EU refuses to claim back student debt for Denmark

The European Union has rebuffed the Danish government’s request for the EU to help it claim back unpaid student debt owed by citizens in EU member states who studied in Denmark and left the country, the major Danish newspaper, Politiken, has reported.

The EU’s response has renewed political opposition in the Danish parliament to the ruling of the European Court of Justice in 2012 that citizens from EU countries working in Denmark for 10-12 hours per week are ‘migrant workers’ and hence are eligible for Danish student financing, or SU, the most favourable student financing system in the world, as reported by University World News.

The Danish government sent its request for direct assistance to EU Commissioner Vera Jourová in a letter last October signed by the Danish Tax Minister Karsten Lauritzen and the Minister of Higher Education and Science Søren Pind.

If a student from a member country of the European Union leaves Denmark without paying the incurred student loan, the Danish loan agency has to know their address to send the claim.

The Danish authorities are now going to approach the countries where many previous SU recipients might have settled asking for their cooperation.

In response to a question in parliament in December from the Socialist People’s Party representative Jacob Mark, Minister Lauritzen said that the ministry is investigating different paths for claiming back SU debt from EU citizens through the Danish or European courts, but that the ministry has not yet found out if this is an effective way of getting these funds back.

In 2016 foreign students had accumulated DKK426 million (US$70 million) in outstanding loan debt, which is twice the amount outstanding to foreign citizens in 2012. EU citizens own DKK123 million of this and no repayment instalments are being received on 40% of the outstanding loans.

Parliament awakens

This news has restoked discussions in the Danish parliament, which has a political agreement between all parties from 2012 stating that the eligibility of EU students to have Danish SU should be renegotiated in parliament if and when the total amount exceeds DKK500 million.

The news of the response to the Lauritzen-Pind letter to the EU Commissioner has awoken the dormant opposition in the Danish parliament where spokesperson of the Danish People’s Party Kenneth Kristensen Berth said that Denmark should go to war with the European Court of Justice over the ruling that EU citizens are eligible for Danish SU. Berth also said that Denmark should enforce emergency laws for terminating the arrangements.

A proposal from the Danish Conservative party, which is supported by the Liberal Alliance, to exclude Danish SU for students from countries where Denmark does not have a bilateral tax agreement, was not supported by the Liberal party in parliament. Spokesperson Louise Schack Elholm said that parties should be working for a political solution and not engaging in party political manoeuvres. She said that emergency laws should be kept for war situations.