The justice minister has had to answer to the EU over contradictory statements about the effect of changing the law governing the deportation of foreign criminals.
After assuring the EU that a change in the law would protect foreign criminals from deportation, the justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), then told Jyllands-Posten newspaper that the amendment to the law would not loosen Danish immigration law and would only have a “symbolic effect”.
Upon hearing Bødskov’s explanation to the Danish press last week, the European Commission’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, last Friday met with Bødskov to ensure that the planned changes would indeed have an effect as he had promised her.
"We can understand that he has said that is purely symbolic and will have no real consequences. We were rather surprised to hear that,” Reding wrote in a statement to Politiken newspaper. “We would very much like an explanation from the minister, because it is supposed to have a real consequence.”
Reding wrote to Bødskov this January expressing concern with last summer’s change to Danish immigration law that meant criminal foreigners must be deported unless it is known “with certainty” that it would break international conventions.
Replying to Reding, Bødskov wrote that he would remove the words “with certainty” from the law to improve protection from deportation, but to Jyllands-Posten newspaper he said the changes were purely symbolic and would have no effect.
Despite the apparent contradiction, Bødskov stood by his earlier position that the same criminals that were deported before would also be deported after the law change.
“The government’s proposed law change ensures that it is the courts that decide on deportations,” Bødskov told Politiken. “The basic conditions for deportation are not being changed. What we are ensuring is clearer legislation in which it is emphasised that it is the courts who decide on deportations.”
According to Reding’s spokesperson, the EU is simply concerned with ensuring that Denmark complies with EU legislation.
Despite Bødskov’s assurances, opposition MP Søren Pind (Venstre) has accused the justice minister of lying.
“On the one hand he has told the Danish public that there is no need to change the rules,” Pind told Berlingske newspaper. “But at the same time he argues that there is a need to change the law while also admitting in the letter that by removing ‘with certainty’ it will increase the protection from deportation. He has tried to keep it all a secret and is therefore an example of a fundamental breach of trust.”