Denmark makes it hard to pass citizenship test

LONDON • Which Danish restaurant gained a third Michelin star in February 2016? How many municipalities are there in Denmark? In what constellation did the 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe discover a new star?

Such questions are part of a new Danish citizenship test so difficult that more than two-thirds of applicants who took it for the first time in June failed, the Integration Ministry confirmed this week.

Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen's centre- right government, which has been tightening rules on immigration, has made little effort to hide the test's goal: to make it much harder to become Danish, as Europe struggles to cope with a refugee crisis.

Critics of the test - which includes subjects such as Danish film, local government and, of course, the Vikings - say it is too tough, and that even many Danes would be hard-pressed to pass it.

Integration Minister Inger Stojberg confirmed that 68.8 per cent of the 2,400 people who took the test in June had failed it. But she was unrepentant about the test's difficulty, telling the influential Politiken newspaper that being Danish is "very special" and that "citizenship is something you have to earn", adding: "Too many did not prepare properly."

The test comes as the Danish government has clamped down on immigration, including by introducing a law requiring recently arrived refugees to hand over valuables to help pay for the costs of lodging them. It replaced a version introduced by the previous centre-left government in 2014.

Critics like Mr Jakob Nielsen, editor of the online edition of Politiken, say it is undeniably harder. Applicants must now get 80 per cent of the answers correct to pass, up from 73 per cent previously.

With its welfare state and strong tradition of egalitarianism, Denmark is an attractive country for many foreigners. The country was recently ranked as the world's happiest for the third time since 2013.

Mr Nielsen said that when Politiken posted the test online, many of its readers failed it. "There is no doubt that the test is aimed to discourage immigrants from coming here," he said. "Some of the questions are just ridiculous, and many Danes couldn't even answer them."

But he added that applicants were provided free preparatory material that covered the test's contents, and that aspiring Danish citizens who were determined enough could persevere.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Denmark makes it hard to pass citizenship test'. Print Edition | Subscribe