It has been quite a week in Copenhagen with a storm brewing over the passing of the Refugee Amendment Bill on Tuesday, which amongst other things allows the confiscation of refugee valuables. The Danish Government’s primitive and inward-seeking solution to a global challenge, not only attracted enormous international media attention, but also polarized the nation into their respective and predictable corners. The process has not been pretty with a heated debate taking no prisoners on social media.
Since moving to Copenhagen in 1981, I have constantly admired how the Danes continually punch above their weight in global political, social and humanitarian initiatives, taking their international responsibilities seriously. The Danish contribution in solving global challenges such as environmental issues has undoubtedly enhanced the country’s image. Coupled with Copenhagen’s brand of innovation, which has been enjoying international acclaim over the last few years, Denmark’s image has never been more positive, until last Tuesday. It is difficult to assess the damage to Denmark’s international image, but with CNN announcing that the passing of the bill will undoubtedly tarnish the perception of Denmark and its values, the prospects are not promising.
Where do we go from here? Let’s take a step back and reevaluate how we perceive ourselves and how we want the international community to perceive us. My own contribution is to continue to discover the diverse, inclusive and positive aspects of living in Copenhagen that continue to inspire our near and distant neighbors. I will however, strongly recommend that you take the time, 17 minutes to be exact, to listen and reflect over Simon Anholt’s TED talk about The Good Country. Simon, a highly respected political advisor, talks passionately about the benefits of countries contributing to the common good by implementing outwardly-seeking solutions in a world of constant change and conflicts. Simon’s work has inspired me over recent years and is a voice that needs to be heard, even more so today.
Maybe the political standards wavered to new lows last Tuesday, but the Danes I met this week, generally shook their heads in disbelief when confronted with news of the passing of the bill. Let’s hope this is the turning point and Denmark rediscovers its values that have engaged and inspired so many.