Danes Irritate an Already Irritable Europe with Border Checks
As the European Union still appears bewildered at on how to solve the sovereign debt crisis, it displayed its sensitivity by rounding on the rating agencies that had just reduced Portugal's credit rating to junk.
Similarly Denmark's minor challenge is arousing greater testiness than it would normally warrant.
Denmark is trying to walk between the raindrops. On the one hand, the Danish People's Party with its anti-immigration agenda has insisted on stronger border controls to check illegal immigration together with the fight against drugs and human trafficking. The party held the deciding votes on the budget and therefore the government had to respect the party's wishes.
On the other hand, Denmark is a signatory to the Schengen Agreement that abolishes borders and customs controls. The Danes are insisting that they are upholding the treaty by conducting only random checks rather than checking the passports of everybody who passes through the borders.
The Danes announce their intentions months ago and now they have added inspectors on their borders with Germany and Sweden. The European Commission claims that it is monitoring the Danish actions to see that they are in conformity with the treaty.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in his maiden speech before the European Parliament as rotating president of the European Council lashed out against the Danes:
"I am against any barriers to internal free movement under the pretext of dealing with migration problems," Tusk said in Brussels a week after Poland assumed the rotating, six-month presidency of the European Union. "What Denmark is doing is a concern for anybody who thinks that free movement is going to be restricted even further."
Germany has led the criticism against Denmark and Jörg-Uwe Hahn, a European parliamentarian for the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) from the German state of Hesse, went as far as suggesting that Germans boycott Denmark on their summer vacations.
Most German papers joined the criticism with the Financial Times Deutschland arguing that the confluence of the crises made the Danish policy into a test case and member states had to push back in favor of the European ideal.
"If Europe doesn't want to lose its ideals, member states must increase pressure on Denmark to roll back the border controls. That alone would be a sign that the European idea survives."
Süddeutsche Zeitung made another connection to the debt crisis, claiming that the European Union was so preoccupied with finances it had neglected other areas.
Not only pro-Europeans were drawing the connection between the debt crisis and the Danish moves, Nigel Farage, a member of the European Parliament from the Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence Party, linked the two issues. After Tusk spoke before the European Parliament Farage chided him:
"Why do you pretend that everything is going well, when Europe is in a deep structural crisis?...Greece, Portugal and Spain are not surviving the euro zone, and Denmark has broken with the Schengen Agreement. ”