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Denmark court rules counterculture group lacks property rights to community

[JURIST] The Eastern High Court of Denmark [official website, in Danish] ruled Tuesday that the Copenhagen counterculture group Christiana [community website, in Danish] had not acquired permanent property rights [press release, in Danish] to the abandoned Copenhagen navy base and that the Danish government [official website] was within its rights to cancel the group's use of the property. The court found that from 1971 until the creation of the 1991 Framework Agreement, which specified the property rights of the self-governing community, Christiana had acquired rights of use, but no absolute ownership status of the property occupied by the community's 900 residents. Furthermore, since there existed a contractual agreement between the parties after 1991, no subsequent squatters' rights were accrued by the community. Conceding that the community had not acquired absolute ownership status, Christiana representatives nonetheless maintained that the 2004 Christiana Act [text, in Danish], which terminated the group's use of the specified land, was void and cited the government's long-standing acceptance of the community and the various extensions to the 1991 framework agreement as supporting evidence of their claim. The court ruled against the community because it determined that all formal agreements between the community and the government were for specifically limited periods, the agreements contained no safeguards against dismissal, and that the government gave ample notice to the community before terminating its rights of use in 2004. The businesses and residents affected by the ruling plan to appeal [Politiken report] the decision in the Denmark Supreme Court.

The Christiana community has become a cultural and touristic attraction within Copenhagen, and a symbol of counterculture. The Danish government tolerated the existence of the community until intensifying its efforts to combat the illicit drug trade in 2004. No cars are allowed within the boundaries of the community and the community also serves as a center for gay rights activism.

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