Island in distress

Bornholm, a small Baltic island with a population of 50,000, seems unlikely to be reserved from the crisis which involves farmers having to adjust to reduced subsidies. The tourist industry is replacing framing, but many jobs are seasonal, and for farmers, stone masons, and fisherman, finding jobs as waiters is very difficult. Bornholm anticipates assistance from Denmark and the European Community.
Symbolically, a ballad entitled “Expect No Mercy” won first prize at a music festival on the small Baltic island of Bornholm, the eastern outpost of Denmark barring a few small islets. Bornholm, with a population of 50,000 is in distress. And there is little hope that a special government task force will be able to make much of an impact on the crisis.

Some of the problems are microcosms of what is happening elsewhere in Denmark and in the European Community. Farmers have to adapt to smaller subsidies, whether or not the GATT negotiations succeed or not. Production has to come down, but many farmers need to produce more to survive financially. Virtually the only way to leave a farm is through bankruptcy, because mortgage institutions and banks want no part of financing farming if they can possibly help it.

On Bornholm the situation is worse than elsewhere, because of the distance to major consumer markets like Copenhagen. And because alternative jobs are virtually nonexistent. The formerly I thriving fishing fleet, operating not only in the Baltic, but as far as Newfoundland and Greenland, has been laid up almost entirely. Quotas have limited catches everywhere. In the Baltic pollution has decimated the fish stock, and the former communist fishing fleets are selling fish to Danish and other EC fish processing industries at prices that do not even cover variable costs.

Industry has never really rooted itself on the island, quarrying was important–the imposing Danish parliamentary building and many others embody stone from the island–but only a little is left. Only one major asset remains–the beauty of the is land itself. The service sector, and especially the tourist industry, is the only promising area of future growth. Farmers, stonemasons, and fisher. men do, however, find it difficult to seek work as waiters, and given the climate of Denmark, many of the jobs on offer are seasonal.

The collapse of communism in East Germany and Poland has benefited Bornholm. Air and sea links with the former East Germany and Poland have been established, and the island is now an EC-supported media center, providing training for journalists and others from the former communist countries on the Baltic Rim.

Bornholm was a part of the Danish territories east of the Sound ceded to Sweden in the 17th century. But they immediately rebelled against their new Swedish masters and swore allegiance to the Danish monarchy. Their choice was eventually respected by the Swedes. I he people of Bornholm still speak a dialect close to Swedish. But they expect help from both Denmark and the European Community.


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