EU court to judge residents’ discrimination case against Danish government

Residents from the Copenhagen housing area Mjølnerparken will have a case of potential discrimination against them tested by the EU Court.

EU court to judge residents’ discrimination case against Danish government
Mjølnerparken in December 2019. A number of residents facing eviction from the housing area have taken their case to the European Court. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

In the case, the Court of Justice of the European Union will assess whether the Danish state breached the residents’ rights not to be discriminated against based on their ethnicity, as well as their right to a home.

If the court finds in their favour, the residents could be protected under EU law.

The Danish high court Østre Landsret decided to send the case, brought by the residents against the Ministry of Housing and the Interior, to the EU Court.

That decision was made on Monday, Eddie Omar Rosenberg Khawaja, the lawyer representing the group, told news wire Ritzau.

“What the high court has decided is that the question of whether there was differential treatment based on ethnicity should go to the EU Court,” he said.

“It is in that respect that the EU Court will clarify whether the criteria applied in the ghetto laws, which affect – not ethnicity directly – but the question of immigrants and their descendants from non-Western countries – are covered by anti-discrimination laws in the EU Court,” he said.

READ ALSO: ‘Ghetto’ tenants sue Denmark over forced eviction plan

The “Ghetto Law”, first passed by parliament in 2018, includes several measures intended to combat what are considered to be parallel societies in underprivileged neighbourhoods.

The neighbourhoods were formerly officially termed “ghettos”, but this wording has now been scrapped and replaced with “parallel societies”.

Under the law, underprivileged areas with a high “non-Western” population must implement redevelopment plans if they fulfil a number of social criteria. The redevelopments can mean some residents are forced to move from subsidised rental housing.

READ ALSO: Danish court rejects tenants’ discrimination appeal against eviction

The Mjølnerparken residents will have to be patient, given the lawyer said he expects a ruling in December 2024. After this, the case will be returned to the Danish court system.

The basis of the case is the residents’ belief that a redevelopment plan, which requires them to move, discriminates against them because of their ethnicity.

While a wait for an outcome of the case against the ministry is likely to be long, eviction notices against Mjølnerparken residents are continually being brought before the Housing Court, Boligretten, to challenge their validity, Khawaja said.

“But that obviously leaves the residents in limbo for a long time because the high court, presumably after 2024, would have to address whether the ministry’s approval of the redevelopment plan for Mjølnerparken is legal,” he said.

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Home sales in Denmark sink to lowest level since 2013

The number of home sales in Denmark fell over the last three months to the lowest level since the start of 2013, when the country was still emerging from a protracted housing slump.

Home sales in Denmark sink to lowest level since 2013

Only 9,931 homes were sold in the last three months of 2022, according to the latest figures from the trade body Finance Denmark, the lowest number for 39 three-month periods. At the same time prices have fallen back to the levels they were at at the end of 2020. 

“The second half of the year in particular showed a marked decline in housing transactions,” Brian Friis Helmer, economist at Arbejdernes Landsbank. “The headwind comes from higher interest rates, higher energy bills and financial uncertainty.” 

Prices of apartments fell by 7.2 percent last three months of the year compared to the same period in 2021, while prices for detached houses fell by 6.3 percent. 

Bo Sandberg, housing economist at the Confederation of Danish Industry, said that this made Denmark one of the European countries which had seen the biggest falls. 

“We are pretty much only exceeded by Sweden,” he wrote in a commentary. “The peak of the price increases, which occurred during an exceptionally favourable and historically unique period in the housing market, has now been shaved off, and prices are back at the 2020 level.”

A survey of Danish home owners carried out by Finance Denmark in February 2023 found that a slim majority of 55 per cent expected prices to remain stable over the coming 12 months, with only 20 percent expected prices to drop more than 1 percent. 

This compared to 30 percent who expected a drop of more than 1 percent a year ago. 

Only 2.9 percent of home owners expected a fall of more than 5 percent, while 13 percent expected prices to rise over the next year, with 4.5 percent expecting a rise of more than 5 percent. 

“Energy prices have fallen significantly in recent months, and consumer prices are not rising as quickly as in the past. At the same time, more people have probably got used to the higher level of interest rates,” Ane Arnth Jensen, deputy managing director of Finance Denmark, said in a press statement.

“This may be part of the explanation for the fact that the Danes expect the future to be a little brighter, and many expect a calmer housing market in the coming year. But whether that will happen, only time will tell.”