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Borgen is back – what the series gets right (and wrong) about Danish politics

Writer : Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen, Professor in Scandinavian and Comparative Literature, UCL

The political drama Borgen first aired in Denmark in 2010. It quickly grew to become clear that its creator, Adam Value, had an uncanny capability to foretell and, at instances, affect political occasions in the true Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Danish parliament. Borgen started with centrist politician Birgitte Nyborg turning into Denmark’s first feminine prime minister. This feat was “repeated” a yr later in actual life by Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Airing within the Sunday primetime slot simply earlier than the information, it was typically troublesome to inform fiction from political reporting. Episodes handled points corresponding to prostitution or industrialised pig farming that went on to grow to be sizzling subjects in politics and the press.

Virtually ten years after the third sequence ended, the present is again for a fourth. Borgen: Energy & Glory follows a now middle-aged Nyborg, a workaholic and principled minister of international affairs in a coalition authorities led by PM and Labour chief Signe Kragh. Kragh’s aptitude for down-to-earth Instagram snaps of meals and sporting occasions will remind Danish viewers of the present Social Democrat PM Mette Frederiksen.

Value has maintained a few of his predictive capability. Within the first episode, Nyborg mentions the sanctioning of a Russian oligarch over the latest invasion of Ukraine. Almost definitely written with the 2014 annexation of Crimea in thoughts, viewers must be excused for believing that Borgen is entangled in a geopolitical current. Per week after it aired in Denmark, Russia invaded Ukraine.

The brand new season has one main narrative arc: oil has been found in Greenland. The seasoned Nyborg rightly predicts bother when geopolitical superpowers Russia, China and the US rush to say themselves within the Arctic. Financial pursuits threaten to trump her occasion’s environmental beliefs, and the already tense relationship between Greenland and Denmark threatens to erupt in a bitter wrestle over political energy and income from oil extraction.

Considered one of Borgen’s strengths lies in its portrayal of the more and more tense geopolitical actuality within the Arctic. Denmark and Greenland are each small gamers dependent upon bigger powers.

The ornate main entrance to Christiansborg with two Rococo pavilions on either side, against a pale blue morning sky in Copenhagen
The actual ‘Borgen’. How a lot do the occasions inside Christiansborg Palace mirror the Danish political drama?
kavalenkava / Shutterstock

It additionally depicts the unequal impacts of local weather change. Whereas colonial powers’ oil extractions have pushed local weather change for hundreds of years, Indigenous folks such because the Greenlandic Inuit are witnessing the consequences on their weak ecosystems. This actuality opens previous wounds within the Danish realm that features the previous colonies and present dependencies of Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Colonialism continues on display screen

Denmark colonised Greenland within the 18th century, practically shedding the nation to the US in the course of the second world struggle. In 1953, Denmark initiated a “decolonisation” of the nation by integrating Greenland as an equal a part of Denmark. Greenlanders’ want for independence led to the introduction of dwelling rule in 1979, and 30 years later Greenland achieved self-rule. Right now, the Greenlandic folks’s proper to self-determination is recognised, and most insurance policies, other than international affairs, are determined in Greenland. Nevertheless, the abuses of colonial rule all through Greenland’s trendy historical past have led to social issues corresponding to alcoholism, sexual abuse and unemployment turning into endemic.

Borgen has by no means shied away from displaying the darker sides of the colonial relationship between Denmark and Greenland. Within the first season, Nyborg meets with Greenland PM Jens Enok to resolve the case of secret US flight landings with terrorist prisoners in Greenland. Enok reminds her that the difficulty began 300 years in the past when Denmark colonised Greenland, and 60 years in the past when Denmark forcefully eliminated the Inuit to create space for the American airbase. Nyborg initially dismisses Danish colonial guilt by suggesting that the Greenlanders are simply “sitting round ready for the ice to thaw to allow them to strike oil and get wealthy”. However Enok makes her realise that Denmark has performed a considerable position in Greenland’s ongoing struggling.

Within the fourth season, oil is lastly struck – and little has modified in Nyborg’s thoughts. She bullies a Greenlandic delegation, arguing that they can’t be trusted to run their very own nation. Jens Enok, now a Greenlandic MP, enters once more to clarify Greenland’s want to pursue oil extraction. He argues that Greenlanders are the victims of local weather change, not its perpetrators. As such, Denmark mustn’t stand in the best way of their want to counterpoint themselves and obtain full independence.

Greenlanders select the surroundings

Opposite to the plot of Borgen, immediately’s Greenlanders prioritise environmentally sustainable growth on the street to full independence. In 2021, Greenland’s new authorities was elected on the promise to cease a controversial Uranium and rare-earth mining challenge in Kuannersuit (Kvanefjeldet) in southern Greenland. The identical authorities additionally put a cease to additional oil exploration for environmental causes.

It has additionally grow to be close to unimaginable to remain blind, as Nyborg does, to the colonial abuses perpetrated by the Danish state towards Greenlanders. Earlier this yr, the Danish PM publicly apologised on behalf of Denmark to 22 Greenlandic “youngsters of the experiment”. That they had been taken from their households within the 1950s and despatched to Denmark to be skilled as a future Greenlandic elite.

In June 2022, the abuse of 4,000 Greenlandic ladies as younger as 13 by Danish well being authorities, who implanted intrauterine gadgets with out consent within the 1960s and 1970s, was revealed. In response, the Danish and Greenlandic governments have agreed to arrange a fee to make clear the historic relationship between the 2 international locations.

As Borgen can be the primary fictional tv sequence to inform you, there’s nonetheless a necessity for brave politicians to ship on environmental sustainability – and investigative journalism to carry them to account – and uncomfortable however needed confrontations with colonial pasts. Borgen supplies the drama and stays near life, however shouldn’t be anticipated to at all times get its predictions proper.


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