denmark eu student debt
Could Denmark be pushed to follow the United Kingdom and leave the European Union (EU)?  Source: Shutterstock.

Saddled with millions of dollars worth of unpaid international student debt, Denmark is now considering challenging a 2012 ruling that allows EU citizens to draw Danish state student loans.

The government is also weighing the possibility of forcing repayments by directly contacting the governments of EU member states where the defaulting students are believed to have migrated or returned to, The University Observer reported.

The amount of unpaid debt left by international students has been growing at an alarming rate since the European Court of Justice (ECJ) passed its 2012 ruling.

At the time, the amount stood at around DKr213 million (US$36 million). The figure doubled, however, in just four short years, reaching DKr426 million (US$71 million) in 2016.

Currently, European citizens owe Denmark just under 60 percent of the country’s student debt and around 40 percent of this remains unpaid.

UK is experiencing similar hardships

In the UK, the government is battling a similar issue as they negotiate the state of European students’ debt following Brexit.

Reportedly, over 12,000 graduates have disappeared after gaining their degree in the UK, leaving an unpaid debt of around GBP89 million (US$126 million).

Both Denmark and the UK’s Student Loan Companies are rarely able to track down international students once they have graduated and migrated.

Denmark to war with ECJ

Spokesman for the Danish People’s Party Kenneth Kristensen Berth has expressed his desire for Denmark to challenge the ECJ’s 2012 ruling.

He said emergency laws must be enforced in order to fix the current international student loan system.

Spokesperson of the Governing Venstre (Liberal) Party Louise Schack Elholm told Politiken her party does not support an emergency law.

“An emergency law is something used against terror attacks, or when we have to go to war, and I think it would be diluting its use to apply it over the issue of SU debts,” she said.

In 2012, the Danish Conservative Party and Liberal Party made a cross-party agreement which states if the debt owed by international students reached DKr500 million (US$83 million) the elibibility of students from the EU would need to be renegotiated. Despite the figure looming ever-closer to that mark, the government is yet to make a decision.

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