Tuesday, July 5

Hygge, happiness and immigrants

When you walk through the aisles of a bookstore, you will inevitably find a lot of books dedicated to that so ethereal and so sought after that is happiness.

In one way or another, authors of great fame and other seekers of great fame, have dedicated themselves in recent years to define in the pages of a book what happiness consists of and how we can achieve it.

A few years ago a Danish author tried to explain the keys to happiness in his country, which is usually on the cusp of happiness in the world. There they use a magic word hygge, difficult to translate. According to the BBC, if we ask a Dane what it is hygge, he will answer that it is “to sit in front of the fireplace on a cold night, dressed in a thick wool sweater, while you drink a mulled wine with sugar and spices and caress your dog lying next to you”. No more no less.

That is the essence of happiness for the Danes. But also, eating homemade cinnamon cookies, watching television under a duvet, having tea in a china cup at the family gathering at Christmas. How idyllic!

But something seems to want to break the hygge Danish. Suddenly, called by that desire to sit in front of the fireplace on a cold night, with a thick wool sweater while you drink a mulled wine with sugar and spices and caress your dog lying next to you, they have appeared in Denmark thousands and thousands of immigrants from countries that the Danes only knew from hearing gruesome stories in the media, but which for them represented the furthest thing from their hygge.

For example, Khaled, from Aleppo, Syria. The city has been destroyed, massacred by the war between Sunnis, Alawite Shiites or Isis supporters. He manages to get out of hell by a hair. Go through a country at war between Tyrians and Trojans, where no one really knows who is a friend and who is an enemy, and your life is worth what a mask worn on the ground in the dreamed of Europe. He reaches the border of Turkey, passes through Tarsos, the cradle of Saint Paul, and like him when he falls from his horse, he sees the light when he reaches the Mediterranean coast.Hygge! You have to go, however, to Denmark to exchange the Russian cluster bombs in Aleppo for mulled wine with sugar and spices. Like Khaled, thousands of refugees cross the Mediterranean and try to reach the cold European north where ancient Vikings speak unintelligible languages, but where a thick sweater covers you with happiness.

But there, with so much refugee they say, the hygge it is in danger and, surprisingly, the social democracy in power has come to the rescue. Denmark is in the third place of the happiest countries in the world, it has been in the first, and that is something that the Danes want to keep. And, in particular, the current Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, is ready to carry out an action plan that will allow Denmark to continue enjoying its hygge.

The funny thing is that Frederiksen is the leader of the Socialdemokratiet, the Social Democratic Party that, although in a minority, governs the Scandinavian country. She studied Social Sciences in Aalborg, where she was born, and was an advisor to the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions. She became a deputy at the age of 24 in the Folketing, the Danish parliament in which she was the spokesperson for the gender equality commission, and was also Minister of Employment and Justice. She obtained the votes to be prime minister, in addition to her own party, from a group of progressive parties. That is to say, progressivism in its purest form.

The anticipated by the Danish series came true Borgen, to which in 2017 the former leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, referred. In the series, a woman became Prime Minister of Denmark for the first time, supported by a transversal coalition.

And under his tutelage, surprise, a law was approved at the beginning of last June that provides for opening reception centers for asylum seekers in countries outside the European Union. This law was opposed by some parties further to the left than the Social Democrat, but obtained the unanimous support of the right and the extreme right of the country.

The weak point of this plan is to obtain the agreement of non-European countries that are willing to accept these asylum seekers. The Danish government says it is in talks with Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Rwanda to admit asylum seekers in exchange for financial aid.

A similar plan has already been drawn up by the former president of the French Republic, the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, who said it was necessary to create reception centers for immigrants paid for by the European Union in the Mediterranean. Sarkozy specified that he was referring to centers in southern Mediterranean countries, that is, outside the Schengen area. Something that these immigrants are not willing to accept because their destination, precisely, is Europe, the Europe of the hygge.

The problem, according to the Prime Minister of Denmark is that there is no hygge for all. “The current asylum system is unsustainable,” says his party spokesman. In the end it is a question of numbers. A wonderful home full of hygge, it is possible to propose it for the almost six million Danes, but if immigration becomes massive, Frederiksen comes to say, goodbye to hygge. And the essential point is that the restrictive policy of the Social Democratic Prime Minister has penetrated and is gaining favor with a large part of society and the parliamentary majority.

In 2019, 761 people were granted asylum in the country, and in 2020 the number dropped to 600. A few years earlier, in 2015, 10,000 applications had been approved. Denmark currently receives one-tenth as many refugees as its German or Swedish neighbors in proportion to its inhabitants.

The organizations that support the refugees, have raised the cry in the sky. Henrik Nordentoff, UNHCR representative in the Nordic countries, is clear that with this action Denmark can cause “a domino effect whereby other countries in Europe and in neighboring regions will also explore the possibilities of limiting the protection of refugees on their own. territory”.

Bad times for him hygge of immigrants.