The recent Danish political dram Borgen, a fine example of Scandinavian noir, was followed avidly by many Scottish viewers, notably the politicians, and I certainly found it riveting, with many parallels to Scotland’s present politics.
O, wad some Power the giftie gie us tae see oorsels as ithers see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, an' foolish notion … ROBERT BURNS
Danes take a keen interest in Scotland’s progress towards independence, and among the most influential television journalism in Denmark is the DR2 channel and Deadline 22:30
(search DR2/deadline 22:30 on Google and click the translate option. It is also on YouTube.)
Here’s what the programme says about itself on its website -
About Deadline 22.30
The program sent every day at. 22.30 on DR2. Deadline serves today's latest news, and with experienced and well-prepared hosts the program sets the perspective on current and future key issues.
In particular, the program focuses on analysis, discussion and criticism of 'power', that is, decisions and decision-makers in economics and politics. This is achieved through four weekly activities.
The “experienced and well-prepared hosts” (BBC take note!) do exactly what it says on the tin, and a recent edition featured an interview with David Miliband. Thanks to my invaluable Danish friend Troels Just, I have the link and a translation of the interviewer’s subsequent analysis of Miliband’s ideas and performance.
Here’s the edition that contained the Miliband interview - the interview is about 40% of the way in, after the Commons scene with Speaker Bercow. Miliband speaks in English. (It’s a glimpse of the real life Borgen of Danish politics!)
My Danish correspondent, Troels Just, to whom I am indebted for all of this, plus much more in the past, sets the context thus -
David Miliband was on Danish TV tonight (12 Nov 2012), our equivalent of the BBC (Danmarks Radio or "DR" for short) have a program called Deadline 22:30, which I think is sort of like Newsnight Scotland or similar, news and debate basically. He was basically invited to speak about the euroskeptic attitude of the UK as a whole. During this interview he mentions Scotland, of course in this "separating" language that seems like a religious mantra for the Labour party.
The interview with David Miliband is roughly in the middle of the program, they show one part, and then talk about what he said, and then show another part and talk about it with a professor of European studies here in Denmark. The commentary is of course in Danish, the interview itself is in English.
I thought you might be interested in a translated transcript of the commentary on the interview with David Miliband, so I spent some time making one for you. Troels Just
(My heartfelt thanks, Troels!)
I have tried capturing the Danish "tone" or assumptions made in this commentary, to give an idea of how we on the continent speak about the UK and Europe. This commentary shows this notion of "politics of necessity", which I personally think is a bag of nonsense, since there really is no such thing as "this and only THIS being totally and absolutely necessary" as one can always do something different if one is willing to break with the status quo (Think of Trident, for instance), but having said that, this does represent the sort of light mockery that the UK is, deservedly, subjected to in continental media.
TROELS JUST’S NOTES AND TRANSLATION
Presenter: Yes, another EU country that provides a headache in Brussels is Great Britain; the British government rejects any talk of letting the EU's budget grow and Prime Minister Cameron is pressured on the home front with a growing EU skepticism in the parliament.
*footage from the House of Commons*
The 31st of October was yet another notable day in Great Britain's long history of being skeptical towards the EU.
*Speaker of the House of Commons announces the results*
That was how it sounded when the the British lower house voted in favour of cuts to the upcoming EU budget and thereby against the British Prime Minister Cameron's policy of a freeze. Even though Cameron is not obligated to follow the parliament, the decision was noticeable a week later when Cameron had to formulate the British position after a meeting with Germany's Chancellor Merkel. As opposed to Great Britain, Merkel wishes for more European integration, which would mean more power and more money for the EU.
Presenter: Yes, welcome Marlene Wind, EU expert, your assessment, is there a realistic chance, one could say on the one side, or risk or whatever, of the the British actually leaving the EU within the next five years?
Marlene Wind: I am not sure about five years, but a lot of things at the moment would indicate that that they are moving towards the exit of the European Community*, because Cameron have almost promised a referendum and all polls show that if it comes it will be a "No".
Presenter: Okay, we will speak more in a little bit, now we will first listen to how Great Britain's former foreign minister and Labour politician, David Miliband, explains the British stance on the EU.
*archive footage of Milliband*
Presenter: Miliband was foreign minister from 2007 and, until Labour's electoral defeat in 2010, he was a candidate to succeed Labour's party chairman**, Gordon Brown, but then he was defeated by his brother, Ed Miliband. I asked David Miliband what the problem actually is with Great Britain and the EU.
*interview part 1*
Presenter: Yes, Marlene Wind – Miliband a Labour politician, of course, giving the competitor, Cameron, a real run here, but what do you take note of in what he says?
Marlene Wind: I take note of that he paddles a bit, that is to say he slides on several of your questions, but he apparently also imagines that the Europe we will have in 10 years is, on the whole, looks like that which we have now, albeit there will be a eurozone, he says, that that might be getting more federal elements in it, but otherwise all of us will probably be there, and then it will be as it always was.
But that is exactly the problem, that it is not as it always was! And everything seems to indicate that it will be a completely different union we will have within just a few years, not out of desire and great visions, but out of need.
If one wants to rescue the euro and get the euro back on track, then you just have to build more union on top, and at the moment there are those talking about - and here I am talking about high profile officials such as van Rompuy, the Chairman** of the European Council - who says that it could be necessary to divide up the European Parliament, and only let the countries who are members of the eurozone make decisions on behalf of the eurozone.
People also suggest that Commission perhaps should not divided up, but that there should be a special secretariat for the eurozone. We are seeing more and more a separation of non-euro countries and euro countries, and therefore it is naive of Miliband not to address that very real problem that exists for the British - and by the way, also for the Danes, but especially for the British - because they crawled that far up in a tree, and are finding it difficult to try to come up with some constructive proposals.
On that we, after all, are a bit better, but it is quite difficult when one is caught a bit with one's pants down that the British have been.
Presenter: Yes, but now Miliband here wants to appear as clearly more pro-European than Cameron, but is he at base really almost as critical, or is he forced to be so?
Marlene Wind: I think he, personally, is very pro-European as a person, but it is very, very difficult in Great Britain at the moment to be pro-European...
Presenter: So it does not matter just changing governments - or what one could say?
Marlene Wind: It does not matter, because Labour is also pressured into a very anti-European rhetoric, and I read an article as recently as today in Financial Times where it said that only the Liberal Democrats are left, but not even they dare say anything - in the public debate - that has anything positive at all as a message about the European Community. One could say that makes the domestic policy agenda dominate the policy on Europe so much in Great Britain that one has almost tied the political leaders' hands - and feet - despite of being like Miliband in reality: probably somewhat more pro-European than he is allowed to be.
Presenter: We will speak further in a moment, but we will just go back to the interview with David Miliband, because I also asked him whether he is worried about the EU being separated into a euro and non-euro part.
*interview part 2*
Presenter: Yes, Marlene Wind, before it called it naive that one could find way back to ... sort of "the old EU", but could one not imagine that Merkel and Hollande, would want the British to stay in, and therefore one could find some solution where one has a core of euro countries that integrate on fiscal policy and that sort of thing, but while on the broader scale is more loosely integrated nation states?
Marlene Wind: The problem is whether one can keep the institutions together, the Commission, the court and the parliament and the supranational institutions and whether that is possible.
Presenter: Put simply, why could one not do that?
Marlene Wind: Well there are those, whom I mentioned before, who are of the opinion that the European Parliament does not represent all 27 countries anymore, because there are some that are outside the eurozone, therefore it is not "democratically okay" for countries outside the eurozone to have influence - through the European Parliament - on those things to be decided for the eurozone.
One can easily therefore imagine that the EU can break into two - and people are also quite worried about the internal market – which the British are actually very very fond of - and there isn’t actually anybody wanting the British to leave the EU.
One would prefer them to be there, but an elimination race will be done into sheeps and bucks, where countries like Denmark and the Central and Eastern European countries will, most likely, be those which David Milliband called "pre-ins", who will say "We do want, we try all we can to stay on and adapt our policy to that which goes on in the eurozone to the extent that it is possible", but Great Britain just cannot do that, because they tripped themselves up over this.
They have adopted this very anti-European rhetoric that makes it very, very difficult to any political leader, also for Ed and David Milliband - if they came to power again - to play the European card. I was sitting and thinking that it would be really wonderful if David Miliband had given this speech to the British people at home in Great Britain on the BBC - but he does not do that!
Presenter: One could say that if you are pro-European on that - but if one is an EU skeptic in Denmark, could one not imagine that if England (****) pulls - almost out, or all the way out - then one would get a stable platform to relate to if one does not wish for this close integration with Europe?
Marlene Wind: Absolutely, and that would be the perspective the British actually would want for themselves. They would probably do the same as Norway, namely, join the looser EEA cooperation...
Presenter: Could it pull Denmark along?
Marlene Wind: Well there are also many in Denmark –or some at least - that are of the opinion that it would be attractive: but we should take note that the Norwegians actually pay more per capita towards the EU budget than the British do.
I saw an account of it recently, and the Norwegians have to accept all internal market legislation - and copy it into their own legislation - without having any influence on that which is adopted. So the question is how attractive it is in reality is to be outside, wanting to sell one's goods into the internal market, yet having to accept all the legislation, or whether it is better to be on the inside?
It is exactly the dilemma the British are dealing with, and it is that struggle they are having with themselves at the moment. In other words where do their real interests lie?
Presenter: You say that Merkel and Hollande, they would like to have the British on board, but then we are seeing this budget fight, could there come a time when they will say, okay ...
Marlene Wind: Yes, we actually saw it with the fiscal pact - which David Miliband himself mentioned - where David Cameron had hoped that because he he said no to it, then everything would come to a halt, and then people would have said – OK then, we will wait or drop this fiscal pact. What did the EU countries do? They said - Not on your nelly, we will go outside the treaties and we will make the agreement outside! That was the blow to the British. At that point they realized that it is not everyone waiting for them, so now they have a few things to think about themselves.
Presenter: They sure do, and I think we do as well after this programme tonight! Thank you. That was all for Deadline, we will be back tomorrow, first time at 17, thanks for now.
*) In Danish we use the term "det europæiske fællesskab" (Lit. "the European Community") to refer to "the commons", ie. that which Europe has in common, of the EU, it does not refer to the former name of the EU, "the European Communities".
**) In Danish we use the term "Chairman" (I almost feel as if we're Maoists, haha) every time the rest of Europe uses the term "President", I guess we are such butt-level royalists that the word "president" scares us.
***) In Danish we call it the "internal" market, and not the "common" market, I have no idea why.
****) Translator's note, yes, he did indeed say England!