Danish parliament puts new foreign spouse law on hold

The Venstre (Liberal) Party, the biggest party in Denmark’s coalition government, has postponed talks on a new law enabling spouses of foreign-based Danes to move to the country, citing the emergence of “new solutions.”

Danish parliament puts new foreign spouse law on hold
Photo: Iris/Scanpix

Parliament has cut short negotiations on a law proposal that would make it easier for well-paid, foreign-based Danes to move back to the country with their spouses.

It was Venstre that called for the halt in negotiations, reports news agency Ritzau.

The law change was proposed by immigration minister Inger Støjberg.

“We have a few corners we need to look at in the proposal, which we need to spend some time on,” the minister told Ritzau.

The challenge faced by the government is related to a decision last year by the European Court of Human Rights, Støjberg said.

The so-called 26-year-rule discriminated against Danes who were born in the country or arrived at a young age, for example as refugees, but were not granted citizenship until later, ruled the ECHR.

This led to the 26-year-rule being scrapped. All mixed-nationality couples where the non-Danish partner does not hold EU citizenship must now fulfil the Danish “attachment requirement” (tilknytningskravet) after a the 26-year rule, which exempted Danes holding citizenship for 26 years or more from their partners being subject to the attachment rule, was abolished by the ECHR ruling.

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Støjberg’s new law would have seen this requirement softened for foreign-based Danes earning over 408,000 kroner ($60,000) per annum or whose job were on a special list.

But experts warned last week that the new law could also be ruled as being discriminatory.

Parliament’s decision today now looks like putting any changes to requirements on hold for the time being.

“We are working very hard to find a good solution, but I have to say that any solution we find now will be of a temporary nature,” Støjberg told Ritzau.

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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.