By Gustav Hoejmark-Jensen
We are already well into the spring month of April, but there are plenty of reasons to dwell a bit on what happened in the past month of March: the Danish People’s Party almost spent 400 million DKK on a redundant bypass road, the Danish Tax Authority promises to bring money back home and the government critical radio station Radio24Syv is forced to relocate, away from Copenhagen.
The Danish People’s Party’s (DF) spokesperson for traffic, Kim Christiansen, was a happy man when he on the 13th of March could inform the Danish press that he had ensured a 370 million DKK bypass road in his own hometown of Mariager.
The decision came in connection with the government and DF announcing their new “2030 Infrastructure Plan”.
Apparently, the small Danish town of Mariager, with its 2500 inhabitants, is so congested by big trucks and traffic that nearly 400 million DKK is necessary to redirect the congestion. Oh – did I forget to mention the DF politician, Kim Christiansen, owns and runs a pub in Mariager, located on the “main” street that this new bypass road is supposed to alleviate?
Thankfully, the Danish television station TV2 quickly rushed reporters towards the town to see exactly how congested Mariager was, and if a 370 million DKK bypass road project was really necessary. In the 12 hours, they were there, they observed four lorries and one school bus.
One of the lorries was even delivering supplies to the pub, belonging to Kim Christiansen (DF).
Needless to say, the grand infrastructure project in Mariager quickly became the “talk of the town”, at least in the Danish media. And Kim Christiansen (DF) continued to defend the decision to spend hundreds of millions on the bypass road, even though the Danish Road Directorate, in 2013, concluded in a report that there was neither capacity- nor security related reasons for alleviating the traffic in Mariager.
Kim Christiansen (DF) also recently announced that he thinks that the pledge to improve the railway system and connections in Denmark is dead. Nearly 30 billion DKK had previously been pledged in 2014 to improve railway transport in Denmark and make citizens opt for the public transport option. But, if you ask the Danish People’s Party (DF), it would make more sense to focus on improving roads and reduce congestion over the next 10 years instead.
I wonder if DF and Kim Christiansen have heard about something called global warming?
Remember when the Danish Tax Authority gave away 12,7 billion DKK to foreign pension funds and fraudulent investors? The vast extent of the tax-scam was revealed last year, and it showed how severe negligence within the Danish Tax Services had allowed billions of DKK to be siphoned out of the public coffers.
But on the 19th of March, The Danish Tax Authority claimed in a press briefing that it would be able to bring back between 5,5 and 6 billion DKK from 470 individuals that the authority is preparing to sue.
Last year, the Danish Tax Authority managed to freeze international assets worth 11,2 billion DKK, said to have been unlawfully obtained from the Danish Tax Services.
However, working on nearly 500 cases across country borders and dealing with complex international financial law isn’t cheap, and the Danish government is hiring overseas lawyers to assist with the case work.
According to DR, the combined lawyer fees could amount to 2,4 billion DKK over the next 8 years, when the bill from prosecutions in the UK, the US, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg finally arrives.
The Danish Tax Authority’s willingness to spend nearly half of what it MIGHT gain back from the prosecutions is a good indication of the fact that the authority is desperately trying to redeem themselves, and bring back more than just the lost money – it is imperative for them that these cases succeed, so that they can regain the trust of the Danish taxpayer.
On the 22nd of March, the government and the Danish People’s Party (DF) agreed to change the terms for the national FM radio broadband channel that is occupied by the widely popular and government critic radio station Radio24Syv.
“We have agreed on demanding that 70 percent of all editorial staff needs to be placed at least 110 kilometers from Copenhagen” the DPP (DF) politician and spokesperson for media politics, Morten Marinus, told the DR. According to him, this decision is meant to ensure that whoever occupies the radio channel covers entire Denmark, without being too focused on Copenhagen.
Critics saw the move from the government and the Danish People’s Party as a clear effort to shut down a radio channel that has a long history of calling out suspect political actions and governmental irregularities.
DR’s political analyst, Christine Cordsen, even tied the demand of the government to be about wanting to get rid of troublemakers: “Close to an election you’re trying to get things out of the way that could cause trouble. This is an example of that and it has been seen before”.
The public backlash from the controversial demand caused the leader of the Danish People’s Party, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, to say that the demand wasn’t specifically about Radio24Syv.
But the question remains: How do you get politicians into your studio for interviews, if you are placed 110 kilometers away from the parliament?
It is a lot harder for a politician to decline an interview, if the reporter knocks on their office door. Now, if the same politicians that want to avoid interviews can decide where journalists should have their offices, then that raises more serious questions of general press freedom in Denmark.
The government demand has ultimately led to Radio24Syv closing down when their license expires. So much for press freedom in Denmark, a country where the government is supposed to protect the media from harmful privatization and biased investor interests and it is not supposed to hinder, interfere or otherwise disrupt the free press.
One can only hope, that the public outcry has left a lasting impression on the government and the Danish People’s Party.
Disclaimer: This column is a satirical news commentary and should be understood as such.