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Danish flag rule divides parliament

Easter time, and yet another excuse for Danes to hoist their national flag. But don't go flying any old flag, like for example your own, national, flag. No foreign flags may be hoisted or flown in Denmark, at least without the Danish flag

The Danish penchant for waiving and displaying the flag, the ‘Dannebrog’, on every occasion, creates tricky legal issues for international residents who want to ‘play Danish’ and display their own national flag at celebrations: Displaying your own flag is illegal unless next to a Danish one.

Last week a proposal that would allow foreign flags to be flown in Denmark – alone that is – divided parliament. The present, restrictive, flag law is silly, says the Socialist People’s Party (SF) and Red-Green Alliance (EL). But the ban on foreign flags was supported by other parties, including the governing Social Democrats.

Many countries have flag codes and flag protocols (see box right). The Danish flag protocol, which bans foreign flags if not next to a Danish one, is in principle, the same for a big flag on a flagpole, as for a little paper tourist flag stuck on the lawn. (But in practice they are not enforced for the small paper ones.)

Flag ‘treachery’

The Social Liberals’ foreign affairs spokesperson, Zenia Stampe, sparked off the latest controversy, as reported by our media partner Seven59.dk and B.dk.

She suggests that a 1915 statute, which bans foreign nations’ flags from being flown in Denmark, should be annulled. The proposal has been greeted positively by the Red/Green Alliance (EL) and the Socialist People’s Party (SF) but has been rejected by the Social Democrats and the nationalist Danish People’s Party (DF). The DF dismisses any notion of affording foreign flags the same rights as the cherished Danish flag.

Ms Stampe has responded to angry critics on social media sites by stating on her Facebook page, Tuesday: »If I resided abroad I’d appreciate the privilege of celebrating my son’s birthday by raising my native country’s flag alongside the host nation’s. And when the USA was attacked on 9/11 I would have liked to have been able to show my sympathy by flying the Stars & Stripes. Flying a flag is a sign of freedom of expression but now I’m being called a traitor. Get real!«

Danish freedom, not prohibition

Legal expert Jacob McHangama of the right-leaning think-tank Cepos, responds to the debate with irony on his blog on b.dk.

»Are the feelings that Danes have for their national symbol so fragile that they have to be sustained by law? I thought the Danish sense of community was founded on freedom, not prohibition.«

miy@adm.ku.dk

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