Danish PM singles out foreigners as government plans clampdown on gangs

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said she wants tougher punishments for violent crimes as the government prepares to present a new plan to combat gangs this week.

Danish PM singles out foreigners as government plans clampdown on gangs
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says Denmark should punish violent crimes with longer sentences, and said foreign nationals were over-represented in crime figures. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

A plan to increase punishments for serious crimes would target foreign nationals who commit dangerous offences, Frederiksen said in an interview with newspaper Berlingske ahead of a new government proposal package on gang crime, set to be presented on Tuesday.

People with foreign nationality are over-represented in statistics related to violent crime types, the Prime Minister said.

“Unfortunately, the truth is that immigration policy is closely linked to crime, and that there is too large a group that is not part of Denmark,” she said to Berlingske.

“At the same time, we are seeing a crime picture that is changing, which in my eyes is one of Denmark’s biggest challenges of all, because being unsafe is a huge loss of freedom,” she said.

Earlier criticism of the government over policies to ramp up surveillance as a tactic to deter crime has argued that this risks impinging on personal freedom.

Harder punishments should be given for crimes including assault, rape, repeat offences, organised crime, reckless crime and crimes involving humiliation, Frederiksen said.

The governing Social Democrats also want to earmark significant spending, reaching billions of kroner, to ensure sufficient capacity for longer sentences at prisons.

Investment will aim to increase the number of prosecutors and judges as well as prison officers. A new prison will also be financed by the new plan, in addition to a prison with 400 places already agreed in an earlier plan.

The opposition Liberal (Venstre) party expressed skepticism over the timing of Frederiksen’s statements, with speculation high that a general election could take place in Denmark by the early autumn.

READ ALSO: How likely is Denmark to have a general election ahead of schedule?

“It seems like a strange u-turn that the government’s proposal on harsher punishments for criminals is coming out now. Last year, they were part of an agreement to let more criminals out of prison and serve their sentences at home,” said the party’s spokesperson Martin Dahlin, who also chairs parliament’s justice committee.

“The Liberals have called for tougher sentences for a long time and we are ready to do what it takes to clamp down on criminals,” Dahlin said.

The Liberal party, the largest in opposition, wants violence and rape in particular to meet with much tougher punishments.

“But it is not serious to negotiate with a government that has just done the opposite,” Dahlin said.

An expert on the area expressed scepticism over the government plan, in comments reported by broadcaster DR.

“I don’t understand the objective of this proposal because a large number of studies show that longer sentences generally do not have any preventative effect,” Linda Kjær Minke, sociologist and professor at the University of Southern Denmark’s Institute of Law, told DR.

“Research shows that preventative work must be emphasised if you want to end crime,” she said.

The professor also noted that the average length of unconditional prison sentences in Denmark has already increased significantly over the last decade.

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Frederiksen wants centre coalition for Denmark’s next government

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Wednesday that she will seek to form a government across the political centre after the upcoming parliamentary election on November 1st.

Frederiksen wants centre coalition for Denmark's next government

Frederiksen said she was prepared to form a cross-aisle government, in a move that would break with Denmark’s established ‘bloc politics’ system which sees left- and right-wing parties in opposing factions.

Denmark will choose a new government on Tuesday November 1st after Frederiksen on Wednesday announced a parliamentary election.

“The time has come to try a new form of government in Denmark. We are ready for both compromise and collaboration,” she said in the announcement.

“We want a broad government with parties on both sides of the political centre,” she said during the briefing, at which press questions were not taken.

READ ALSO: ‘Bloc politics’: A guide to understanding general elections in Denmark

An election-related advertisement placed by Frederiksen’s Social Democratic party in Danish newspapers on Wednesday morning also hinted at cross-aisle government.

“Reality is about working together. The election is about who can make it happen”, stated the ad, which was placed in all major Danish newspapers.

A centre coalition could in theory see the Social Democrats team up with the Liberal (Venstre) party, the largest on the right wing, to form a grand coalition, a coalition of the two biggest parties in parliament who traditionally oppose each other.

It should be noted that the Conservative party could become the largest right-wing party after the election – polls place it very close to the Liberals on vote share.

Frederiksen told media on Wednesday that she saw both the Liberals and Conservatives as potential centre coalition partners, along with the centre-left Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) and Socialist People’s (SF) parties.

The Social Liberals have already said they want a centre coalition, but the Liberals and the Conservatives both oppose it.

“We can make political agreements together, but I can’t see us forming a government together,” Conservative leader Søren Pape Poulsen told news wire Ritzau, adding he “cannot imagine” such a scenario.

The Liberals, who are closer to the centre ideologically than the Conservatives and therefore a more conceivable partner in a centre coalition, also appeared on Wednesday to clearly reject the prospect.

READ ALSO: Who do Denmark’s right-wing parties want to be prime minister?

“I am running for election as Denmark’s next prime minister in a new conservative-liberal government,” Liberal leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen told Ritzau.

Ellemann-Jensen ruled out working with Frederiksen.

“We want different things. And I do not trust Mette Frederiksen,” he said. Frederiksen has come under fire from opposition parties for her role in the the 2020 mink scandal, which resulted in criticism of the government and Frederiksen receiving an official rebuke.

Despite the major conservative parties rejecting a cross-aisle government, a new party – which is led by a political heavyweight – explicitly supports the idea, keeping it in play as a potential outcome.

The Moderate party, headed by former prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, has not declared for either the left or right wing bloc. Rasmussen has said he would prefer a coalition across the centre. He led a right-wing ‘blue bloc’ government as leader of his previous party, the Liberals.

On the eve of the last election in 2019, Rasmussen, then prime minister, sprang a surprise by dramatically announcing his priority was to form a cross-aisle government with traditional rivals the Social Democrats.

The 2019 election ended with the Social Democrats coming to power and forming a minority government after the ‘red bloc’ of parties on the left gained an overall majority.

Recent polls have suggested the election could be a knife-edge contest, with little to choose between the ‘red bloc’ of left-wing parties, led by Frederiken’s Social Democrats, and the opposing ‘blue bloc’ of right-wing parties.

An opinion poll conducted by Voxmeter on behalf of news wire Ritzau, published on Monday, put the red bloc on 86 of Denmark’s 179 seats in parliament, one ahead of the blue bloc, on 85 seats.

Of the remaining eight seats four were projected to go to the Moderates, meaning they could tip the scales in either direction.

The final four seats are allocated to representatives from parties in Greenland and the Faroe Islands.