Has a Folkemødet ever been better timed or more incendiary? – The Post

Has a Folkemødet ever been better timed or more incendiary?

Despite cancellations by MPs and event organisers, the island of Bornholm will still be packed this week

The political equivalent of the Roskilde Festival has grown bigger and bigger since its foundation in 2011 by the former minister, Bertel Haarder (photo: New Øresund)
June 11th, 2015 2:00 pm| by Ray Weaver


With an election just around the corner and controversial figures on the docket, many regular attendees of Folkemødet – Bornholm’s annual political Superbowl – have decided to sit out this year’s trip to the sunshine island.

Usually about 100 of the nation’s 179 MPs head to the Baltic island to press the flesh and be seen.

But this year, about half that number say they will be in attendance.

Mayor not disappointed
However, Winni Grosbøll, Bornholm’s mayor, is not disappointed by the expected turnout.

“There are still many politicians coming, and they are continuing with the programs they had in place,” said Grosbøll.

Every party leader will be present, along with most of the prominent members of the government.

Not wild about line-up
The upcoming election on Thursday June 18 is keeping many politicians at home, but some have dropped out for another reason.

An appearance by Islam critic Geert Wilders has caused several elected officials to opt out of Folkemødet.

Claus Bakke, a Venstre city councillor from Zealand who is running for Parliament this summer, is one of the politicians who will be staying home this year.

“I think that Geert Wilders and his extreme views represent a large security risk that will completely ruin my experience and the benefits of attending Folkemødet,” Bakke told DR.

Mixed views
Vordingborg mayor Knud Larsen questioned the extra cost.

“We will be paying tribute to democracy while we pay the police a lot of overtime,” he told DR.

“Of course I believe in free speech, but why should we allow a Dutch politician to increase the risk when we can easily discuss democracy anyway.”

Folkemødet founder Bertel Haarder disagreed. He said on his Facebook page that “we must show we are not afraid” and that Wilders will bring many more people to the meeting.

An over-reaction
Grosbøll was surprised by the reaction, particularly as Wilders is making just one appearance – at a Saturday afternoon debate entitled ‘What threatens freedom of expression – and how do we defend it?’

“I think it would be a shame if you didn’t come because Geert Wilders was speaking for one hour out of a four-day meeting,” she said.

However, Wilders is not the only controversial attendee. Jylland-Posten’s foreign affairs editor Flemming Rose, who orchestrated the newspaper’s Mohammed Cartoons in 2005, is also due to appear, as are Georgios Epitideios from Greek nationalist party Gyldent Daggry and Daniel Carlsen, the 25-year-old leader of the ultra-right-wing party Danskernes Parti.

In total, there will be ten times as many police officers attending this year’s festival compared to last year. Claus Oxfeld, the chairman of the police association Politiforbundet, confirmed the increase, but refused to disclose an exact figure due to security issues.

Election the key focus

All of the major party leaders are scheduled to give their annual speeches from the main stage, spread out over the duration of Folkemødet.

Although many scheduled debates have been cancelled due to the recalcitrant MPs, Grosbøll said the election will supply plenty of fodder for the week’s activities.

“I am confident that the campaign will characterise Folkemødet,” she said. “Many of the debates will directly address the campaign.’

Still booked out

Many hotels and other rentals had reported cancellations due to the decisions of many politicos and networks not to attend, but those accommodations have been filled by people who had been on waiting lists.

According to Allinge Tourist Information, everything on Bornholm is booked up bar a few private rooms.

Folkemødet in brief

In numbers

In recent years, Folkemødet has attracted an extra 60,000 people to the Baltic island of Bornholm, and a similar figure is expected this year despite the cancellations.

Given that Bornholm attracts 600,000 visitors a year, that is a tenth of the total on just one long weekend.

There are over 2,600 different events crammed into Folkemødet’s five-day program from Wednesday to Sunday.

Over 700 groups ranging from major unions like 3F and LO to the smallest of special interest groups will offer debates, information, speeches and a chance to sample an array of swag including food, t-shirts, bags and free medical treatments.

Over 500 members of the press are expected.

Extra police will be brought in from across Denmark to help enforce security at this year’s Folkemødet – ten times as many as last year will be present.

Security will be higher than usual, mainly due to the higher threat level in Denmark following the terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen earlier this year.

Geert Wilders’ presence on Saturday afternoon has added an extra level to the security measures at Folkemødet. As a politician used to receiving death threats, he is subject to special security measures while he is in Denmark.

Delays are expected on the ferries as every new arrival is vigorously searched by an increased police presence.

The number of undercover officers at nighttime venues is also expected to increase.

Folkemødet began as an open event four years ago where politicians could meet their constituents face-to-face.

Folkemødet has been popular. The political gathering, whose name in English means ‘the people’s meeting’, has seen its number of participants swell to 60,000 – treble the number that attended in the first year.

All of Parliament’s political parties will have a presence, but not everyone attending Folkemødet will be a rank-and file-voter. Many of them will be representatives from unions, businesses, universities, NGOs, culture organisations and local governments.

Folkemødet was the brainchild of the then interior minister, Bertel Haarder (photo), who was inspired by a similar event in Sweden and decided to bring the idea to Denmark.

“I had a budget for promoting rural areas and Bornholm received one million kroner to get the ball rolling,” he said. “The success proves there was a need for such an event. I wanted a mixture of a summer camp for grown-ups, a Roskilde Festival and a political fair – and that’s exactly what I got”.

Party leader speeches

The leaders of the major political parties will make their annual appearances on Folkemødet’s main stage in Allinge Harbour.

Thursday 11 June:

17:00-17:30: Morten Østergaard (Radikale)

Friday 12 June:

11:00-11:30: Pia Olsen Dyhr (Socialistisk Folkeparti)

14:00-14:30: PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne)

15:00-15:30: Kristian Thulesen Dahl (Dansk Folkeparti)

17:00-17:30: Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen (Enhedslisten)

Saturday 13 June:

14:00-14:30: Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Venstre)

17:00-17:30: Anders Samuelsen (Liberal Alliance)

Sunday 14 June:

11:00-11:30: Søren Pape Poulsen (Konservative)