This one is complicated, so let me just note that July – which is otherwise the Sommerloch in Danish politics – could turn out to be the beginning of something interesting.
The shortest possible way of describing the issue is that the European Court of Justice (and basically, that means EC legislation – not anything to do with the JHA opt-out) appears to have blown a Titanic-sized hole in the immigration policy led by the government since 2001.
As it is, the story so far raises a number of questions which still have to be answered:
- Was it due to incompetence, administrative or political orders that the Danish Immigration Service Agency provided applicants for family reunions with false information?
- When did ministers (first Rikke Hvilshøj and now Birthe Rønn Hornbech) learn that there was a problem with EC regulations?
- When did the prime minister know and how did he react?
For what it is worth, the political commentator Ralf Pittelkow in a column on Jyllands-Postens homepage basically echoes the Danish People’s Party’s rejection of the ECJ’s role in European integration – and as we all know, Pittelkow is Mr. Karen Jespersen and like her, he has made the transition from radical socialist over social democracy to neo-nationalism. So it looks like the Liberals are positioning themselves in the anti-EC-legislation corner.
The only parties who greet the developments are the Social Liberals and the Socialists while the Social Democrats are more or less stuck in the middle: They are still trying to rebuild their credibility as an anti-immigration party.
Theoretically, the government could try a grand (issue) coalition with the Social Democrats but that would leave a wide open space for the Danish People’s Party to attack both Liberals and Social Democrats. On the other hand, the Social Democrats cannot win electorally by allying themselves with the Socialists and the Social Liberals against the government, while the government would be asking for trouble with other European governments if it tried to formally restrict the role of the ECJ. That would in all likelihood take another round of treaty negotiations.
Give the Immigration minister the chop? A nice short-term soloution, but the problem here is that Anders Fogh Rasmussen has invested too much prestige in her. Still: This is politics and you could sacrifice a minor player in the interests of the larger game.
Oh, well. Danish politics as we knew and loved it up until 2001: Complicated and unpredictable.