Scandinavian domino: Denmark follows Sweden in tightening border controls

Following the announcement of Sweden and Denmark to re-introduce border controls in the light of the refugee crisis, Christian Kvorning Lassen looks at the broader implications of this move and the future of the Schengen area.

  • Following Sweden's implementation of identity checks on all passengers arriving in Sweden from Denmark, Denmark tightened its own border controls on its frontier with Germany in order to avoid refugees stranding in Denmark after being rejected entry into Sweden.
  • The intention is to stem the flow of refugees while salvaging an increasingly untenable domestic political situation. The price for these priorities are deepening concerns about Europe's commitment to the free movement of people.

Denmark and Sweden, directly connected by the Öresundsbridge, are one of the cardinal symbols of European integration. Despite the Danish border controls only scheduled to last ten days, with the option of extending it further should the situation warrant it, Germany's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in response, saying that the Schengen is "in danger". Although the German reaction may seem disproportionate given the temporal limitations of the border controls, concerns about the future of the Schengen are definitely merited following Denmark's move.

First of all, the Danish minority government is under tremendous pressure. The Danish People's Party, supporting party to the minority government despite dwarfing it in popularity, is increasingly pressuring the government in matters pertaining to the refugee crisis and the EU. To them, the border controls are a major victory, which they have pushed for years. Rolling back the border controls will be a challenge that could very well become the death knell for the government, leading to new elections.

Second of all, the Danish public is becoming increasingly anti-European and insular. Having voted no to abolishing the opt-out in December - another victory for the Danish People's Party - the majority of the public applaud the border controls and attribute them to the Danish People's Party, who is inherently anti-European; their leader, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, recently proclaimed the Schengen agreement null and void, a collapsed illusion that should remain dead and buried.

Ultimately, the prospects are dire for both the Schengen as well as the two Scandinavian countries. Sweden is facing an enormous integration challenge. The Danish government risks delivering the coup de grace to itself by removing the border controls, yet at the same time the EU and Germany will apply pressure - rightfully so - for Denmark to not maintain the border controls any longer than absolutely necessary at the expense of the Schengen. 

#blog #Denmark #Sweden #borders #refugee crisis

Christian Kvorning Lassen
Deputy Director & Head of Research

Expertise: Migration/European migration crisis, EU foreign policy, Scandinavian politics, populism, EU enlargement policy

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