Ideological boundaries often prevent different political forces from cooperating on major problems. But Denmark’s The Alternative party is proposing a new culture of negotiation and compromise.

According to this party, decisions on major international issues, such as the climate change, or those of national interest like health reform, should be reached only after discussion. And the focus should be on building on what political parties have in common.

European Interest asked Uffe Elbæk, political leader of The Alternative, to explain how his party is responding to the most crucial problems Denmark has been facing over the last couple of years.

Elbæk, who served as culture minister (2011-12), founded the party as a Green party in 2013. He succeeded to elect nine candidates in the parliament with 4.8% of the vote.

He believes climate change should concern all political leaders and parties in Denmark and across the EU as well. This is why he is trying to persuade colleagues from the other parties to act before is too late.

As regards the latest bank scandal to rock Europe, the leader of The Alternative says Denmark remains vulnerable. He proposes more transnational cooperation.

“I’m an in shock how we again and again let the finance sector run wild,” he said.

The Alternative is part of the transnational list European Spring for the EU elections.

European Interest: This year, Danish political parties will face a double electoral confrontation: European elections in May and parliamentary elections (either before or after)*. Will the EU elections in Denmark be focused on EU topics or will they be part of the national ones? 

Uffe Elbæk: I think the EU will be a larger topic in the upcoming elections than it has been for many years. Brexit could end up having very real negative consequences for the Danish economy. And I think Brexit has meant the Danes are more EU positive than they have been for a long while. This is very positive as I believe the EU is very important in the fight against climate change, the dominance of tech giants and so on. In The Alternative, we are fully engaged in the European cooperation and run on the transnational list European Spring for the EU elections. I hope this kind of deep transnational cooperation will be the norm in the future. The alternative to the EU, is not less EU, it is a better EU.

In The Alternative, we are fully engaged in the European cooperation and run on the transnational list European Spring for the EU elections. I hope this kind of deep transnational cooperation will be the norm in the future

Recently, you expressed your optimism in succeeding to mobilise party leaders of the parliament behind a national action plan to counter climate change. What actions will be involved in this effort?

The fight against the climate crisis is finally the most important issue for the Danish electorate. Of course this means that more and more political parties are adjusting their climate targets and raising their ambitions. We still need to see this materialise as policy in action, but I am very hopeful. The momentum of the climate movement is bigger than ever and the people demand action. If we as politicians are to remain relevant and still have legitimacy we must face the challenge of the climate crisis head on and with ambition that matches what science demands.

Your party negotiated health reforms with the government parties. Since the coalition parties belong to political families completely opposite in ideas held by The Alternative, your disposition to negotiate with them marks a new turn in the politics of your party. Can you please explain?  

In Alternativet we are open to negotiate with everyone. We are value based rather than being based of old and in many ways out-of-date ideologies. We are always willing to compromise, but we will never be compromised. In relation to the health reforms, we had good negotiations with our current government, but we could not get enough assurance that democracy would be strengthened and that our health sector would get the resources it needs to make a deal.

The fight against the climate crisis is finally the most important issue for the Danish electorate

Denmark did not remain immune to the rise of xenophobic and nationalist sentiments and politics. A month ago you spoke about “fascist characters” in Denmark. Do you think the far-right’s influence has been restrained or does it continue to represent a first order threat in your country?

I don’t think and I have never said that there are fascist parties in Denmark. The right wing influence is unfortunately still very present, but in recent months they have experienced a significant dip in the polls which we can only hope will continue. Instead of focusing on what sets us apart, we should focus on all the things we have in common. The far right is thriving on populism and “easy” solutions by naming false enemies. We will continue to strongly oppose this view on the world.

It is widely accepted that Denmark faces labour shortages as is the case in many EU economies. Last October, the Danish government announced plans to relax Green Card rules. Could the immigrants and refugees be part of a plan aiming to resolve both labour demand and the future of welfare?

I certainly believe both refugees and immigrants can be a much needed resources for Denmark, so my answer to that is “yes, indeed”. Of course, even if they are not, I still believe we have any obligation to help people in need, both if they arrive in Denmark or in their home countries or neighbouring areas.

We are value based rather than being based of old and in many ways out-of-date ideologies. We are always willing to compromise, but we will never be compromised

The Danske Bank scandal is considered to be one of the biggest bank scandals in Europe. Do you think Denmark is now safe of any future large scale corruption and money laundering scandals? Do you believe the roots of the Danske bank scandal have been unveiled? 

No, unfortunately not. We have proposed more transnational cooperation in this area, as it will clearly continue to be a problem as long as we try to regulate it on an each-nation-on-its-own basis. I’m an in shock how we again and again let the finance sector run wild. It is a disgrace that should be stopped with all possible means.

Ahead of the two electoral battles in Denmark do you feel that these elections are threatened by a large disinformation campaign (fake news, cyberattacks) as was the case in other elections in Europe? 

In Alternativet, we are already an occasional victim of fake news and I know other parties are too, even if it is to a lesser degree, so I believe that the elections in some ways are very much threatened. On the other hand, it is something that is closely monitored by authorities so I hope that it will not be too serious.

*(The parliamentary elections can still be held before the EU elections as Denmark doesn’t have fixed election dates. However, June is the latest possible date)