The former government did not have the evidence to support its claim that a rise in cross-border crime justified the installation of permanent custom controls along Danish borders, Jyllands-Posten newspaper reported today.
The revelation comes about after the newspaper was granted access to over 6,500 government emails relating to last year’s ‘border scandal’ that reveal how civil servants desperately attempted to find evidence for a supposed rise in cross-border crime.
The decision to install a permanent border control was made by the former Venstre and Konservative (VKO) government in May 2011 as a concession to their support party, the anti-immigration Dansk Folkeparti (DF), in exchange for DF's votes on early retirement reform.
As a justification, the government wrote in their border agreement that "in recent years there has been a marked rise in cross border crime,” and to fight it they need to implement tighter border controls.
The border controls caused outrage across Europe. Many, including the European Commission, questioned the legality of the move and placed the government under enormous pressure to provide documentation for an increase in cross-border crime.
But the emails in Jyllands-Posten’s possession seem to indicate that the government did not have any precise information how much crime was actually being committed in Denmark by foreign criminals not resident in the country.
The emails document how, as a response to increasing levels of international attention to the border controls, the Foreign Ministry applied pressure on both the Tax Ministry and the Justice Ministry.
In an email from the Foreign Ministry’s department of EU law, they demanded the two ministries provide more evidence for both the European Commission and the international media, who needed “a few more details than the mere statement that crime was rising”.
But evidence was thin on the ground. The Justice Ministry replied that their only evidence was a 63 percent increase in the number of eastern Europeans charged with crimes in Denmark since 2006. The number was deemed insufficient, however, as it did not differentiate between eastern Europeans residing in Denmark and those who had travelled to Denmark for the express purpose of committing a crime.
The number of eastern Europeans that had moved to Denmark had risen by 83 percent over the same period, more than the increase in crime committed by the group.
Throughout July, as customs agents began patrolling Danish borders under the gaze of the international media, the two ministries attempted to find evidence to support their claim that increased border control was necessary.
But their attempts were in vain, as the Foreign Ministry ruled the supposed evidence of increased crime levels to be insufficient. By September it no longer mattered, however, as the VKO government lost out to the current PM, Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the Socialdemokraterne, who promptly dismantled the border controls and consigning the ‘border scandal’ to the history books.