Thursday

30th Mar 2017

Extremists pose challenge to Danish democracy

  • The programme features 2590 different events during the four festival-days 11-14 June (Photo: Berit Hvassum)

Far-right European politicians, Golden Dawn from Greece and Geert Wilders from the Netherlands, are attending a festival (Folkemodet) on the Danish island of Bornholm on 11-14 June.

The open-air political festival features prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt as a main speaker as well as most of the government, opposition party leaders, business representatives, trade unions, media and cultural celebrities.

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  • The festival traditionally has a very informal style and offers a rare chance for politicians to meet ordinary citizens (Photo: Berit Hvassum)

Folkemodet is a Danish counterpart to the famous Swedish Almedalveckan, which each year draws up to thousands of visitors to the Swedish island of Gotland.

It has a very informal style and offers a rare chance for politicians to meet ordinary citizens in an unstaged setting.

As many as 100,000 participants are expected to attend the Baltic sea island Bornholm event but this year's first-ever attendence by far-right politicians will prove a challenge to Denmark's tradition of openness and freedom of speech.

The presence of Wilders – who has received scores of death threats over the years for his anti-Islamic views – will also mean a large security upgrade at the popular festival.

The press freedom organisation, Trykkefrihedsselskabet, invited Wilders to speak.

Georgios Epitideios, a former general and Golden Dawn member of the European Parliament, has also confirmed his participation. Golden Dawn, from Greece, is considered to be a neo-Nazi party.

Epitideios was invited by ’The Danes’ party’, a small ultra-right party, which has no elected representatives at the national or local level.

"We have chosen to debate, among other things, what we want in Europe. And it is natural to invite a party that is really big," head of the party, Daniel Carlsen, told Berlingske Tidende.

The news has already caused several politicians to cancel their participation.

"There will be so many police on the island that it will spoil the whole mood, and it will ruin my experience," Liberal member of the Zealand Regional Council, Claus Bakke said.

Veteran Liberal politician and former MEP Bertel Haarder took another approach, urging even more Danes to attend the Bornholm event. But he also questioned the wisdom of inviting Golden Dawn and others.

Other defended the decision.

"Isn't freedom of expression relevant to 'Folkemodet'? Yes, of course it is. Wilders has a relevant history and some relevant positions. He has done nothing wrong, but he holds opinions that the terrorists do not like, "said Katrine Winkel Holm, chairman of Trykkefrihedsselskabet and a frequent commentator at Jyllands-Posten.

Jylland-Posten’s editor Flemming Rose, who has also received death threats following the newspaper’s Mohammad Cartoons in 2005, is also among the participants in the festival.

Opinion

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If the Greek government is truly looking for answers to Golden Dawn's success, it should look to its own anti-immigrant policies.

Europe shocked by Copenhagen terror attack

Similar to the Charlie Hebdo terror in Paris, freedom of expression was the first target in Copenhagen followed by an attack on a Jewish community.

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Sunday's general elections will be a test for the country's relations with the EU, Russia, and Turkey, as well as for the political future of former leader Borisov.

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