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EUROPEAN UNION

Danish, EU parliaments agree on Europol deal

The Danish and EU parliaments both voted Thursday for a special agreement that will allow the Scandinavian nation continued participation in the EU's international policing and data resource-sharing organisation Europol.

Danish, EU parliaments agree on Europol deal
Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen (C) speaks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) and European Council President Donald Tusk (L)  in December 2016. Photo: Virginia Mayo/Scanpix

Denmark decided by referendum in December 2015 to continue to exempt itself from participation in EU legal cooperation at supranational level, which meant it could not remain in Europol after new EU legislation comes into effect on May 1st.

The special agreement with the EU will reduce the consequences of Denmark leaving Europol.

Parliament agreed Thursday to a bill that would enable Denmark to enter into a special agreement with the cross-border European police body, reports broadcaster DR.

A new Europol regulation comes into effect on May 1st which Denmark will otherwise be excluded from, after the December 2015 referendum in which Danes opted not to replace their opt-out (retsforbehold) on EU justice and home affairs with an 'opt-in' model.

Kristian Thulesen Dahl, leader of the EU-sceptic Danish People’s Party, tweeted a picture of a display in parliament showing support for the bill Thursday.

Justice minister Søren Pape Poulsen confirmed last month that Denmark had negotiated a first draft of a special agreement on Europol that would reduce any adverse effects of Denmark leaving the policing collaboration.

The agreement defines what information in Europol databases Denmark can access and the procedure of such access, reports DR.

READ ALSO: Europol: What's in it for the Danes?

This includes placement of Danish contact officers with Europol and likewise with Europol officers in Denmark and observer status for Denmark on Europol’s board.

Denmark will not have direct access to search Europol’s database but will be able to contact Danish-speaking Europol staff, who can check the database and add details on behalf of Danish police, reports DR.

A condition of the arrangement is that Denmark remains part of the Schengen zone.

The arrangement also received support in the EU parliament later on Thursday, meaning Denmark’s continued participation in Europol under its special agreement is all but confirmed.

A majority of 569 for and eight against, with 62 abstentions, approved the agreement to replace Denmark’s full membership on May 1st, according to DR.

“In a time of terror, cross-border crime and refugee crisis, it would have been a nightmare scenario and catastrophe for us to have dropped out,” EU parliament member Morten Helveg Petersen of the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) Party told news agency Ritzau.

The final hurdle before the arrangement is confirmed is a vote by the governments of the EU’s 27 other member states.

This is unlikely to trip up the passing of the agreement.

READ ALSO: EU President accuses populists of misleading Danes

“If Denmark suddenly leaves Europol, this could leave operational holes and a reduced capacity to fight organised crime and terrorism. It is therefore important that a sufficient agreement is reached with Denmark for after May 1st,” said Spanish EU parliament member Agustín Díaz de Mera.

Elected members of the EU parliament could also have blocked the approval of the proposal before May 1st had they insisted on referring it to their individual committees, but chose to forego this step to ensure that the deadline is met, reports DR. 

EU politicians have previously expressed doubt as to the viability of Denmark's continued participation in Europol.

IMMIGRATION

Denmark to cut wait for family reunion after losing European court case

Denmark is to reduce the amount of time refugees need to wait before apply for family reunification after The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the current "three-year rule" was excessive.

Syrian refugees protest outside Denmark's parliament against Denmark's decision that the area around Damascus is now 'safe'.
Syrian refugees protest outside Denmark's parliament against Denmark's decision that the area around Damascus is now 'safe'. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

In a press release issued on Friday, the country’s immigration ministry said that it would next year submit a bill amending the country’s immigration law, or udlændingeloven to reduce the length of time refugees need to wait before applying for family reunion from three years to two.

But the new law will also contain a clause allowing Denmark to bring back the “three-year rule” at short notice if there is a refugee crisis.

“I of course regret that the verdict went against Denmark,” Mattias Tesfaye, Denmark’s immigration minister, said in statement, adding that he was nonetheless “relieved” that the court had deemed a two-year wait acceptable, and had also left open the possibility of longer waits during periods of extremely high refugee numbers.

“We are working hard to keep our refugee numbers at a record low, but if we today have a situation similar to 2015, we want to be able to lift the limit from two to three years. That is a good tool to have in our toolbox.”

The so-called MA case was brought by the Syrian doctor Mosalam Albaroudi, who arrived in Denmark in 2015 and then five months later applied for family reunification with his wife and was rejected.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on July 9th that the reason for the rejection of his reunification visa was a violation of human rights.

The case concerns a controversial change to Denmark’s laws in 2016, when Denmark’s Parliament (Folketing) passed the so-called “three-year rule” that required refugees to wait three years before applying for family reunification.

That’s why Albaroudi’s application was denied a residence permit for his wife. The decision was upheld by Denmark’s Supreme Court in 2017.

Albaroudi and his lawyer, Christian Dahlager, believed the decision violated the European Convention on Human Rights, and so they continued their efforts to overturn the ruling.

The Convention states that everyone has the right to privacy and family life, and that an authority can restrict this right only if it is necessary in a democratic society to protect a number of essential interests of society. It applies to members of the Council of Europe, to which Denmark belongs.

In its decision, the European Court of Human Rights stated that Denmark’s three-year waiting period has not “struck a reasonable balance between, on the one hand, the applicant’s interest in being reunited with his wife in Denmark and, on the other hand, society’s interest as a whole in being able to control immigration in order to protect the country’s economic well being, to ensure effective integration and to maintain the cohesion of society.”

Sixteen judges voted in favor of Albaroudi, and one judge abstained. The court also awarded Albaroudi compensation of 75,000 kroner.

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