Diplomatic dispute costs Denmark 27 consulates

Schengen partners refuse Danish demand for exceptions; consular agreements cancelled

A parting decision by the Venstre-Konservative (VK) government during its final weeks in power has left Denmark without consulates in 27 countries, effectively slamming the doors to Denmark on those countriesÂ’ citizens.

For years, Denmark has enjoyed the advantages of having consulates in many small countries around the world, without all of the associated costs, through co-operative agreements with other Schengen countries.

Under those agreements, other countries processed visa applications for Denmark according to a common set of rules for Schengen countries.

But last year, the Immigration Ministry under Søren Pind (V) demanded that the co-operating consulates begin forwarding visa applications for Denmark to the Danish police for oversight on the grounds of Danish national security.

When Germany and Finland refused to comply because the new demand created administrative problems and was an exception to Schengen rules, VK cancelled their consular agreements. Those cancellations ended DenmarkÂ’s consular representations in 15 countries.

France then objected to the DanesÂ’ demand to be treated as an exception and chose to dissolve its agreement, effective January 1. That cancellation ended DenmarkÂ’s representation in 12 additional countries.

All told, the three cancelled agreements have closed Denmark off to citizens from 27 countries. They no longer can seek a Danish visa – whether for business, tourism, or visiting family members – without travelling abroad.

Eric Bosc, a spokesperson for FranceÂ’s foreign ministry, told Politiken newspaper that over 30 countries entrusted the French authorities with processing visa applications for them using the common Schengen procedures.

“But our Danish friends don’t want to let us make the decisions,” Bosc told Politiken. “They want to have the cases forwarded to them, so that they can say yes or no. That procedure is too work-intensive for us to handle.”

“We would like to help Denmark, but we have to follow the existing rules,” he added. “Our view is that you either respect the common rules for the procedures, or else you find another possibility.”

Downplaying the issue, the justice minister Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), who inherited the problem from VK, called it a “technical problem”. Bødskov predicted that the former agreement with Germany would be reinstated within a few months; alternative agreements were also being sought with other countries, he added.

But others did not take the situation as lightly. Members of Dansk Industri, a business association that represents some 10,000 Danish businesses, expressed concern that the situation would hurt Danish trade and tourism. Among the countries now cut off from access to Danish visas are the oil giants Qatar and Bahrain, the high-growth economies of Paraguay and Peru, and Belarus – with its well-heeled, Danish-friendly tourists.

EU expert and University of Copenhagen professor Marlene Wind noted that the timing of the broken agreements was particularly bad, given that Denmark has just assumed the rotating EU leadership.

“The lack of trust in our European partners is a negative signal to send just now when we have assumed the EU presidency. At its most basic level it has to do with whether we trust the other Schengen countries to handle visa applications for us – apparently we don’t,” Wind told Politiken.

“The government ought to deal with this issue as quickly as possible, before we risk having other countries cut off their agreements with us,” she added.

FACTFILE – Cut off from Denmark, or is it the other way around?

In these 27 countries it is no longer possible to apply for a Danish visa, because of DenmarkÂ’s broken agreements with Germany, France and Finland. In 2010, more than 2,800 visa applications to visit Denmark were received from them, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Caribbean: Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Lucia
South America: Paraguay, Peru
Africa: Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Libya, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Tunisia
Middle East: Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen
Indian Ocean: Mauritius, Seychelles
Mediterranean: Cyprus
Former Soviet Republics: Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Asia: Mongolia

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