Given my experience with Danish politics, I always find it interesting to hear different perspectives on Denmark’s involvement in the European Union. I have spoken to many current and former national parliamentarians on the issue (I will address these views in an article shortly), but never a member of the European Parliament who is from Denmark. From the 2009 elections, there were 13 members of the European Parliament from Denmark. Looking at the list of names and political affiliations, I quickly found an intriguing individual. Morten Messerschmidt.
While one of the European Parliamentarians won her seat by achieving 3,592 votes from Danes, Morten won by a landside, achieving the largest amount of votes with 284,500 votes. Yet what intrigued me was not solely this, Morten is part of the Dansk Folkeparti or the Danish People’s Party. For those of you unacquainted with Danish politics, the Danish People’s Party is portrayed as the populist/nationalistic party. That they have two people representing Denmark at the EU is interesting since in their party program from 2002 it states that the, “Danish People’s Party opposes the European Union”*. That the person in European Parliament receiving the largest number of votes from Danes is from this party is, for one enthralled by Danish politics, immediately fascinating.
Yet a party affiliation label does not provide us with an adequate understanding of this, particularly if one knows Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s saying “Once you label me, you negate me.” So, in a natural reaction, I reached out to Morten asking questions. And amazingly enough, I got some answers.
Morten’s academic background stems from a Masters in Law from University of Copenhagen. Prior to assuming his seat in European Parliament in 2009, Morten Messerschmidt served as a member of the Danish Folketinget (Parliament) from February 2005. He is a member of the Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party) at home and is a member of Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group at the EU level. In the European Parliament, he is known for his position as a Vice Chair on Constitutional Affairs, as well as a member of both the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee and the Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean.
As always, it is a challenge when writing on other’s opinions that were explained to you. So, instead of only taking snippets of Morten’s answers, I have decided to serve them in their entirety. The following is the transcript of the exchange, my questions followed by Morten’s answers. Please bear in mind that these are the views of one European Parliamentarian from Denmark, not the official Danish view. It should also be noted that, the majority or all Danes do not necessarily hold such views.
February 21 2013 Exchange Between Morten Messerschmidt and Natasha Levanti
Do you feel that Denmark has the need for the European Union?
Denmark needs cooperation with other European countries and it was foremost the expectations of easier access to the markets of other European counties that Denmark joined the Common Market in 1972. The internal market was expected to rid Europeans of all sorts of obstacles hampering imports and exports, and a lot has been achieved in that direction. Denmark, like other EU-countries, will logically have a stronger position in negotiating trade agreements with China, Russia, USA and the developing economies in Latin America and Asia when acting in some form of union. What Denmark does not need is further integration in the EU when it comes to social policy, immigration, culture, fiscal and monetary policy, education, gender policy etc., etc. In that respect, Denmark needs less, not more European Union. In the best of all worlds, Denmark and the rest of Europe would be united in the recognition of its Christian values and stand up to external threats to our principles of freedom and democracy, but the Muhammed-cartoon-crisis was a disappointing experience for Denmark as we could not count on the unconditional support of the EU. The EU is, unfortunately, a fragmented and dysfunctional family, and Denmark has to rely on other partners in the Western civilization like NATO, USA, Australia and Israel when it comes to global security.
Do you think Denmark should try to play an active role in European Union politics?
Denmark has always been among the ‘top boys’ in the European Union, the one always sticking to the rules. I would like my country, although a small nation, to play an active role in repatriating powers from Brussels to the individual nations, since I believe that every civilized nation should be able to take responsible for its own money, its own democratic decisions and future. Denmark has a natural role to play in the company of the other EU-countries who, during the latest negotiations of the EU budget, were proponents for, in time of austerity, huge savings in the entire EU-apparatus.
Do you think that EU has a significant impact on Danish politics today?
Around 70 percent of Danish legislation derives from the EU; most of it (is) pretty innocent, sometimes even necessary to sustain the internal market. What I think is a serious threat to our national independence and our own democratic process are the increasingly rigid rulings from the EU-court in Luxembourg, forcing Denmark to accept the expansion of social and other rights of citizens from other countries. Denmark is already signator(y) to conventions and rulings from the European Human Rights Court, some of which I even think should be abolished, and the expansion of the EU in Denmark’s and other countries legal matters will inevitably lead to confrontations in the future.
What do you foresee as the future of the EU? And the future role of Denmark in the EU?
I predict that Europe as a whole will be economically weakened in the foreseeable future, a steady decline that, no doubt, also will weaken the political instruments and powers of the European Union. With some justification, millions of Europeans, in Greece, Spain andPortugal now blame the EU and the common currency, the whole ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach promoted by the Commissioners and the federalists, for the cause (of the) miserable situation of the southern, Mediterranean countries. I don’t have to predict, only to state the fact that, the split between north and south in Europe has never been deeper in modern time. I also fear the pressure from huge waves of migrants from underdeveloped countries on EU’s external borders, as well as the burden of internal migration within the EU from poorer countries to countries that haven’t gone entirely down the drain – yet. It will be a logical step by individual countries to reinstate border control like Denmark did for a short period a few years back – to the hysterical reaction of the EU. Whether it is disappointing, bad or good doesn’t matter – it is necessary. The future role of Denmark in EU should be to cooperate loyally with other EU countries, but to resist any further centralization and concentration of powers in Brussels. Less European Commission, European Parliament and EU-court. More Denmark, Sweden, Holland and Britain.
From Danes that I have spoken to about the above exchange, there are quite strong reactions. As I mentioned before, this is one view that I have heard. I have heard many other different views amongst Danish politicians, so keep on the lookout for more Danish perspectives on the European Union. It is important to always maintain a mind open to all perspectives, for without knowing, one cannot understand, and without understanding there will be no true progress for society. In order to capture the myriad views amongst members of the Folketinget as well as members of the European Parliament, other articles will follow.