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Denmark's 'social experiment' will likely end

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February 13, 2006

Denmark's 'social experiment' will likely end

by Shaughn McArthur

A group representing Denmark's social experiment, the Free State of Christiania, is taking the state to court March 16 in a last-ditch attempt to resist urbanization. The introduction of condos in this unique Copenhagen community founded by squatters in 1971 will mean an almost-certain end to its self-governing status.

"I'm not confident we'll win," says Ole Lykke, 59, a Christianite for 26 years, "but I am confident the state doesn't have the backing not to make a compromise."

On Jan. 1, 2006, an amendment to the government's Christiania Act ended the collective right-to-use agreement that for 35 years allowed this outlaw commune to occupy state-owned land on the fringes of the free market.

"The old act exempted a whole range of legislation; the new act means normal legislation comes back into effect," explains Kristin Alstad-Mathiasen, project manager of the Christiania Plan at the Danish Palaces and Properties Agency.

This summer the agency will submit its plan to build private housing for up to 400 residents, convert buildings already there, and restore a historical rampart along Christiania's waterfront.

Lykke says the plan not only puts a price tag on the lifestyles of 850 Christianites, but also threatens an important national icon.

"We have to preserve the values that Christiania represents," says Mette Dahl-Jensen, director of public relations at Wonderful Copenhagen, the city's tourism board.

But Liberal Party spokesperson Peter Christensen emphasizes even Christiania must abide by Danish law.

"I don't believe there will be a compromise: no court will find that the land suddenly belongs to Christianites," he says.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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