Danish Squatters Launch Alternative 'IPO' To Avoid Eviction
A group of squatters is pooling its resources and trading shares in an effort to save Christiania, a so-called ‘autonomous neighborhood’ founded 40 years ago in central Copenhagen. The famous squat – long a target of rightist politicians – is being eyed b
Copenhagen's Christiania, arguably the most famous squat in Europe, has historically sought to sidestep the basic rules of capitalism. This week, however, the self-administered Danish community borrowed a page straight from the corporate world it shuns, launching what can only be described as an IPO – of sorts. The goal? To raise 10 million euros and buy the land it has occupied for the past four decades.
Christiania, home to hundreds of hippies and other Copenhagen residents seeking an alternative way of life, is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary. Since the beginning, the community – which began with the occupation of former military barracks – has endured a long fight for survival against Danish authorities.
The last decade was particularly difficult for Christiania. Denmark's political right took power in 2001 on promises to crack down on drug trafficking and cultural radicalism. Not surprisingly, the conservative government upped pressure on Christiania, where hashish is smoked openly.
This month's legislative elections were reason to celebrate for the alternative community. The political left – which has historically been more tolerant of the squat – squeezed its way back into power. Yet the community still has to contend with a February ruling by the Supreme Court, which declared that the land Christiania occupies belongs to the state. The land is also highly coveted by property developers.
Three months later the squatters agreed – albeit reluctantly – to accept a deal proposed by Denmark's Finance Ministry, which called for establishing a fund to buy the majority of the buildings and a small part of the land for 10 million euros. Residents are expected to pay annual rent of some 800,000 euros for the rest. The estimated market value of the property is two to three times that.
"Even after buying the land and buildings, none of the Christianites will actually own the property," explained Risenga Maghezi, who is responsible for finances in Christiania. "However, we would like to buy as much as possible in order to keep the government out of our business."
The Christianites might be hippies, but they are also willing to fight to finance and keep their little piece of paradise. Technically, however, their newly acquired shares – which range in value from anywhere between 1 and 1,500 euros – are not the same as a traditional investment. Instead of property rights, buyers will be given nothing more than the joy of knowing they are supporting an alternative community, plus an invitation to the squatters' parties.
Read the full story in French by Olivier Truc
Photo - Kieran Lynam
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations