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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Borgen is back – what’s right (and wrong) about Danish politics on the show

The political drama Borgen first aired in Denmark in 2010. It soon became clear that its creator, Adam Price, had an uncanny ability to predict and sometimes influence political events in the actual Christiansborg Palace, seat of the Danish Parliament. Borgen began by making the centrist politician Birgitte Nyborg the first female Prime Minister of Denmark. This feat was “repeated” a year later in real life by the Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Airing on prime-time Sundays right before the news, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish fiction from political reporting. The episodes dealt with issues such as prostitution or industrial pig farming, which subsequently became hot topics in politics and the press.

Nearly ten years after the end of the third series, the show returns with a fourth. Borgen: Power and Glory follows the middle-aged Nyborg, workaholic and principled foreign minister in a coalition government led by Prime Minister and Labor leader Signe Krag. Krag’s talent for down-to-earth Instagram photos of food and sporting events will remind Danish viewers of the current Social Democrat Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

Price retained some of his predictive powers. In the first episode, Nyborg mentions sanctions against a Russian oligarch in connection with the recent invasion of Ukraine. Likely written with the 2014 annexation of Crimea in mind, viewers should apologize for thinking Borgen is tangled up in the geopolitical present. A week after airing in Denmark, Russia invaded Ukraine.

There is one main storyline in the new season: oil has been discovered in Greenland. The seasoned Nyborg rightly predicts trouble as geopolitical superpowers Russia, China and the US rush to assert themselves in the Arctic. Economic interests threaten to trump her party’s environmental ideals, and already tense relations between Greenland and Denmark threaten to escalate into a bitter struggle for political power and oil profits.

One of Borgen’s strengths lies in portraying the increasingly tense geopolitical reality in the Arctic. Denmark and Greenland are small players dependent on larger powers.

The real Borgen. To what extent do the events at Christiansborg Palace reflect the Danish political drama?
kavalenkova / Shutterstock

It also depicts the uneven impact of climate change. While oil extraction by colonial powers has driven climate change for centuries, indigenous peoples like the Greenlandic Inuit are seeing the effects on their vulnerable ecosystems. This reality opens old wounds in the Danish kingdom, which includes the former colonies and current possessions of Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Colonialism continues on screen

Denmark colonized Greenland in the 18th century, nearly losing the country to the United States during World War II. In 1953, Denmark initiated the “decolonization” of the country by uniting Greenland as an equal part of Denmark. The desire of the Greenlanders for independence led to the introduction of self-government in 1979, and 30 years later, Greenland achieved self-government. Today, the right of the Greenlandic people to self-determination is recognized, and most political decisions, with the exception of foreign affairs, are decided in Greenland. However, the abuses of colonial rule throughout Greenland’s modern history have caused social problems such as alcoholism, sexual abuse and unemployment to become ubiquitous.

Borgen never shied away from showing the dark side of the colonial relationship between Denmark and Greenland. In the first season, Nyborg meets with Greenland’s Prime Minister Jens Enoch to solve a case of secret landings of American planes carrying terrorist prisoners in Greenland. Enoch reminds her that the problem started 300 years ago when Denmark colonized Greenland and 60 years ago when Denmark forcibly expelled the Inuit to make way for an American air base. Nyborg initially dismisses the guilt of the Danish colonists, suggesting that the Greenlanders are simply “sitting around and waiting for the ice to melt so they can extract oil and get rich”. But Enoch makes her realize that Denmark has played a significant role in Greenland’s ongoing suffering.

In the fourth season, the oil is finally produced – and little has changed in the mind of Nyborg. She intimidates the Greenlandic delegation by claiming that they cannot be trusted to run their country. Jens Enoch, now Greenland MP, steps in again to explain Greenland’s desire to take up oil production. He argues that the Greenlanders are the victims of climate change, not its perpetrators. Thus, Denmark should not stand in the way of their desire to enrich themselves and achieve full independence.

Greenlanders choose the environment

Contrary to Borgen’s story, today’s Greenlanders are prioritizing environmentally sustainable development on the path to full independence. In 2021, a new Greenland government was elected on the basis of a pledge to stop a controversial uranium and rare earth mining project at Kuannersuit (Kvanefjeldet) in southern Greenland. The same government also halted further oil exploration for environmental reasons.

It also became almost impossible to remain blind, like Nyborg, to the colonial abuses perpetrated by the Danish state against the Greenlanders. Earlier this year, the Danish Prime Minister issued a public apology on behalf of Denmark to the 22 Greenlandic “children of the experiment”. They were taken from their families in the 1950s and sent to Denmark to be trained by the future Greenlandic elite.

In June 2022, the mistreatment of 4,000 Greenlandic women aged 13 by Danish health authorities who had implanted IUDs without consent in the 1960s and 1970s was exposed. In response, the governments of Denmark and Greenland agreed to set up a commission to shed light on the historical relationship between the two countries.

How Borgen will be the first fictional TV series to tell you that it still takes bold politicians to ensure environmental sustainability, investigative journalism to hold them to account, and an uncomfortable but necessary confrontation with the colonial past. Borgen provides drama and stays close to life, but his predictions should not be expected to always be correct.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
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