Your weekly recap of Danish politics and society – Week 14

Curious about what’s going on in Danish society? Worry no more! Each week we bring you the main political events, debates, decisions and issues in a neat package of short news stories.

by Ella Navarro and Elizabeth Waind, feature photo: Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen shakes hands with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on an official visit to Mexico this week.

Political Moves

New law will make it possible to reject controversial Russian gas pipeline: Proposed Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 would run through Danish territorial waters in the Baltic Sea. The case has been a highly charged political issue for Denmark, and so the Danish government has proposed a change of law making it possible to reject the construction of the pipeline through Denmark’s territory. The new law would say that Denmark can reject a proposal which it finds is not in the interests of Danish security and foreign policy. The three ruling parties have not yet taken a final position on whether the new law will be applied in this case, although support for the proposal is expected.

Radicals demonstrate preference for Liberal over Social Democrat policies: So says Sofie Carsten Nielsen, deputy leader of the Radical Left, in an interview with radio programme Slotsholmen. The deputy leader highlighted four areas in which the Radicals prefer Kristian Jensen’s (Liberal) policies over Mette Frederiksen’s (Social Democratic). According to Nielsen, the radicals are not bound to any party, but the preference suggests a possible move away from an assumed relation to the Social Democratic party. “We do not feel bound by any party. It’s about what policy we can implement,” says Nielsen. “I still believe that we can get the most radical influence with Mette Frederiksen [of the Social Democrat party], but it is clear that if Kristian Jensen one day becomes president of the Liberals, we have a new situation.”

Danish public invited to shape the future media landscape: Culture Minister Mette Bock wants to give citizens the opportunity to participate in the debate and come up with ideas for media content and form, towards establishing the new media agreement for 2019. “I would like to invite to an open conversation so that we can avoid the decision about the future of Danish media content only becoming an affair between industry and politicians,” says Bock. Between May and September this year, five to six public meetings will be held throughout Denmark, where anybody interested in the Danish media landscape can participate. “Democracy is about conversation, and perhaps we have forgotten that a bit. Now it is not the politicians who must speak. We must listen,” says Bock. It will also be possible to express views and contribute ideas via a digital platform from May.

Social Democrats to make nursery attendance compulsory for immigrant children: The party proposes that all children must be automatically signed up to nursery, with the goal of lifting the aspirations of children from disadvantaged families. According to the party, bilingual children have less chance of ‘succeeding’ in life if kept at home for the first year. Mette Frederiksen of the Social Democratic party says: “This is basically all about creating better conditions for integration. We need to get closer to creating equal opportunities for all children.”

Denmark in the World

Danish Prime Minister visits Mexico: Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen visited Mexico this week, which last saw an official visit from Denmark in 2003, to establish a new strategic relationship with the country as part of the government’s goal to partner up with the world’s growing economies. “The partnership will be an important platform for Danish business eyeing the Mexican market and for a closer cooperation between our governments. Mexico is an important partner in terms of free trade, the UN, health and climate, and it is in many arenas a perfect match for Danish positions of strength,” says Rasmussen. Primary exports to Mexico are maritime transport, industrial machinery and medicine. Since 2005 the trade has tripled, and this deal looks to increase exports to from 5.7 to 7 billion DKK a year by 2020.

Denmark must be part of the effort to end the war in Syria: So says Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen. According to the minister, Denmark must be focused on contributing to stabilising the political situation in Syria, so as to avoid previous mistakes made in Iraq and Libya. If US President Donald Trump steps up the military presence in Syria, the Danish government is open to increasing the Danish military contribution; “We must join in and be part of the solution,” says Samuelsen. The minister expressed support for a US strike on a Syrian airbase on Friday: “The Danish government supports the US reaction to the Assad regime’s gruesome assault on the Syrian civilian population. I am satisfied that the pressure on Assad now mounts.”

Denmark gives an extra 40 million DKK to the UN: This is following a withdrawal of support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) by the United States, announced on Monday. The UNFPA supports family planning and women’s and children’s health in more than 150 countries. According to Danish Minister for Development Ulla Tørnæs, the US withdrawal is “sad, harmful and unnecessary”.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen emphasises support for Ukraine: In a press conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday, Rasmussen emphasised Denmark’s political support for Ukraine in the face of pressure from Russia. “We refuse to accept Russia’s aggressive and illegal annexation of Crimea,” says Rasmussen, referring to the peninsula’s annexation by Russia in 2014. “Ukraine is not alone and will not be forgotten,” stresses the Prime Minister.

Brexit prompts search for new allies for Denmark: This week Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen visited three EU countries – Portugal, Austria and the Czech Republic – in search of new alliances after Britain’s decision to leave the EU. According to Samuelsen, “We will be missing a good companion in European cooperation when the British leave. Therefore, we must of course consider who we can work with instead.”

Tackling climate change in Bangladesh: Danish Minister for Development Ulla Tørnæs announced this week that Denmark will give 30 million DKK to Bangladesh to help build infrastructure to deal with climate change problems. Bangladesh is badly affected by floods and storms along the coastline, constantly forcing people to leave their homes. Together with Crown Princess Mary, Tørnæs is in Barisal, Bangladesh, to deal with the situation first hand. “I’m proud that the Danish government has designated 30 million DKK in aid for the local population in the battle to stand tall in the face of climate change and avoid having to flee their homes and regions,” says Tørnæs.

In the Media 

Youth crime decrease: A report by the Danish Ministry of Justice released this week shows a large drop in youth crimes from 2006 to 2016. While in 2006 there were 25,125 registered crimes by youngsters, in 2016 there were over half as many at 11,487. “A large number of crimes are committed by young people. It is particularly in the development years between child and adulthood that young people get drawn into criminality… It is encouraging to see that, again, this year there are fewer of our young people starting on the road to crime,” said Søren Pape Poulsen, Minister of Justice, in a press release from the ministry. The minister also assured they are working on new initiatives to keep those numbers low for the future.

Think about it

mannnIn less than three weeks there have been three terrorist attacks in Europe. First in London, then in St. Petersburg, Russia, and finally this past Friday our neighbour Sweden became victim to attack. Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said it was a cowardly attempt “to subdue us and the peaceful way we live in Scandinavia”. The attacks have been unexpected and the uncertainty is frightening.

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