Midnight in Paris: Fragile paths of solidarity and antagonism

What ramifications will the latest terror attack in Europe have in Denmark?


From November 30 to December 11, some 50,000 participants, including 25,000 official delegates from all over the world, will descend upon Paris to discuss the world’s climate issues and solutions at the COP21 Climate

But with the gunfire and mayhem of last Friday night’s Paris attack still reverberating in the minds of citizens and officials alike, preparation has been far from optimal. The climate seems to have taken a back seat – at least for now.

Military wrath
With France leading the way, the coalition has stepped up its bombing campaign against Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, and the question of whether the time for boots on the ground has arrived is looming ever larger.

The Danish foreign minister, Kristian Jensen, revealed on Monday that he aims to redeploy Denmark’s fighter jets – only recently pulled back temporarily for some rest and maintenance – against IS as soon as possible.

“I’m ready to send the Danish fighters back as soon as possible, because they are an important part of the efforts against IS,” Jensen told TV2 News. “And I hope that their development is going quickly. If necessary, we might also need to consider using the fighters in Syria.”

Until now, Denmark’s military efforts have been concentrated in Iraq only.

Foreign fighters
Earlier this week, Jensen took part in a meeting in Brussels concerning the dispersal of refugees in Europe, and he didn’t think the Paris terror attacks would have a bearing on those discussions.

“I think we need to focus on the irregular migrants and the conflict in Syria today. It requires greater focus from a political and military standpoint,” Jensen said.

“Even if a terrorist has entered Europe on a Syrian passport, most of them are nationals of France and Belgium. How do we stop people from becoming radicalised to the point that they do something as insane as was the case on Friday.”

Border control
One way, according to some, is to tighten border controls. In the wake of the refugee crisis and its decreased capacity to receive new arrivals, Sweden established border control extra spaces across the Øresund Bridge last week on Thursday, both on the road and rail links, and for all ferry traffic arriving from Denmark and Germany.

The controls are expected to last until about November 22, and people travelling to Sweden are encouraged to bring their passports with them.

Aside from Sweden, a number of nations had already closed their borders before the attack, and several more, including France, followed suit in the aftermath of the carnage.

Voting ‘yes’
Gerd Battrup, an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark, doesn’t think Denmark will close its borders anytime soon.

“I don’t think so,” she told the Weekly Post. ” At the moment there are no clear arguments for doing so.”

Battrup feels most Danes will vote in a referendum on December 3 to discard Denmark’s EU justice opt-out to drastically enhance its capacity to fight cross-border crime.

“Problems with cross-border/cross police communication, or with forwarding and receiving information about the participants in the terrorist act, point to a need for even closer co-operation across Europe,” asserted Battrup.

“I guess that most Danes will think so.”

The opt-out vote could lead to Denmark choosing which areas of justice and internal issues it wants to take part in, while remaining a member of the co-operative EU policing effort, Europol.

Questioning policy
René Karpantschof, a doctor specialising in political violence and radicalisation at Roskilde University, contended that shutting down borders might not be the optimal path to tread.

“It’s an easy solution to shut down borders, even though we don’t know that terrorists are using the refugee crisis to infiltrate Europe. The terrorists in Paris were born in France, for instance,” he said.

“Just like in 2001 [after 9/11], the Paris and Copenhagen attacks have accelerated the polarisation in the public discourse and have given xenophobic minorities wind in their sails. It’s a dangerous situation that can fuel anger and hatred, which is what the radical wings can benefit from.”

Karpantschof argued that the attacks could prompt people to understand the seriousness of the situation and perhaps begin to second-guess Denmark’s foreign policy focus.

Uniting people against violence and terrorism and tacking the growing fear and escalating violence in Denmark are just a few of the issues that Denmark is facing.

For now, however, it is clear the Danes are embracing solidarity. Led by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and French ambassador François Zimeray, upwards of 20,000 people showed up at Kongens Nytorv on Sunday to mourn the victims.

Two narratives
As for what the reaction will be in Denmark towards its Muslim community, Brian Arly Jacobsen, an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, believes that two opposite narratives will emerge, as was the case following the Charlie Hebdo attack and the Copenhagen shootings.

“We witnessed anti-Muslim attacks throughout Europe – but there were also peaceful demonstrations that sought to project unity across religious and political divides” he said. “We will probably see the same polarisation in Denmark in response to the attacks in

“But I think we will also see an intensified co-operation between authorities (e.g municipalities) and Muslim associations in terms of educational anti-radicalisation efforts. This of course means the government and the municipalities need more resources to fund the efforts, and this will probably be part of the state-budget negotiations taking part now.”

As to whether Denmark will pursue a policy of shutting down Salafi mosques, he is sceptical about whether the government will be able to identify which mosques are potential threats.

“There seem to be more and more politicians who approve tough measures towards Muslim groups in Denmark – including shutting down Salafi mosques. But the question remains, how will they identify these mosques? If they are not violating the constitution now, then how will the politicians legislate on this issue?” he said.

COP21 going ahead
COP21 has also been forced to revise its security protocol following the attack.

As part of COP21, the Sustainable Innovation Forum will take place at Stade de France, which took centre stage during the attack last week. Three suicide bombers who had tickets for the France-Germany friendly detonated their bombs outside the stadium after being denied entrance by security staff.

But France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, and Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), both confirmed that COP21 would proceed as planned. That sentiment was echoed by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

“No head of state or government has asked us to postpone COP21 – on the contrary, they all want to be there. Otherwise, we would be surrendering to terrorism,” said Valls.

“COP21 is an essential event for the future of our planet – for humanity.”