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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The end of convenience marriages in Denmark?

Por Feco

The destination of the wedding paradise hangs in the balance. The traditionalist Conservative Popular Party of Denmark proposes measures to hinder mixed unions in the Scandinavian country. While some understand the idea behind the measure, some places in the region firmly opposed the initiative, as it could damage them from the economic point of view also.

Rudkøbing Town Hall, in the south of Denmark, is an unsuspected place. In the corridors, couples of different nationalities nervously wait their turn to get married. It is not an unusual situation. In 2016, 13,000 foreigners decided to celebrate their bond in the Scandinavian country. The reason is simple: the speed and flexibility with which the Danish municipalities manage the unions - which are also recognized all over the world - makes the country one of the places in Europe where it is easiest to get married. However, this paradise of weddings is in danger, as a possible change in the marriage law - promoted by the Danish popular party - which seeks to eliminate unions of convenience, can hinder the process.

In case you did not know, in Denmark, to get married, it is sufficient to present passports and any document proving the marital status of the parties involved. The Danish marriage law has been active since 1969, except for a modification of the year 2009. According to current legislation, the documents required are the same throughout Denmark. But when making the unions, each municipality decides how to act. Some towns like Rudkøbing, Ærøskøbing, Soenderborg or Toender, have "specialized" in officiating fast weddings and do not ask for some requirements -like spending two nights in the place before they can get married- as other places do.

The change in the law, promoted by the Minister of Children and Social Affairs, Mai Mercado, of the Conservative Popular Party, aims to centralize the system to analyze each marriage request before accepting it. It is a change that obviously seeks to fight against marriages of convenience. Some mafias take advantage of the facilities of the Danish bureaucracy to organize fraudulent unions between European and non-EU citizens and thus obtain community residence permits. The mayors of municipalities such as Ærøskøbing, Soenderborg or Toender view the measure with suspicion. They understand that this modification endangers one of the main activities of the localities that govern and ask the Executive to give the municipalities the power to accept or deny requests for marriages of foreigners, thus expediting the process.

Undoubtedly, the place in Denmark that would be most affected by the change in the law would be the island and municipality of Ærø, in the south of the country. Of the 13,000 weddings held in 2016 in Denmark, 4,600 took place in the municipal capital: Ærøskøbing. But Ærø's relationship with the wedding business goes further. Thanks to nuptial tourism, this small town of 938 inhabitants was able to survive the economic crisis. How far this attempt of fighting convenience marriages will go? Wait and see.