Local Election 2021: Venstre – we want ‘Gentofte games’ to involve expats in the community

Morten Løkkegaard
Running in: Gentofte
Party: Venstre
Age: 56

A European MP for over a decade now, Løkkegaard was a renowned journalist before entering the political sphere. He is currently serving on the Gentofte Municpal Council.CPH Post sat down with Løkkegaard to hear more about his plans for Gentofte and expats living there.

You’ve taken the time to reach out to expats living in Gentofte. Why is that?
When I was part of the local council here 4 years ago, I suddenly realised looking at the figures that we have 9,000 internationals in the community out of 75,000 so it’s about 12-13 percent of all inhabitants here. And that’s quite a lot. I guess it’s a record when looking at Danish cities and communities and such. Why has there not been any attention on this in previous years? So I started looking into this and we invited expats to contribute with ideas for the committee’s recommendations to include expats in the local community. The recommendations are that sport and food events are some of the best ways of bringing people together. We call it International Gentofte, and one of our proposals is to create ‘Gentofte Games’, a mini Olympics to involve expats in the local community. We hope to have the first “Gentofte Games” in 2022.

What can you do to involve the international community as an asset to the municipality?
The starting point for most political decisions is the environment itself and the people working within it – and here we are talking about the expats themselves and their local communities. So it all starts with the expats themselves. What we can do as a community, as a municipality, is to make way for a structure so people have easier access to clubs, facilities and to the political sphere so that they feel engaged and heard. The main purpose is to put focus on this and to work with integration. It’s about sport, food, what brings people together, how we can integrate the community.

You’ve stated that you want Gentofte to become the most sustainable municipality in Denmark. Can internationals contribute to achieving that lofty goal?
Many expats are very highly educated, have resources and knowledge about matters pertaining to climate and sustainability. So if you view these 9,000 people as a resource and have a political goal of being the most climate-friendly municipality in Denmark, I think there is a very good connection. There is a direct link between the expat community, our resources and political goals … like the climate. We did some research about what matters in this community and climate emerged as the number one issue – for people living for many years and the newcomers. So we realised that we have the potential of actually being the greenest municipality in Denmark. We can do it. Not just talk about it, but actually do it. So that’s how we ended up ushering in these concrete proposals relating to electric cars, the required infrastructure, and renovating old buildings to make them more sustainable.

You’ve been a Member of the European Parliament in Brussels for over 10 years now. Has living abroad helped shape you as a politician?
It’s been absolutely key to my political work. I ran for the European Parliament elections in 2009 and that was kind of the turning point for me because I realised that my political interest was much better suited to European politics. So that’s where it started. Many people ask me why I spend time in local politics when I’m also a European MP in Brussels. Well, I’ve been living here for 20 years now and I realised that it was much more fun to be very local and at the same time very much abroad.

Brexit is a subject of great interest to many of our readers. How’ve you experienced the movement?
It’s a tragedy. I’ve thought a lot about how to describe it and I simply can’t find a better word. It’s like watching a car accident in slow motion and not being able to do anything to stop it. I work in Brussels and knew how much this would influence the local level and change the daily life of people living abroad. I have been in contact with so many Brits living in Denmark who are very troubled at what the future holds. Can I stay here? How will it impact my kids? What about education? All these things. You’d have to be made of stone for it not to affect you somehow.

Up until now, Konservative have had an iron grip on Gentofte. Why is it time for a change?
Konservative have been running the show out here for almost 100 years. In a row. And that’s not something you change overnight. It is a tradition. It’s in the blood coursing through people’s veins, it’s generations of families voting Konservative going so far back that they can’t even remember. So can you change that? Yes you can, but it will take time and you need to have a very clear vision of what the alternative is. But I think we have a chance to change things now.