2017 in review: this year’s major news stories in Denmark

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
2017 in review: this year’s major news stories in Denmark
Aarhus marks the opening of its European Capital of Culture year on January 21st, 2017. Photo: Casper Dalhoff/Polfoto/Ritzau

2017 is coming to a close, bringing with it a chance to look back at Denmark's headline news over the last year.


We’ve already covered some of the more offbeat and unusual moments that hit the Danish news in 2017.

Now we bring you our round-up of the stories that shaped the country throughout the last 12 months – including some you may have missed.


Inger Støjberg. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Scanpix

Tax and immigration were key topics in Danish politics in 2017, a year in which municipal elections resulted in a boost for the opposition Social Democrats, though their policies were often indistinguishable from their colleagues on the other side of the aisle. This was reflected in Social Democrat support for a law change that made the already-difficult road to residency an even longer one for expats and other immigrants. Industry representatives have called for more foreign professionals to be attracted to Denmark.

The government also announced a cut on foreign students admitted to higher education programmes, citing a concern that not enough of the students remained in the country to use their skills after graduating.

Our roundup of immigration news follows later in this article, while the new budget and tax cuts became a major political story in December as the coalition government sought to reach a deal with parliamentary ally the Danish People’s Party.

One figure dominated political discourse again this year – immigration minister Inger Støjberg.

Støjberg was roundly criticised in March after she posted on Facebook a picture of herself holding an expensive cake ordered to celebrate her “50th restriction passed on immigration”. She also called for citizens to contact authorities if they heard languages other than Danish being spoken in pizzerias.

More seriously, the minister was summoned to a series of parliamentary hearings by opposition politicians over an illegal directive she gave to separate young couples in asylum centres without individually assessing cases. Though she eventually admitted she had acted in breach of Danish and international human rights provisions, the minister stood by her explanation that the order was actually a press statement that was erroneously implemented as a directive. The Danish People’s Party spared Støjberg from any further consequences by confirming it would block any attempts to initiate a formal inquiry.

The anti-immigration party was itself never far from headlines. Some of its more provocative statements included proclaiming immigrants had to celebrate Christmas to be Danish; telling asylum seekers to ‘reunite with their families in Aleppo’; one of its former MPs making a homophobic remark about French President Emmanuel Macron; and even irking Germany by suggesting that Denmark might one day recover parts of Schleswig.


Photo: Finn Frandsen/Polfoto/Ritzau

Denmark was not immune from things going on in the outside world. In January, thousands of women joined a ‘sister march’ in Copenhagen in support of the women’s march in Washington, D.C. after the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Also in January, Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen openly criticised President Trump's executive order suspending the entry of foreign nationals from seven Muslim countries, in a move that deviated from Denmark's traditionally deferential approach to the United States.

Samuelsen also took a position against Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognise the holy city as Israel’s capital and condemned as ‘undignified and inappropriate’ the president’s tweet depicting himself physically attacking the logo of US media organisation CNN. He did, however, support Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian airbase in March, following gas attacks by the regime in the war-torn country. Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen made a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to prevent Trump from pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement.

Meanwhile, shockwaves from the corruption scandal that led to the impeachment of South Korean president Park Geun-Hye found their way to Denmark. The daughter of Choi Soon-Sil, the woman at the centre of the events that led to Park’s impeachment, was arrested in Denmark on January 2nd after months in hiding and later extradited.


Photo: Bax Lindhardt/Scanpix

Copenhagen has had a difficult year, with organised crime-related shootings a regular occurrence in the Danish capital since the beginning of the summer. Three people have lost their lives. Although a ceasefire appears to now be holding between the rival groups linked to the violence, police responded with several hefty measures, including stop-and search-zones and extensive raids and operations.

Although the Ministry of Justice reported youth crime rates to be down, figures for reported rapes increased – due at least in part to police districts better recording rape reports, according to a consultant to the Danish National Police.

A tragic, appalling and deeply disturbing murder threw Denmark into the international limelight in August. Talented Swedish journalist Kim Wall was last seen on board inventor and entrepreneur Peter Madsen’s submarine on the evening of August 10th, before Madsen returned to shore alone the following day. Wall’s body, which Madsen eventually admitted to dismembering, was later recovered from waters off Copenhagen.

The case received extensive media attention both abroad and domestically, including by The Local. Madsen’s trial for the murder of Kim Wall is scheduled for March 2018.

In February, Denmark filed terrorism charges against a 16-year-old known as the ‘Kundby Girl’, who was arrested in 2016 on suspicion of planning to blow up two schools.

She was the first female in Denmark to go on trial for terrorism offences, and was convicted in May after the court heard of how she had, after converting to Islam in 2015, fantasised about taking part in jihad. She was described as having undergone a drastic change in interests from boys and shopping to holy war in the space of just a few months. Her six-year sentence was later extended to eight years by a higher court.


Sjælsmark Udrejsecenter. Photo: Benjamin Nørskov/Polfoto/Ritzau

Two years after the flow of refugees to Europe peaked, border control is still in place, now the task of soldiers rather than police officers. Immigration remains a consistently difficult and controversial subject.

Rules imposed by the government have affected a range of foreign demographics, from professors to asylum seekers.

A Danish astrophysicist said his American wife had been told to leave the country a year after the family moved from California to Aalborg. Academics sharing their expertise – including with the government itself – outside of their primary employment were legally pursued and faced losing eligibility to stay in the country.

Earlier in the year, the 13-year-old Chinese stepdaughter of a Danish former soldier was told to leave Denmark by authorities, who said the schoolgirl would not be able to integrate. That decision was later reversed.

While an apprenticeship scheme introduced by the government to help refugees into work was praised for achieving some success, it appeared under threat at the close of 2017 as the Danish People’s Party demanded a ‘paradigm shift’ in asylum laws that would see refugees denied integration services such as language lessons as well as future family reunification. Negotiations over those proposals will continue in the new year.

Conditions at so-called deportation or expulsion facilities, where rejected asylum seekers are held before being forcibly deported from Denmark, came under scrutiny. In October, residents at the Kærshovedgård facility in Jutland went on hunger strike at what they called an ‘intolerable’ situation at the centre. The following month, angry protests broke out as Støjberg visited a similar facility at Sjælsmark. In April, a 70-year-old dementia sufferer was reported to be facing forced deportation and in November, an Algerian man died after a physical altercation with police officers on his deportation flight.


Özlem Cekic. Photo: Asger Ladefoged/Scanpix

A novel and admirable way of dealing with online hate speech emerged from Denmark in July. Özlem Cekic, a Danish former MP born in Turkey, visited a man who sent her xenophobic hate mail as a part of her ‘dialogue coffee’ initiative. The video of the meeting went viral and Cekic later released a book about her experiences.

In June, a centuries-old blasphemy law which forbid public insults of a religion, such as the burning of holy books, was repealed after a government U-turn, cementing Denmark's attachment to freedom of expression. The country meanwhile was praised as 'one of the few success stories in an era in which global media freedom is coming increasingly under threat'.

Stricter anti-begging laws began to result in arrests and at least one deportation during the summer months.

Almost eight out of ten people over the age of 18 living in Denmark were found to have received at least one state payment in the form of child support, student grants, welfare or state pension in 2015 -- a statistic criticised and defended by conservatives and social democrats respectively.

Poverty was reported to be on the increase, with some evidence that those living on social welfare can no longer afford to live in expensive cities like Copenhagen and Aarhus. The government has argued that social welfare cuts will ‘create incentive’ for young unemployed people to enter the labour market.


Composite: Reuters/Scanpix; Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne/Scanpix

It’s hard to look anywhere other than football for the biggest – and most uplifting – Danish sports stories of 2017.

At the UEFA 2017 Women’s European Championships in the Netherlands, the national side went on a thrilling run to the final, where they were eventually beaten by the hosts. On the way, they knocked out seven-times champions Germany and impressed with their exciting style of play, personified by captain Pernille Harder and striker Nadia Nadim.

Nadim’s story is particularly remarkable – she came to Denmark from Afghanistan as a refugee after her father was killed by the Taliban, and studies medicine in her spare time. In September, she was signed by Manchester City.

It was also a good year for the men’s side, who qualified for next year’s FIFA World Cup with a thumping 5-1 play-off second leg victory over the Republic of Ireland in Dublin. Talismanic playmaker Christian Eriksen scored a hattrick, giving the Tottenham Hotspur attacker an astonishing 11 goals in 12 qualification matches.



In February, Dong, now known as Ørsted, the formerly state-owned energy provider, announced its target of ending coal use by 2023. Later in the year, the government reintroduced its own target for the country's entire electricity supply to be coal free by 2030.

Wind power continued to be a major area of focus. Companies in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands announced plans to build an ‘artificial power island’ in the middle of the North Sea to further increase capacity. Expansion of sustainable energy in the form of wind turbines and solar panels was said to be increasing more rapidly than expected, although the Danish Council on Climate Change said that other targets for CO2 reduction could be more ambitious.

On a smaller scale, authorities on the ‘sustainable island’ of Samsø announced they were scrapping plastic bags altogether in favour of fabric carriers. Surprisingly, they did not receive the complete backing of environmentalists.

In April, Copenhagen’s much-maligned 5A bus got a CO2-neutral replacement.


We’ve already written about some of this year’s stranger stories, but here’s a light-hearted report on which to end our news roundup: the busker who was sent home by police for his terrible rendition of Oasis hit Wonderwall.

The would-be singer was told not to 'be here now', but rather to go home and practice after rolling with “a loud, bad and noisy” version of the popular song, according to an Aalborg Police press statement.

On that somewhat out-of-tune note, we’d like to wish all our readers a very happy New Year and a prosperous 2018. 


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also