Denmark reopens borders for locked-out lovers
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More than two months after closing its borders, Denmark has loosened restrictions to let couples separated by coronavirus lockdowns finally see each other again -- even if the easing applies just to partners from a few nearby countries for now.
Parliament agreed a deal last week to speed up the country's reopening, allowing some foreigners to enter Denmark, including those with partners there.
But the exceptions, which came into force last Monday, only apply to people from other Nordic countries or Germany.
"It's really hard not being able to physically feel any of the intimacy," Melinda Schneider, a 26-year-old Canadian, told AFP.
Stuck in Bradford, Ontario, she has not seen her boyfriend Adrian Carlsen, a 23-year-old Dane she's been dating for two years, since January 8.
"The uncertainty of when we get to reunite makes it even harder," Schneider added.
Owners of second homes, extended family members, and loved ones of Danish residents are allowed to enter Denmark under the new rules, if they can justify the purpose of their visit.
Persons married to or living with a Danish resident and the children of residents could already visit the Nordic country.
But the legality of the exceptions and singling out certain nationalities is debatable, according to Marlene Wind, a professor of political science at the University of Copenhagen.
"It's not uncommon to see government using remedies that are not in the end legal, but it's an estimated risk they are taking."
- Glimmer of hope -
For Nick Allday, a 54-year-old British dentist, and his Danish girlfriend Andrea -- also a dentist -- the wait and uncertainty is taking its toll.
"I was due to fly to Denmark on the day the border was shut but I bailed out, regrettably," he lamented to AFP.
The conditional opening of the borders gives the couple a glimmer of hope, and Allday intends to try his luck, hoping to run into a sympathetic customs officer at the border crossing between Germany and Denmark.
Andreas, a 54-year-old German, was able to cross the border into Denmark on Tuesday.
"He presented a signed letter from me, a copy of my passport and my social security card and that was it," said Ulla Lundgaard, his partner of 17 years.
"He was ready to pull out everything to prove we were a couple -- photos, text messages, hotel receipts and plane tickets -- but he didn't need them," she added.
Usually, Andreas lives four days a week in Denmark with Ulla, but the border closure on March 16 forced him to stay in Hamburg in Germany, where his container shipping company is headquartered.
"I still find it hard to believe that we're back together again," Lundgaard said, adding that she felt sorry for couples who were still separated.
- 'Lesser of two evils' -
Schneider, the Canadian, questioned the fairness of the decision and told AFP she could not see any argument for the distinction between countries or the type of relationship.
"Spouses, common-law partners, and children from all over the world are allowed in -- so why is it that for boyfriends and girlfriends it is restricted to certain countries?"
Ayo Nasborg-Andersen, a lecturer in law at the University of Southern Denmark, said the structure of the new exceptions was most likely a compromise.
"I think that by opening up a little -- and founding this opening on geographical factor, they chose the lesser of two evils," she told AFP.
But Nasborg-Andersen stressed that the arrangement needed to be temporary.
"If they don't ease up after one month, I'll start to worry and talk about discrimination," she told AFP.
A reopening of borders within Europe is currently planned for mid-June, but so far openings have been announced haphazardly by individual countries, despite calls from the European Commission for coordination.
Questioned by AFP, Danish police said they so far did not have any statistics on the number of foreigners entering Denmark under the new provisions since May 25.
© 2020 AFP