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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How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.