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LIVING IN DENMARK

How could Denmark’s new government change life for foreigners?

A centre coalition government is now a reality in Denmark, with new policies and a ministerial team confirmed and in place. How could the left-right coalition change things for foreign residents?

How could Denmark’s new government change life for foreigners?
How might Denmark's new government change things for foreigners? Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

We took a closer look at the agreement between the Social Democrats, Liberal (Venstre) and Moderate parties – the three partners in the new government – to see which policies are most likely to affect foreigners who live in the country.

Skilled foreign workers

New policy could make Denmark more accessible for skilled foreign workers.

Skilled foreign labour is mentioned as part of a broader plan for “good conditions for growth and competitiveness for businesses and to promote foreign investment in Denmark”, in the agreement between the government parties.

The government says it will “relax access to foreign labour for as long as unemployment is low.”

This means making an existing deal to boost international recruitment permanent, and taking measures to prevent social dumping so foreign workers are given the same working conditions as Danes, it states.

“In addition to this, the government will introduce a scheme with lower pay limits [beløbsordninger, ed.] for certified companies which are encompassed by controlled wage and working conditions,” it says.

An annual quota of work permits will be released under the scheme, which will be reviewed every two years, according to the plan.

“This will, under controlled conditions, give access to additional labour,” it says.

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

International students

Government policy in recent years has made Denmark less attractive for international students, but that could change under the new government.

“The government wants to establish 500-1,000 new study places on English-language vocational Master’s degree programmes, targeted at areas with high demand for labour,” it says in the agreement text.

A “dialogue with universities” will “seek to increase the number of international students within defined areas where Danish companies need highly educated labour,” it adds.

Possible adjustment of immigration and asylum rules 

Existing asylum practice in Denmark has received stern criticism, not least for repeated reports of cases in which Syrian refugees, often young women, have had their residence in Denmark revoked because it is considered safe for them to return to the Damascus area.

Older people and children are often also impacted by the rules, but not young men who could face being forced into the military. This has resulted in families being split up in some cases.

READ ALSO: Denmark reverses residence decisions for hundreds of Syrian refugees

The new government states that it will “address the problem we have recently seen where young women from Syria have lost their residence permit despite having shown they want to be part of Denmark”.

“The government will therefore give continued residence for certain foreigners who are educated in areas where there is a labour shortage,” it adds.

There is some suggestion in the agreement that immigration rules in general – and not just asylum rules – will be looked at in this context.

“We want immigration laws that are strict – but at the same time, don’t mean that unintended rules trip up ordinary families,” the government states.

Residence permit agency to get investment

As part of the plan to improve companies’ access to skilled foreign labour where there is demand (see above), the government says it wants to “ensure faster and more efficient case processing at the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI)”.

Money will be set aside for this in the budget, it states.

READ ALSO:

Family reunification

The incoming government could ease up on years of strict practices by easing family reunification rules.

Specifically, the new government wants to change language criteria applied in family reunification cases.

It also wants to halve the so-called “bank guarantee” (bankgaranti), a requirement which demands couples deposit a large sum of money with municipalities while the foreign partner is granted residence.

READ ALSO: What do we know so far about Denmark’s plan to relax family reunification rules?

Plans for Rwanda asylum facility reworded

The former Social Democratic minority government had a long-term objective of moving part of Denmark’s refugee system offshore to a non-EU country – confirmed in 2021 as Rwanda.

The new government platform states that it will go ahead with the plan but would prefer to work in partnership with the EU or other European countries. There is little enthusiasm for the idea within the EU at the current time.

However, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said this week that that such a centre could “ultimately” still be the result of a bilateral agreement between Denmark and Rwanda.

READ ALSO: Could a centrist government change Danish asylum plan?

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POLITICS

Denmark’s defence minister takes sick leave following illness

Denmark’s Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen is to take sick leave for an undetermined period, two months after leading the Liberal (Venstre) party into coalition government.

Denmark’s defence minister takes sick leave following illness

The 49-year-old was admitted briefly to hospital last week for “nausea”, just after returning from Ukraine.

“I was eager to go back to work immediately. But now that it’s been a few days I have to realise I’m not ready for this,” he said on Facebook.  “I have been unusually busy for a long time. Now my body is sending me a signal that it’s time to take a break, if not it’s going to end badly,” he said.

“The bottom line is that, on the advice of my doctor, I need to unplug for a while and take leave. And then I will return when I’m ready.”

Economy Minister Troels Lund Poulsen will fill in for Ellemann-Jensen during his absence, the government said.

His absence comes as Danes protest against government plans to abolish a public holiday, Great Prayer Day. The government says the plan will help fund the defence budget.

Ellemann-Jensen has led the Liberal party since late 2019. The party is traditionally the second largest in the Danish parliament and senior member of the ‘blue bloc’ alliance of conservative parties.

It suffered a poor result in the 2022 election with its 13 percent share of the vote representing 10 points less than its vote share in 2019. Ellemann-Jensen subsequently took the party into coalition government with two other parties including erstwhile rivals the Social Democrats.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s Social Democrats in worst opinion poll since 2015

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