Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Denmark’

Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 27th January, 2016

Auschwitz BerkenauMore than 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the lessons of the Holocaust are still highly relevant. Over the past year there has been a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other instances of ethnic and religious discrimination, not least in Europe, and Holocaust Memorial Day is a stark reminder of just how terribly wrong things can go when prejudice and discriminatory behaviour are considered acceptable and reach extremes. The refugee and migrant crisis of the past year has given rise to some splendid spontaneous acts of generosity but it has also provoked negative reactions in some quarters. Hearing the British Prime Minister David Cameron in the House of Commons today refer dismissively to “a bunch of migrants” I found chilling, as well as reflecting a disturbing element of entitlement within the current Conservative government. Even worse has been the shameful proposition from the government in Denmark to seize valuables from asylum seekers. Don’t the Danes realise what dreadful echoes of the not-so-distant past that provokes? Europe is undeniably under pressure at the moment but the way forward is to cooperate with compassion, not to scapegoat vulnerable communities and incomers. Even among our indigenous populations in Europe there are growing numbers of marginalised and dispossessed people, including homeless in our cities, not least London. We should not fall into the trap of looking down on people, including those sleeping in the streets, because that is the start of a slippery slope.

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The Bridge

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 24th August, 2014

The BridgeI have only seen the second series of the TV crime drama The Bridge, but it made me an instant convert to Nordic Noir. The dynamic between the two mismatched detectives, one Danish, one Swedish, is quite special, as is the observation of their dysfunctional private lives. For those who haven’t seen the programme, its plots span the narrow divide separating Copenhagen from Malmo, and the Oresunds Bridge that provides both a rail and road link between the two cities also provides the title of the series, as well as being one of its most striking stars. The bridge didn’t exist the last time I was in Copenhagen for more than just a stopover, so of course I had to make a pilgrimage over it — by tran, in my case, which was remarkably simple, as even on a Sunday there seemed to be trains every ten minutes or so, and the journey takes just over half an hour. I found Malmo this morning packing up from the Malmo Festival, which ended on Friday, but that meant that there were no great crowds. In fact, the city was virtually empty and I easily found a table in the sun at the Gustav Adolf restaurant for lunch. The bridge has really boosted Malmo, which used to belong to Denmark, but then became something of a backwater when absorbed into Sweden. There are some lovely buildings and squares, and a beautiful cemetery garden right in the centre of town. Well worth a day trip from Copenhagen (and, no, I didn’t see any criminal activity of any sort, least of all a kidnapping or murder).

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Andrew Duff on Britain’s Future in Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 7th January, 2012

Twelfth Night is usually the time I take down the Christmas cards, but last evening I went instead to Cambridge, to hear the East of England LibDem MEP Andrew Duff give his verdict on the situation regarding Britain’s relationship with the rest of the EU following David Cameron’s disconcerting performance at the Brussels Summit last month. A convinced federalist and constitutional supergeek, Andrew has been issuing doom-laden pronouncements about the current state of European affairs for several months, so it was a relief at last night’s Policy Forum of Cambridge Liberal Democrats (chaired by Julian Huppert, MP) to find him less morose, but nonetheless highly critical of the place the Prime Minister has landed Britain in. The PM’s refusal to endorse measures designed to introduce more financial discipline within the eurozone came as quite a shock to Andrew, as he had been phoned erlier in the day by 10 Downing Street assuring him that Cameron was not going to do anything dramatic — a message Andrew then duly passed on to the Brussels press corps. Maybe not surprisingly,  Andrew did not sleep that night after the reality became clear and like many of us in the LibDems, he was unhappy about the way the reaction to Cameron’s position from the Liberal Democrats gave very mixed messages over the weekend after the Brussels Summit. But the important thing is to look forward not back, and to see how much Nick Clegg and the LibDems can help row the Coalition government back from the position it now finds itself in regarding the EU. The next few months will be crucial as the other 26 — or 25, if Hungary distances itself further from the European mainstream — will have to work on a new Treaty relating to closer financial arrangements within the eurozone, but minus Britain’s signature. Denmark, which assumed the rotating EU presidency this week, has an unenviable task head, and Andrew Duff doesn’t believe Copenhagen is really up to it. But things could be even more difficult after 1 July, when Cyprus is due to take over the helm.

Links: http://andrewduff.eu and http://cambridgelibdems.org.uk

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Cannes Washout

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 5th November, 2011

The G20 met in Cannes in pouring rain and failed to exude glamour, despite the best efforts of host Nicolas Sarkozy, who is in a fine state of PR denial, beaming as if all in the world is rosy. Of course, it isn’t. Cannes was a washout, in more ways than one, not least because the Big Boys (and a few Girls) of the world failed to address adequately the problems facing not just the eurozone but the global economy. It didn’t help that Italy’s PM Silvio Berlusconi was wandering around with his usual clownish antics, as if global summits are a sort of It’s A Knockout, with a bit of bunga bunga thrown in. The Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, should have worn a sign on her derriere, proclaiming ‘Any fellow Prime Minister giving me an inappropriate leer will be given a red card — and go straight to jail. Do not pass Go. And above all, do not collect any backhanders.’ The other oddity was to see how totally marginalised Barack Obama was in all this. This is inevitable, of course, now that the United States is well on its way downhill after a half-century (at least) of global domination. The Chinese are not grinning, however — they have too much to lose — but after Cannes the name of the game has changed.

 

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10 Years of the Euro

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th January, 2009

1-euro     The European Movement held a day conference on 10 Years of the Euro at University College London yesterday, though any sense of celebration was overshadowed by a deep feeling of frustration that Britain has failed to ‘opt in’ to the single currency, and that the mood of such a large proportion of the British public remains Euro-sceptic. The media were mainly blamed for that, though there was a ray of hope on that front offered by one of the keynote speakers, Graham Bishop, when he pointed out that increasingly people get their news and views from the Internet, rather than from newspapers, so the Rupert Murdochs of this world are losing influence.

However, national governments are as much to blame as the media for giving a distorted view of what the EU is all about. As the former Conservative MEP Ben Patterson said — in a paper ‘The Euro: Success or Failure’, tabled at the conference — ‘All EU governments are tempted to blame “Europe” for difficulties of their own making. Electorates generally have little idea how EU decisions are taken, and are only too willing to believe that there is  vast, unelected Eurocracy in Brussels, imposing absurd regulations out of the blue.’ In other words, if in a pickle, blame Brussels.

The second keynote speaker, another former Conservative MEP (and now active Liberal Democrat) John Stevens asserted that that the Eurozone is not going to collapse, nor will any country leave it. On the contrary, it has just acquired its 16th. member, Slovakia, and others are in transition. The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told me a few months ago that he was going to do what he could to persuade the Danish public to join the euro, and similar moves are afoot in Sweden. Which just leaves Britain as the last bastion of euro-scepticism. But as John Stevens said yesterday, ‘If Britain were to join the euro, the euro would be made.’  The EU is proving that it is possible to have an international currency, which can be a model for other parts of the world and help ensure that European political values have clout in changing global geopolitics.

Link: www.euromove.org.uk

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Denmark to Join the Euro?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 30th October, 2008

As a result of the financial crisis, Denmark might decide to join the Eurozone, according to the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Speaking at a press conference at the ELDR Congress in Stockholm this afternoon, Mr Rasmussen said that Danes were now realising both the economic and political cost of staying out. The Danish crown is closely linked to the euro, but not being a member of the single currency area means that the Danish government has no direct say in related policy. Moreover, Danish interest rates are now two per cent higher than in the Eurozone, which is really hitting private and commercial borrowers. The government intends to instigate a new referendum on Eurozone membership during its time in office, and Mr Rasmussen believes this time the ‘yes’ side would win.

The leaders of the two Swedish Liberal Parties — Maud Olofsson of the Centre Party and Jan Bjorklund of Folkpartiet, who are co-hosting the ELDR Congress — said that the situation in Sweden is a little less clear, though recent opinion polls here suggest that the majority against joining the euro is now very small. But Mr Bjorklund replied to a question of mine that three out of the four parties in the current Swedish government would campaign in favour of euro-membership if a refrendum were held hypothetically next month.

And what about the other stay-out, Britain, with its sinking pound, I wonder?

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