Ghettos in Denmark: to be or not to be?

Mjølnerparken, Copenhagen, has been removed from the list of “transformation areas”. Under Denmark’s 2018 “Ghetto Package” of laws, these areas are subject to a requirement to reduce not-for-profit family housing to a maximum of 40% by the year 2030.

This has led to demolitions and evictions affecting communities across the country. Residents in Mjølnerparken have been fighting back through litigation filed in May 2020, and even though the area is now off the list because the number of residents has been reduced. The “Ghetto Package” is based on a State-made distinction between those of so-called “Western” and “non-Western” background – a categorization, which has already been condemned by international bodies. “Transformation areas” have met the criteria of a “ghetto” for five or more years.
Groups of residents from Mjølnerparken, Copenhagen, are taking legal action against the Danish Ministry of Social Affairs, Housing and the Elderly.

The case is significant because the residents are challenging the Ministry’s approval of a development plan made under Denmark’s “Ghetto Package” of legislation.

The residents are seeking a declaration that the Ministry’s approval of the plan is unlawful because it is discriminatory (under domestic law, European Union (“EU”) law and the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”)) and violates their fundamental rights, including the right to respect for their homes.
Together with third party intervenors, the Danish Institute of Human Rights and two UN Special Rapporteurs, the residents asked the Eastern High Court to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) in Luxembourg. In particular, they are seeking a ruling from the CJEU on the correct interpretation of the Race Equality Directive including in relation to “non-Western” background.

Written observations were filed before the CJEU on 27 October 2023. The next step will likely be an oral hearing in 2024.

22. December 2023

CJEU 417/23
Comm: CJEU