‘Scrap border checks on bridge to Denmark’

Sweden's tightened border controls on the Øresund Bridge is a blow to growth in one of the area’s most vibrant regions, write Stefan Müchler and Per Tryding of the southern Swedish Chamber of Commerce.

'Scrap border checks on bridge to Denmark'
The Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark. Photo: Janus Langhorn/
Four years ago, the Danish People's Party talked Denmark's Venstre government into stepping up ID checks at the Swedish and German borders. The reasoning was that criminality was flowing into Denmark across the Øresund Bridge.
German as well as Swedish business industries hit out immediately at the time and their message was clear. Notwithstanding the fact that it would violate the principle of free movement, it would also be a blow to trade and growth.
That time, the checks were short-lived. Denmark got a Social Democratic government which scrapped the plans and honoured the EU's and the Nordics' open borders.
But it is all happening again. Of course the reasons are more urgent this time around. But one important aspect remains the same. Closed borders are used to show off decisive action against a phenomenon that can never be solved by closing oneself off to the world.
The new version of border controls has little chance of working smoothly and is likely to have a negative influence on the Øresund region's growth potential.
The idea is that the public transport companies – just as on flights – will be responsible for checking the ID of anyone buying a ticket or boarding trains crossing the bridge from Denmark to Sweden.
It is easy to see the ulterior motive, namely that these tickets should be acquired on Danish soil.
In that way the government hopes to kick the ball back to the Danish side of the court. If refugees are not allowed on to the trains the idea is that the problem will be handled by Danish authorities. But there is not a lot which suggests that Denmark is going to accept that.
Apart from all the important humanitarian and human aspects, there is one other critical parameter. This is not a border like the one between Stockholm and Helsinki, with a number of ferries calling a couple of times a day. The Øresund region is an increasingly integrated region with 3.9 million citizens.
Both sides have invested in commuting – and it has paid off. On the Swedish side alone, the Malmö region's commuting range has grown by 470,000 people since the year 2000 to more than 1.1 million people today. The bridge traffic is linked to Copenhagen's metro and Skåne's entire public transport network. Delays and train cancellations therefore affect the whole commuter region.
Just imagine similar checks on buses and trains between Uppsala and Stockholm with similar domino effects on the whole underground system.
This happens in a situation where Skåne's and Denmark's economies – which are increasingly synchronized – are rising sharply. Seven out of ten Skåne companies believe in growth. Two thirds report difficulties recruiting and more than one in ten say they have refrained from expanding because of staff shortages.
To effectively shrink the region's local labour market in that situation is a major blow to growth.
The main goal, of course, has to be coordinating the asylum issue within the EU and quickly deal with the union's outer borders. The government probably realizes this.
But while we wait for that, pragmatic negotiations are needed, not just with other parties but with our neighbouring countries. We need to let go of pride and prestige.
Sweden is not going to win against Denmark, the unofficial European champion when it comes to tight asylum rules. Trying to force your own policies on other countries is also unlikely to succeed.
In the long term, it goes without saying that Sweden and the EU should remain open to skilled workers as well as refugees. In fact, the question is rather if our economies will survive without this integration. The Chamber of Commerce will therefore increase its efforts to promote integration in various ways.
In the short term, Malmö in particular is under pressure and the situtation is not sustainable. But splitting the largest region in the Nordics in two is not the solution.
This article was written by Stephan Müchler and Per Tryding, CEO and deputy CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden (Sydsvenska handelskammaren), and was originally published by Dagens Industri.


Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

Denmark now aims to work with other EU countries to transfer asylum seekers to centres outside Europe and has suspended talks with Rwanda as it no longer plans to go it alone, its migration minister said on Wednesday.

Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

The Scandinavian country’s plans, first announced by the previous Social Democratic government, called for people seeking asylum in Denmark to be transferred to reception centres outside the European Union while their requests were processed.

A law adopted in June 2021 did not specify which country would host the centre, but said asylum seekers should stay there even after they were granted refugee status.

Discussions were launched with Rwanda and other countries, but they have now been suspended since the installation of a new Danish left-right government in December headed by the Social Democrats.

“We are not holding any negotiations at the moment about the establishment of a Danish reception centre in Rwanda”, Migration and Integration Minister Kaare Dybvad told daily Altinget.

“This is a new government. We still have the same ambition, but we have a different process”, he added. “The new government’s programme calls for the establishment of a reception centre outside Europe “in cooperation with the EU or a number of other countries”.

The change is an about-face for the Social Democrats, which had until now rejected any European collaboration, judging it slow and thorny.

“While the wider approach also makes sense to us, [Denmark’s change of heart] is precisely because there has been movement on the issue among many European countries”, Dybvad said. “There are many now pushing for a stricter asylum policy in Europe”, he said.


Inger Støjberg, leader of the Denmark Democrats said on Facebook that she was “honestly disgusted” by the government’s decision to delay plans for a reception centre in Rwanda, pointing out that Kaare Dybvad had said during the election campaign that a deal would be done with Rwanda within a year. 

“Call us old-fashioned, but we say the same thing both before and after an election. We stand firm on a strict immigration policy. The Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates clearly do not,” she said. 

Lars Boje Mathiesen from the New Right Party accused the government of perpetrating a “deadly fraud” on the Danish people. 

“It is said in Christiansborg that it is paused. But we all know what that means,” he wrote on Facebook, accusing Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen of “empty words” in the run-up to the election. 

In the face of this reaction, Dybvad told the Ritzau newswire that although talks with Rwanda were not happening at present, the government had not given up on a deal with the African nation. He also said that he was confident that asylum reception centres outside of the EU would be a reality within five years.

EU interior ministers are meeting in Stockholm this week to discuss asylum reform. Those talks are expected to focus on how to speed up the process of returning undocumented migrants to their country of origin in cases where their asylum bid fails.

Denmark’s immigration policy has been influenced by the far-right for more than 20 years. Even Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the head of the Social Democrats, has pursued a “zero refugee” policy since coming to power in 2019.

Copenhagen has over the years implemented a slew of initiatives to discourage migrants and made Danish citizenship harder to obtain. In 2020, it became the only country in Europe to withdraw residency permits from Syrians from Damascus, judging that the situation there was now safe enough for them to return.