Københaven Kuturnatten is the evening when the whole city bustles with life, entertainment, sense experiences and adventures for children, young people and grown-ups. Culture Night invites you to go on an exciting journey through Copenhagen cultural life that will give you and many other guests an experience that is a bit out of the ordinary. This years’ Culture night was celebrated on 12 October for the 20th time. Museums, libraries, educational establishments, theaters, musical venues, churches and many other institutions representing art and culture kept their doors open during the evening from six o’clock to midnight or beyond. Many of Culture Night’s 500 events were being arranged specially for this evening and so this was the only occasion on which you can experience them only with DKK 90 to access all of events and means of public transportation. (informartion from http://www.kulturnatten.dk).
This was my very first Copenhagen culture night and to top of all, my parents-in-law joined my husband and I for this wonderful night, all the way from Oslo, Norway. Despite the tiredness from flying, my parents-in-law managed to endure the hectic night in Copenhagen. It must be so overwhelmed for them to see so many Copenhageners strolled in the city, as the two come from peaceful farmland, far from busy city in Norway. However, as a Borgen TV series watcher, my father-in-law was excited too to visit Christianborg, where the parliament, the state minister, and the court justice housed.
From many words of mouth, it was better to come to our destination of event one hour before the door opened as standing in long queues would just waste the time and make our visit not worthwhile. So, being opened at 6 PM, we managed to arrive at Folketinget at 5 PM. There was already a short queue when we came. Despite the security check-in to enter this parliamentary house, Christianborg in general is a pretty open door place for public, where people can pass by or just sit around its park for some relaxed time. Situation like this never exists in Indonesia: so many people dislike their government representatives as corruption and nepotism which rooted deep down in many politicians have created a wide economic and knowledge gap among social classes. Constant demonstrations, combined with the ignorance of “people” representatives, can be symbolized from long steel and wire fences and walls in front of Indonesian House of Parliament.
Well…we’re not here to discuss about Indonesian politic, it’s too inhumane…let’s just move on.
The first room we entered at Folketinget was a long hall where I could see pictures of all 126 representatives from different parties. Most of them looked Danes, but there were also few ethnic Indian looks and of faces from Inuit group in Greenland. And of course…a lot of women, maybe half of them were women. Yes, Denmark is a women’s world where women’s right and welfare are seen as important to the society.
Another room I entered was the majestic, pretty, but small and compact enough, room of Folketinget, where all representatives’ seats located, forming a half sphere form, with state’s minister and her cabinets sit in the right corner. Her? Yups, Denmark nowadays is led by female prime minister named Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the first Denmark female prime minister, from Socialdemokratene party. From my observation of the Folketinget seating position, it was very clear who is allied to who. For example the left sides of the sphere are dominated by Venstre party representatives, close to some folks from Danske Folkeparti. And the right sides, there sit the majority of Socialdemokratene, with some representatives from Social Folkeparti people. Other smaller political parties of course are there too. So the Folketinget now seems like V-DF (rightist) vs. S-SF (leftist).
Next room I stopped by was an EU commission for Denmark. This is not part of state’s Europe ministry, but rather an independent one. However, this commission is always chaired by the person coming from non majority of government, currently held by a guy from Liberal Alliance, which is a minority party in the Folketinget. Their tasks involved discussing about policy which other EU members taken, decided, or rejected, ranging from price of foods to the popular carbon emission, and how these policies affect Denmark. I also talked to one of the representatives there and discussed about EU as 2012 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, which he thought the prize should be awarded earlier. True, but it is also good to give such prestigious award during the harsh European economic crisis this year, just to remind people from all good things EU have struggled to achieve peace and collaboration in Europe.
My journey continued to the corners where rooms of Dansk Folkeparti, Venstre, and Radikale grouping in the same side of the hall. I actually felt a bit weird when I visited their booth, as I have heard from their representatives comments in media about the anti-immigration stand points; so as an immigrant my self, I put high alert consciousness when I walked around their rooms. Venstre, for example, recently made comments that East Europeans prisoners in Denmark should be deported back to their home countries as they don’t deserve nice Danish prisons. This stand point is absurd to me because as a criminal in Denmark, such person should be treated in Danish court, and thus receive punishment in related prisoners, and not someone else court which implements different justice system. It was indeed Denmark’s long-time-ago decision to implement good facilitation in their prisons to maintain human right, such as healthy foods, gym, and proper sleeping bed, so… prisoners processed under Danish court system should also be entitled for this prisons’ system. In general, Venstre’s open house room looked so big and like a play ground from kids, with giant air-balloon castle and PSP to accommodate visitors’ kids.
My face went even more awkward when I walked in DF room. Plenty of chocolate they had there did not make me relaxed in second. DF is famous for its xenophobic, anti non-Danish people, and anti-immigration policy. Both with Venstre, they held previous 10 years in government and had made racist policy on immigration law, which as well have severed many Danish who married or have families from abroad. For example, they increased financial safety net and implement difficult level of Danish test for family reunification. Those who want to apply as permanent residence had to work for 2.5 years out of 3 years since their application (this is crazy as it is hard to get the job without intensive knowledge of Danish language; thus people need time to learn it). Under certain circumstances, the DF-V coalition was also legitimately able to withdraw someone’s else Danish citizenship and deport them back to conflicting countries. Ahh…I can’t even able to explain all unhearthed political view of theirs, so I just decided to walk out from their opened rooms. Glad that they are not in the government right now.
After burning visit from DF room, I wanted to neutralize my self. So I walked in to Sinuit room, a political party representing Inuit culture in far Greenland. Their room was so serene and peace, with slide shows and videos of nature and wisdom of culture. Sad that Greenland and the Inuits only have 2 representatives in the parliament; they could have been more developed than nowadays.
Next walk was to the incumbent’s political party, Socialdemokratene. After 10 years struggling with far-right movement, S or shortened for Socialdemokratene was finally in power in 2011, with Thorning-Schmidt as state’s minister. The party is famous for popular policy of softening immigration policy. I am not kidding with it…as I got quiet good immigration result from her government civil’s service. I received my residence permit in only 1 month waiting, my health card insurance in 12 days, and ultimately, my EU residence card in 8 weeks after my permit was issued. On the web, they predicted it would be around 6 months, but eventually it came all way better.
Socialdemokratene party’s room was as huge as Venstre’s, only this time it was proportionally designed. There was a corner where I could find the information about their youth camp, a long table located in the center which provided information about the party’s history and trivia. There were also corner for face painting aimed for kids (more creative than PSP, eh..?), and food corner to taste their nice cupcakes; I even got Få Småg Bog af EU (Get Taste Book of EU), which contains a lot of different traditional foods from all over EU. Nice!
However, my preferences toward S was not simply built from the way their set the room. When I visited labour museum last month, I got to know a profile of Stauning, the first social democratic Prime Minister of Denmark. He served as Prime Minister from 1924 to 1926 and again from 1929 until his death in 1942. Under Stauning’s leadership Denmark, like the other Scandinavian countries, developed a social welfare state, and though many of his ambitions for Social Democracy were ultimately thwarted, in his lifetime, by events beyond his control, his leadership through grave times places Stauning among the most admired of twentieth-century Danish statesmen. From his experience as a child labor, he initiated anti child labor policy which became the basis of a good child welfare in Scandinavia.
Socialdemokratene also brings progress to soften immigration law in Denmark. They reduce the financial safety net to ease many family reunification, provide free language course to function immigrants in the society, and training to integrate immigrants with the Danes. One of great policies in smoothing immigration law is to allow immigrants to work 3 years out of 5 years since their applications as permanent residence. This much more makes sense to allow new people to learn the language and the environment better. I believe that every human has potential which if it is managed and encouraged well will bring mutual benefits between the immigrants and the hosting county. It appeared that Helle Thorning-Schmidt is married to a British background husband who is now a director of World Economic Forum. So people…global migration is inevitable and with the world becoming more and more involved in global collaboration and the ease of travel as well as information technology, we as global citizens have to be able to adapt and use the most of it.
Social Folkeparti shared some ideas with Sociademokratene, only that as a successor of Communist party in Denmark, many of their policies are quiet far left, For example, the complex layers of corporate taxes they initiated are good to distribute company’s profit to the public, but it would be damaging the economic growth, especially when todays Denmark experiences growing population and a struggle among European economic crisis; there should be strong incentives for business to emerge, grow, and expand in Denmark, aligned with its environment commitment.
The last room I visited was a room full of German community in Southern Denmark (near the border with German). This community is represented by “Bund Deutscher Nordschleswiger” (4,100 members) and its political party, the Slesvigsk Parti (“Schleswigsche Partei”) and the “Deutscher Schul- und Sprachverein für Nordschleswig” (“German School and Language Association for North Schleswig”), which actively promote German language and culture among the minority.
I did questioned a sill thing to their representative:
“Do German community in Denmark experience an identity crisis?”
He answered: “No. We are Danish, but we are proud to share our German culture in this country. When I was a kid, I used to be beaten up at school due to German political history during the World War, but it doesn’t happen anymore now.”
The community also received funding both from Danish and German government.
Finally, my long visit at Folketinget to get to know political parties in Denmark was completed. I was glad that I came there early, as when I walked out from Christianborg, I saw long snake of ques to the edge of the street just to get in to Folketinget.
I love Danish government and its interesting political stories. The night after visit at Foketinget, me, my husband, and my parents-in-law decided to have a nice dinner at one of fine dining restaurant, Peder Oxe, in the center of Copenhagen. We closed the Kulturnatten happily with pieces of delicious steaks. And…my registration as Socialdemokratene party’s youth participant.
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- It is a Long Road for Europe (indybay.org)
- Things to know about Norway (yoginisquest.wordpress.com)
- The Cost of Muslim Immigration (themuslimissue.wordpress.com)
- Islamization of Europe: The Numbers Don’t Lie (frontpagemag.com)