Friday, February 18, 2005


With all the spotlights on Iraq’s January 30 elections and their aftermath, it was easy to miss Denmark’s some ten days later. Indeed, on February 8 the Danes held Parliamentary elections and since there seem to be some remarkable conclusions to be drawn from them, MFBB thought it worthwile to head cybernorthwards.

a.) Results of the elections

First the results: they were convincingly won by Denmarks sitting PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen and his Center-Right/Conservative coalition.

The CNN article, released on February 8, still estimates that Denmark’s Right, consisting of Rasmussen’s own Liberal Venstre (V) Party (mind you, in Europe, "liberal" means center-right), the nationalist Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and the conservative Konservative Folkeparti (KF), will win 96 seats in the 179-seat Danish Parliament, the Folketing.

This recent table however gives such an alliance, were it to form, 94 seats instead of 96 (V + DF + KF = 52 + 24 + 18 = 94). 94 seats in a 179-strong Parliament constitutes still a majority of course.

On the left side of the political spectrum, we see that the opposition consisting mainly of the socialist Socialistik Folkeparti (SF) and the social democratic Socialdemokratiet i Danmark (SD), will likely win no more than some 80 seats. Indeed, so disappointing were February 8’s results for Denmark’s left, that Mogens Lykketoft, chairman of the Social Democrats (SD), was quoted as saying: (Rasmussen's government) "had a much stronger impact that we have been able to have".

Anders Fogh RasmussenMogens Lykketoft

(To the left, winner Anders Fogh Rasmussen. To the right, loser and Trotsky-lookalike Mogens Lykketoft)

b.) Topics which failed to help the left

Well, what has gone wrong for the Left in Denmark? After all, Rasmussen has since the beginning been a staunch backer of the US-led war in Iraq, with its DANCON/IRAQ Mission, sending (and keeping) a small but valuable 500-odd strong Battalion to Iraq, which operates south of Basra under British command (see annex 2). Moreover, Danish officers help train Iraqi soldiers under NATO aegis.

Then there is the fact that Rasmussens minority government (12 Liberals and six Conservatives, again notice "liberal" means centre-right over here) during its tenure leaned heavily on the parlementarian support of the nationalist Dansk Folkeparti – an outfit which, with its emphasis on honouring Danish traditions and a fierce anti-immigration stance is not done for Denmark’s PC crowd. Alas for them, Niels Q in the street didn’t mind Venstre and KF buddying up with DF’s nationalists.

There is another aspect seemingly in favour of the left, one that too often gets overlooked and one which my fellow Flemish blogger (from Norway!) Hoegin made me aware of: it seems that Rasmussens first measures upon entering office in 2001 was dismantling a gazillion public commissions whose main purposes seem to have been offering "progressives" a "job" while they performed "culture and education-related work" and drafted society-critical analyses while sitting on their warm asses in cozy airconditioned offices and eating Danish butter cookies. As could be expected Rasmussen caused a leftist uproar sending the tree huggers home, but again Niels Q did not seem to care.

c.) What made Rasmussen tick?

So, what made Rasmussen tick? Like Slick Willy, one could point to the economy, as indeed the Rasmussen crew has been a reliable steward to Denmark’s economy, which is expected to grow 2.4% this year (a really good result in Euroland). But then again, this fact is somewhat overshadowed by the unemployment figure which has risen to 6.2% from a 25-year low of 5% in 2002 (mind you, this is all still quite low for a European country!).

Personally, I think that Rasmussen has been cleverly able to walk the thin line between winning the Danes over to the viewpoint that at least some unpleasant adjustments in cradle-to-grave state care WILL have to be made and at the same time convincing them his government is NOT bent on demolishing the welfare state tout court. In a country with a declining birth rate and with care for the elderly a no.1 topic, as a poll showed, he can’t do that. Keep in mind too that, after all, Rasmussens Venstre Party is a "Liberal" Party, which in Europe means Centre-Right (often with leftist ethics). So while Venstre is pro-business and pro-free market and all that, it is also pro-welfare and, to some degree, even environmentalist.

However, in my opinion the principal reason for Rasmussens victory is his tough handling of the Immigration issue, which like everywhere else in Europe is causing great trouble. I am not going to elaborate on the problems caused by immigrants. You know about some of my earlier posts, and possibly you read LGF. I’m not a hatemonger but I guess the most honest contribution to the immigrant issue is calling a spade a spade and acknowledge that the immigrant influx and its no-questions-asked poor handling by authorities is causing a lot of problems. To cut a long story short, Rasmussen understood from the start full well the issue surpassed the capabilities of the existing Ministry of Interior and created a whole new Ministry of Refugees, Immigrants and Integration under Liberal MEP Bertel Haarder. Haarder’s Office took, it must be said, a very tough approach, causing even an EU Commissioner to liken it to Human Rights violations. For instance, in Europe one of the reasons for the seemingly unstoppable flow of immigrants is the so-called Family Reunification. In short it means that if as an immigrant you’ve been staying here for quite some time and are naturalized, you can let family members from the land of origion come over, who can then become citizens much more easily.

No more in Denmark. Here are some of the tough measures taken to limit family reunification:

* higher minimum age for marriages with foreign partners (24 years)
* higher bail (50,000 Danish Kronen – FYI, the Danes did NOT enter the Eurozone)
* the requirement that the ties of a pair with Denmark, taken together, must be greater than with another land. This requirement essentially excludes naturalised Danes from marriage with a partner from the country of origin or another country. If you think this is harsh, then ask yourself why such a harsh policy was adopted in a country which until recently was almost as ultraliberal as The Netherlands.
* lowerment of the maximum age of children to apply for family reunification (from 18 years to 14 years)

These measures have led to a sharp decline of family reunifications in Denmark. Where in 2001 the number was still 10,950, by 2003 it had dropped to 4791, a decrease of 56%.

As for the Integration chapter:

* newcomers get an introduction programme language and culture
* those who refuse to follow the programme get their benefit slashed
* results of the integration lessons are transferred to the Danish Immigration Service and play a role in granting permanent residence papers (it lasts 7 years before you get these)

I could also cite the passing of a law forbidding Radical Imams entrance to Denmark. Indeed, too often (almost always?) imported Imams, not inclined to learn Danish, tend to preach anti-western hate sermons. Again, this law would not have been put into effect had there been no need for it.

As an afterthought, there’s no gloves-on approach either in the issue of the headscarf in working places. Unfortunately, the headscarf is all over Europe becoming a sign not only of being different but also of being superior. That’s why a Denmark court ruled that a supermarket employee was not allowed to wear a headscarf at work. (Personally, I think that in public and in private enterprises the choice should be free, but in state buildings and institutions headscarves should be banned)

d.) Final thoughts and conclusions on the Danish Right Wing victory

* It is a sign that, where Europe has been overwhelmingly leftist over the past decades, an undeniable shift to the right is taking place
* The shift to the right is until now carried mostly by tough anti-immigration policies as advocated by the right, not yet by a desire for more conservative ethics
* Most European politicians (even leftists, see Germany’s Schroeder) begin to understand that the welfare state is not tenable. The population does not yet. So the measures taken are still more streamlining than slashing exercises.

Personally, I’d rather like to see the shift to the right carried by a renewed appeal of conservative values. That is not yet the case. Still, any issue that draws support away from the Left – even if it is basically a negative issue, in this case problems caused by immigration – is a welcome development for Europe. What I would call a positive incitement towards a "Righter" Europe is, say, a realization among Europeans that they are able to take matters, personal matters, in their own hand (vs. the humiliation of having to live off state benefits, which ultimately leads to depressed unproud citizens, the French being good examples). See also this nice related TechCentralStation column Allowing Familes vs. Family Allowances by Kamila Pajer.


ANNEX 1. Denmark 101

Goss sent me some basic info: with its roughly 43,000 square kloms, Denmark is the smallest of the four Scandinavian countries. Its mainland, called Jutland, juts out like a peninsula from te north of Germany, with which it has a land border of only 68 kloms. But its two main islands Sjaelland and Fyn plus a crazy smorgasbord of numerous smaller ones ultimately give it a coastline of some 7,400 kloms! Denmarks population is 5,413,392 (as of July 2004), its capital is Copenhagen with its famous mermaid landmark. Denmark is a constitutional monarchy and has a unicameral Parliament. A modern agricultural industry is the mainstay of Denmarks economy, although there’s also state-of-the-art food processing, machinery and equipment, electronics and chemical industry. And the Danes are real aces in generating electricity through windpower. One of the best known Danish companies in this field is Vestas.

Denmark has a GDP of some 170 billion US$ and a remarkably low debt (for a European country), only 45% of GDP. Although it did meet the criteria for joining the Eurozone, its citizens in a referendum chose not to, which is why the Danes still use their Krone instead of the euro.

General info here, a good and brief overview of Denmark’s history here.


Possibly very few know that Denmark too was militarily involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom – although I wonder what good use the sole submarine the Danish Navy sent may have had. It was not until June 2nd, 2003, before, within the framework of the DANCON (Danish Contingent) Mission, actual foot soldiers arrived in Iraq, although they were the first of those who did not fight alongside US and UK troops. The DANCON Mission comprises one 460-strong battalion plus a Lithuanian (!) 50-strong platoon. (I’m not sure if the Lithuanians are still included in the current total of 500). The battalion consists of a HQ and Support Company, a Recce Company and a Mechanized Infantry Company. The HQ and Support Coy, which draws most of its personnel of the Prinsens Livregiment, consists of Battalion HQ, a logistics platoon, an engineers platoon, an MP platoon, a medical platoon, an EOD Section and a signals detachment.

The Reconnaissance Company has a HQ and three recce platoons, each of which has 7 MOWAG Eagle I armoured Humvee-like vehicles. As the 7.62mm MG3 machinegun on top of it is not even protected by a shield they are rather patrol vehicles. The recce company’s parent unit is the Guard Hussars Regiment.

MOWAG Eagle I vehicles

(MOWAG Eagle I recce vehicles. Note that the MG3 on top is basically still a WWII-era weapon, in casu the German MG42/45!)

The Mechanized Infantry Company consist of company HQ with two M133G3 APC’s and three platoons of mechanized infantry equipped each with three M113’s and six Merceds Benz scout cars. The M113’s are armed with a 12.7mm M2 HB machinegun each. In addition there’s the Lithuanian platoon, which also has M113’s and Mercedes scout cars.

M113G3 Armoured Personnel Carriers

(M113G3 APC's. Note the passive add-on armor, which, at least on photo, looks like the Rafael armour added to Marine Amtraks.

(Info from Combat & Survival, April 2004)

Monday, February 14, 2005

Attack of the Belgians Part I

"There's nothing better than a game of golf, is there, Agent Smith?"

"I wouldn't know, President Bush," Secret Service Agent Smith answered, "I've never played. I just stand here in the sun and watch you. Rather asinine, if you ask me."

"Yep, nothing better than a good game of golf," Bush said as he adjusted his cowboy hat, and then prepared for a swing.

"President Bush!" yelled out a voice.

Startled, Bush screwed up his swing, sending his ball into the brush. "Grrr!" Bush yelled, "Agent Smith, whoever just messed up my shot I want you to inject him in the neck with that stuff that makes it look like he had a heart attack."

"That stuff ain't cheap, sir," Agent Smith reminded him.

"It was I who called out your name," said a sinister figure, "Chief Floopergibble of the Belgian international police force." More men in black uniforms emerged from the brush. "I, under the authority of Belgium, am placing you under arrest for lying about WMD's and having an illegal war with Iraq."
Be VERY afraid!!