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Do You Speak Corona? Border closures were a major concern of the Danish minority in Germany

The closures of the national borders in the course of the Corona measures have also hit the minorities hard. The Danish minority in Germany is particularly concerned about contact with kin-state Denmark. “For years we have enjoyed open borders, which facilitate cultural and linguistic exchange. In the German-Danish border region, the border has not been an obstacle for years. Members of the Danish minority work in Denmark, but they are also an active part of cultural life in Denmark. That is why the closure of the border hit us as a national minority particularly hard” – says Jens A. Christiansen, Secretary General of the Sydslesvig Forening (SSF), the  organization of the Danish minority in Germany.

Nevertheless, the Danish minority has always shown understanding for the necessary measures in the fight against the spread of the virus. But as the borders gradually reopened, it initially seemed that the concerns of tourists and the local summer cottage industry outweighed their need to maintain contact with their home country. Luckily, the Danish government has an open ear for the minority.

The Southern Schleswig Association (SSF), together with the Southern Schleswig Voters' Association (SSW) and representatives of the German minority in Denmark, have worked to ensure that the border region plays a special role in the gradual opening of the border. SSF has mainly held talks with members of parliament in Denmark. With great success, because in her speech on 29 May, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen explicitly mentioned the Danish minority and the border region. It was her wish that normality would soon return to the border area, said the head of state. Although Denmark will continue to open its borders only partially, a special arrangement for those in the borderland is in the works.

“As a Danish minority, we are pleased that politicians in the Danish parliament have listened. We are also pleased that the special arrangement will also apply to the majority population in the border area. This shows that we can achieve positive results together and through objective and good dialogue” – says the SSF Secretary General.

Otherwise, the situation of the Danish minority in Germany is no different from the majority, they have no disadvantages at all, and SSF operates the same as other organizations in the area. Furthermore, the Land Schleswig-Holstein offers financial aid to cultural institutions, including minority organizations.

Photos: SSF

During April 2020 FUEN has conducted a survey entitled Do You Speak Corona? on the situation of European minorities during the pandemic. The online questionnaire focused on the availability of information related to COVID-19 in general, healthcare information related to the outbreak, the existence of an emergency hotline operated in minority language and the availability of online education in minority language. The short report on the results is here and you can download the whole report in PDF format by clicking here.

This series of case studies is the continuation of the Do You Speak Corona? project.