The fires of nationalism

Since moving to Europe in 2006, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that, in a post-9/11 world, one can travel across international borders without papers, much less being stopped. I’ve visited Norway without any paperwork. Same for Sweden, Germany, Portugal, and Spain. This is because of what is known as the Schengen Agreement — a free-travel zone that currently includes twenty-five countries.

However, Denmark’s ultra-right wing party, Danish Folk Party (DF), has been pushing for withdrawal of this agreement and pretty much every other agreement Denmark has entered into that requires them to cooperate with their neighbors, including the EU. And, in order to drum up support for this position, DF casts every bad thing that happens in Denmark as the fault of Muslims, other foreigners, or the EU, pretty much always in that order.

Had Denmark suffered a single successful terrorist attack by terrorists that were not in the country legally, DF would have an easier time convincing voters that participating in the Schengen Agreement is dangerous. However, despite the fact that Denmark has had open borders since 2001 when it joined Schengen — and has been a prime target for terrorists since 2005 due to the Danish Cartoon controversy — the few terrorism attempts here have been pathetic.

So that argument clearly won’t work. But fear-mongers are never discouraged for long. DF then seized upon the idea that Eastern Europeans are illegally entering the country and invading the homes of innocent Danes, and that the borders therefore must be secured, despite the fact that this will violate the Schengen agreement.

DF recently won a victory on this front by trading unrelated political favors. As a result, permanent checkpoints will be set up and spot-checks will be increased. This despite the fact that the majority of Danes oppose strong border control, Danish law enforcement says that increasing border checks will do nothing to curb crime, and the additional security is expected to harm both trade and tourism.

Denmark’s decision has prompted condemnation throughout Europe, and especially in Germany. The best example is that German Foreign Ministry official Werner Hoyer accused the Danish Folk Party of “playing with the fires of nationalism.” In response, the leader of Danish Folk Party — the perpetually vile Pia Kjærsgaard — said that “Hoyer, as a German, has no right to tell other countries about the dangers of nationalism.”

Mr. Hoyer’s point and Kjærsgaard’s response tells you all you need to know about Pia Kjærsgaard and her party. Hoyer was born twelve years after World War II began, so it’s incredibly unfair to tie him to the the crimes of his ancestors. But Pia Kjærsgaard’s response is more than unfair because the exact opposite is true: if there is any country that has lessons to teach about the dangers of nationalism, it is Germany.

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