The European left has for some time denounced Denmark as xenophobic due to strict immigration laws, and quite a few leftists saw the cartoon crisis as a case in point. The Danes were mocking a weak minority, and are not prepared to live and act in a globalized world. Being married to an immigrant myself and having spent 14 years abroad as a foreign correspondent I have always felt this was a narrow minded and provincial attitude.
The reality is quite the opposite. Since the conservative coalition of Prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen came into power in late 2001 the Danes have once and again proved that they are quite open minded when it comes to cross cultural dialogue and a positive attitude towards the process of globalisation.
Here are some figures: In 2001 when the Social Democrats were still in power Denmark granted permanent residence to 36.000 immigrants. Last year the figure had risen to 46.000. In 2001 37 percent of immigrants and refugees felt they were being discriminated against according to an opinion poll. In 2007, i.e. after the cartoon crisis, the number had fallen to 27 percent.
And now comes a new European Union survey showing that the Danes are the most cosmopolitan nation in the EU, a result that confirms the trend.
The survey’s fieldwork was carried out between 13 and 17 of november, 2007. More than 27.000 randomly selected citizens aged 15 and above were interviewed in the twenty seven member states of the European Union.
According to the survey 56 percent of the Danes are cosmopolitans followed by the Swedes and the Dutch with 48 percent and 47 percent.
The result is based on two factors: The Danes are more positive towards cross cultural interaction than the majority of the Europeans, and they don’t think that young people should be tied down by the traditions of their parents.
”We are a highly individualistic society,” Rune Stubager, associate professor of Aarhus university, told Jyllands-Posten.
”The Danes are not as sceptical towards immigration as Europeans from the east and the south,” Mr. Stubager added.
Mohammad Rafiq, a consultant on integration understands why Denmark is at the top of the survey, though the figures don’t necessarily translate into working integration.
Says Mr. Rafiq to Jyllands-Posten:
”The Danes are willing to commit themselves to building bridges and establishing contacts to people coming from a different ethnic background. They don’t succeed, but it’s because of the immigrants who are xenophobic towards the Danes. They tend to isolate themselves instead of meeting the Danes in sports clubs for example.”