A leader of Denmark's far-right party has managed to revive a border dispute that dates back to the 19th century. The Danish minority in Germany has slammed the idea and Denmark's government distanced themselves.
Soren Espersen, vice chairman of the populist right-wing Danish People's Party reignited a centuries-old conflict over the border between Denmark and Germany on Thursday night.
Hundreds of years of debate over the ownership of the Schleswig-Holstein region was seemingly put to rest after World War I, but Espersen resuscitated Denmark's 1838 claim to everything north of the Eider River in an interview on Danish television.
Prussia and Austria snatched back the region in the German-Danish War of 1864, with Prussia taking sole ownership two years later. The controversy of the so-called Schleswig-Holstein question prevailed until a 1920s referendum handed the northern, ethnically Danish part of Schleswig, to Denmark.
The border survived World War II and remained in place to this day, despite a Danish minority population living on the German side.
Espersen told Danish broadcaster dk4 that the border should be restored to the Eider River.
"We would like a Denmark stretching to the Eider," he told Siegfried Matlok, journalist who is part of the German-speaking minority in Denmark.
Espersen, who is also chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Danish Parliament said other minorities, such as Scotland or Ukraine, would fight for their cause.
"If the Danish minority has no hopes of reunion, why is it there?" he asked. "That must also be the idea of the Danish minority, otherwise I do not understand at all."
Denmark does not support these views
Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen told German news agency DPA he did not support those views.
"As is well known, this is not the policy of Denmark or the Danish government."
A large Danish minority remains on the German side of the border
The political representation of the Danish minority in Germany, the South Schleswig Electoral Organization (SSW), labeled the idea as populist, unrealistic and untimely. Such a demand is "a dangerous game with the decade-long border peace which we have achieved together after centuries of German-Danish conflicts," declared SSW faction leader Lars Harms.
Espersen later back-tracked from his remarks, telling Danish news agency Ritzau that he had clearly been speaking with "a twinkle in my eye."
"We have the best border cooperation anyone could hope for with Germany. I was asked if I would like a Denmark to the Eider and of course I would, that's clear."
"But I don't expect that there will be some big tank battle in Schleswig-Holstein any time soon."
He repeated his observation that borders are fluid throughout history.
"It's not that the borders of Europe as we know it will be there forever. History has taught us that it changes. You can see that in Crimea, Scotland, Corsica and Catalonia. There is plenty of stuff around."
The Danish People's Party is the second largest in Denmark's parliament, providing support to the ruling minority coalition government of Lars Lokke Rasmussen.