Update on Denmark  


What is happening in Denmark right now?

Brief historic update on 2003-10 to follow.

 

This page is under reconstruction (September 2010).

 

Oktober-December 2002

The Danish EU- Presidency  comes to an end on December 31. Since the numerous EU-Meetings held between October and December basically are irrelevant with regard to  the referendum issue, we will not deal with them here. During fall, several Danish politicians have argued in favor of a Danish "Super-referendum", going to be held in late 2003 or in 2004. According to these sources, the "Mother of All Danish EU-Referendums" would have the populace vote concerning the four Danish Exceptions (1. Euro, 2. Defense Cooperation, 3. Juridical Cooperation, and 4. EU-Citizenship). Simultaneously, they should vote on the new Europan Constitution. 

So far, however, noting is settled and resolved. 


August-September 2002

So far there have only been minor demonstrations by special interest groups and activists during meetings of EU-ministers and other top politicians in Denmark.

The Social Democrats are at the time of this writing involved in a heated debate whether the former prime minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen should continue as the party's president and its prime minister candidate, or if a new candidate should be found.

Presently it is very difficult to see an alternative to the liberal-conservative government. Few top social democrats would disagree upon this. 

Concerning referendums: No news - neither good nor bad...

May-July 2002

From July to December Denmark is chairing the EU. According to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen the enlargement of the EU has absolute top-priority in that regard.

Therefore, any serious discussion on Danish referendums (i e. on Denmark joining the Euro) will have to wait until, say, spring 2003.

However, to cite Yoda "Come it will ..."
 

February through April 2002

Very little (close to nothing) is happening in the Danish public debate about referendums concerning the EU (Euro, judicial- or/and military cooperation etc.).

According to rumors the Danish Peoples Party of Pia Kjærsgaard is planning to put forward one or several proposals with regard to direct democracy (popular initiative) in parliament. However, so far this has not materialized. 

January 2002

The Foreign minister Per Stig Møller has suggested a new referendum on the Euro to be held during the year 2003. His proposal was immedediately criticized by the NO-campaign folks. It was not commented by the prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Apart from this, very little is presently worth being reported on Denmark. New laws are going to be decided upon in parliament, aimed at reducing the number of immigrants coming to Denmark. About 80% of Danes think that the Danish welfare state cannot handle more 3. world immigrants, arriving in Denmark without any education and being entitled to all Danish welfare goods from the very day they arrive.

December 2001

As you probably have heard in the press, the Danish elections of November 20 changed a lot:  A new liberal-conservative Government was brought into power:  The Liberals got 56 seats (up from 42), the Conservatives 16 (unchanged) and the Peoples Party 22 (up from 13). While the Peoples Party is not part of the Government, they are assumed to support it, at least during the next year or so. The Social Democrates are now in Opposition. The new prime minister is Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who some years ago were interviewed by us with regard to his personal views on Direct Democracy. Specifics on the new government are available at www.folketinget.dk (official site of the Danish Parliament).

November 2001

November 20 is a Danish "Super-Tuesday". On this day there will be:
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Elections for the national parliament ("Folketing") bullet

Regional elections in the 13 counties ("Amter") bullet

Local elections in the 275 rural and urban districts ("Kommuner")

At the moment Denmark is reigned by a minority coalition of Social Democrats and Left Liberals (tolerated by the Peoples Socialist Party and the far left Red/Green Party.

According to polls it seems that there will be a shift in government and that the present prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen will be defeated by his challenger, the oppositions candidate, Anders Fogh Rasmussen from the Right Liberals. Fogh Rasmussen is supported by the Conservatives and (lukewarm however) by the Christian Peoples Party and the Center Democrats. Both of these parties may or may not enforce the 2%-voter threshold hurdle that is necessary for becoming represented in the parliament (with at least four out of 175 seats). As a prime minister Fogh Rasmussen will be tolerated by the Peoples Party of Pia Kjærsgaard. 

Usually the Social Democrats - thanks to their well functioning campaign machine - gain momentum during the last days prior to election day. If this happens once more and if one or both of the small parties fail to become represented (not unlikely at all) Nyrup Rasmussen may be able to continue as prime minister. His chances will improve assumed that, say 1.8% of conservative prone voters will vote the extreme right Progress Party, led by the former tax-rebel Mogens Glistrup. However, assumed that the Red/Green party misses the 2% target, Mr. Nyrup will be in real trouble. 

Regardless if the present government continues or we get a new liberal-conservative government, very little will change. It is believed thought, that we will have one or several referendums with regard to the Danish exceptions from the Maastricht Treaty (se October) in 2002 or 2003.

October 2001

Shortly after the NY terrorist attack, several leading Danish politicians argued that Denmark better give up it's reservations regarding full EU membership.  So far Denmark does neither take part in the EURO, in Defense, nor in Police cooperation. If Denmark is to be a "full" member, it is assumed that the above reservations need to be discarded. According to the Danish constitution this can only be done by way of a new referendum.

So that is what the political elite is working on right now...

September 2001

The Federal Budget has to pass parliament during the next months. If the government fails to get an appropriate approval, most journalists and political observers believe that the prime minister will use his constitutional right to call for popular elections (due march 2002 the latest).

So far, no referendum is in sight. Indeed, the foreign minister, Mogens Lykketoft has publicly stated that he opposes "negative referendums" like the Danish no to the Euro last year and the recent Irish no to the Nice Treaty (Jyllands Posten, June 17 2001). Elsewhere he has stated that a new referendum will have to wait until there is an overwhelming probability that the outcome will be positive (a comfortable yes majority according to polls). Mogens Lykketoft appears on the photo of the latest minister-appointments - scroll down a few screens.

August 2001

Due to the holiday period, the political debate in Denmark is virtually nonexistent. W expect the debate to start again in October, when the prime minister opens the new legislative year.

July 2001

During the holidays some politicians have reopened a discussion with regard to changing the Danish Constitution. Why? Well, the present constitution's §20 prohibits the transition of decisional power to international bodies like the EU "beyond a specified level" (whatever that means!). According to some experts on constitutional issues this paragraph will cause trouble, assumed that the government wants Denmark to keep pace with the ongoing European Integration (establishment of federal bodies etc). However, changing the Danish Constitution is a very cumbersome process, involving popular elections, a referendum where 30% of the voting populace support the amendment (This indicates that 30% of Denmark's four million voters must vote "yes") etc. 

May/June 2001

The referendum at the island of Bornholm was held on Wednesday 29 May.  Approximately 80% of the electorate cast their votes. About 75% of voters favored the preposition (to merge the five counties to a single one). So, within the next years the now 102 local politicians will be replaced by about 25 regional politicians. 

 

April 2001

There will be no referendum in Denmark on the Nice-Treaty (unlike in Ireland). At the time of this writing, no national referendum is within sight. 

There will be at least one local referendum in 2001, though: The people of the island of Bornholm will have to decide whether the five counties of the island are to be merged into a single one. The island of Bornholm is placed in the Baltic Sea between Southern Sweden and Eastern Germany and has about 50.000 inhabitants.

The referendum is going to take place during the summer 2001.  


February-March 2001

The political leadership of the Faroe Islands (Færøerne) recently suggested that a referendum be held on the island's sovereignty. Today the island, placed in the Northern Atlantic, is a part of the Danish Kingdom. The island has about 40.000 inhabitants. However, the intended referendum was cancelled when the Danish prime minister Nyrup Rasmussen announced that the annual Danish subsidy (presently at about 150 mio USD) would immediately be reduced and completely cancelled within a few years - assumed that the Faroe Island's people voted in favor of sovereignty. 


January 2001

As reported (below), the Danish cabinet has changed. The new Foreign Minister, Mogens Lykketoft, is a Social Democrat and close personal friend of Prime Minister Nyrup Rasmussen. As a matter of fact, they have both been married to the same female (Lykketoft married her years after Nyrup divorced her). Today Lykketoft is married to the former Minister of Culture, Jytte Hilden. Nyrup and Lykketoft also share ownership of a summer cottage. 

In the Danish Press and even amongst politicians belonging to the ruling parties, there has been heavy criticism regarding the appointment of some of the new ministers. The Minister of Foreign Aid, Anita Bay Bundegaard (Left Liberal) was completely unknown prior to being appointed. Four times she unsuccessfully tried to become elected to both the Danish Parliament and to the European Parliament. She never even came close to becoming elected to one of these offices. At the recent Danish parliamentary election in 1998 she got 151 personal votes - less than you need to become elected to the town council of most Danish towns! The most important reason for appointing her, so the rumor goes, is that she is a very close personal friend of the Left Liberal Minister of Education, Margrethe Vestager (herself not a member of parliament). Moreover, Mrs Bundegaard years ago served as a personal secretary of the Minister of Economy, Marianne Jelved (Left Liberal). 

From left to right: Lotte Bundsgaard, Nyrup Rasmussen, Anita Bay Bundegaard, Pia Gjellerup (New minister of Social Affairs, former Minister of Business), and Mogens Lykketoft


Mrs. Bundegaard virtually left politics after the last - unsuccessful - election for a job as a journalist at the big Danish Daily Politiken (editor of letters to the editor). She is said not to have visited any partisan meeting or done any work for the party for years. It is no wonder therefore, that a lot of hard working and loyal Left Liberal politicians are angry and disappointed. They feel that it is unjust and not correct that a "free-rider" suddenly can become minister (is it because she is young - in her thirties - and quite good looking?). 

According to a journalist the top management of the Ministry of Foreign Aid fought desperately to find a picture of Mrs. Bundegaard on the net on the very morning they learned about her appointment. Otherwise they feared that they would be unable to recognize their new political head at the reception that was to be held a few hours later during the same day!  

The new Minister of Ecclesial Affairs, Johannes Lehbech (Left Liberal as well) has also unsuccessfully tried to become elected to both the Danish parliament and to the EU parliament about four times. However, he was at least serving as a national VP of the Party at the time when he became appointed. 

The new Minister of Cities and Housings, Lotte Bundsgaard (Social Democrat) is the youngest Minister in Danish history (she is only 27 years and also good looking). Years ago, when Mrs. Ritt Bjerregaard left Danish Politics for becoming EU Commissioner for Environment (Santer Commission), Mrs. Bundsgaard "inherited" Mrs. Bjerregaards electional district. Mrs. Bjerregaard - former Minister of Social Affairs and Education, presently Minister of Food Products - has always been an still is a highly popular politician on the Island of Funen, where she has been a candidate since the early nineteen-seventies. 

Therefore, as one political analyst recently joked, the Social Democrats could probably get even a mad cow elected in that district. Why? - Partially because Mrs. Bjerregaard left a Social Democratic stronghold and partially because many voters maybe did not even recognize that "Bjerregaard" and "Bundsgaard" were different persons. The latter statement is probably a joke. However, years back a completely unknown Danish politician was elected for a county parliament with a huge number of personal votes - by far more votes that he could honestly expect to receive (he was placed far down the list, ranking as no. 19 on the ballot). - So, why was he elected? - Because voters confused him with a well known former Danish minister and long time mayor of a nearby city. The popular politician shared both the first and the second name with the unknown politician! However the former minister and mayor was not running for office at the present election...

Since Mrs. Bundsgaard has only been an MP for 2½ years it is easy understandable that many long time and hard working Social Democratic MPs, several of them definitely capable, are angry and frustrated of being bypassed in the appointment decision and being overhauled by this young female "greenhorn." 


Danish referendum on the Nice Treaty not likely

Early in January the Peoples Socialist Party decided to support the Nice Treaty. This is remarkable because the party was campaigning strongly against the Euro during last Fall's referendum campaign on the Euro. While the pro-Euro side and the federalist parties applauded this shift in policy toward the EU, they immediately started criticizing the socialists because they simultaneously argued in favor of a Danish popular referendum on the Nice treaty. According to the Minister of Economy, Mrs. Jelved, "It is not fair to abolish representative democracy because the world is changing" (sic!). Several other top politicians have argued against a referendum because "It is too risky", "The referendum might be lost" etc. - Note the arguments! 

So far it is unprobable that a referendum will be held this time. Presently the treaty is being proof-read by the Government's top juridical advisers. According to the Danish constitution (§20) a compulsory referendum has to be held if 
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Denmark transfers a certain amount of  national sovereignty to an international body and bullet

If there is not a 5/6 majority in the Danish parliament.

Danish juridical scholars do not at all agree upon how "a certain amount" is to be understood. When the actual Danish constitution was put in force in 1953, the EU did not at all exist. No wonder then that the founding fathers of the constitution did not include §20 with reference to the EU. They wanted Denmark to be able to transfer a limited amount of sovereignty to the United Nations, to organizations related to the UN (WHO, UNESCO etc.), to the Red Cross etc.

 

December 2000

On Wednesday, December 20, the long time Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen (1993-2000) suddenly resigned. During a local press conference he admitted that he resigned because he was not able to act as a foreign minister as long as Denmark has exceptions concerning the EU-Treaty. In fact, he found that the exceptions were in conflict with Danish interests. 



Niels Helveg Petersen


When the Danish voters rejected the Maastricht-Treaty back in 1992, Danish politicians came up with four exceptions (areas of EU-cooperation where Denmark was not to participate): 1. The Common Currency, 2. Defense, 3. Justice, and 4. EU-Citizenship. They politicians assumed that these exceptions would enhance the probability of a voter acceptance at a new referendum on the issue. And they where right, since the so-called Edinburgh-Treaty was OK'ed by 57% of Danish voters back in 1993.   

Presently, (Winter 2000/2001) the overwhelming majority of Danish parliamentarians favor the abolishment of all four exceptions. However, due to the Danish Constitution, a popular referendum must be held concerning each of the exceptions prior to their abolishment. When the Danish electorate rejected the Euro on September 28th 2000, the Danish political Elite "lost" the first of the four referendums, thus also loosing the appetite with regard to having the electorate voting on the other three exceptions (let alone voting once more on the Euro).

When the foreign minister announced his resignation, the Prime Minister Nyrup Rasmussen had to rearrange his cabinet (during the same days, the Minister of Defense, Klaus Hækkerup, was appointed head of the UN-mission in Bosnia, thus necessitating the appointment of a new Minister of Defense).  

Therefore, Nyrup Rasmussen on December 21 rearranged the cabinet. The former Minister of Finance, Mogens Lykketoft, was appointed new Foreign Minister, while the former Minister of Foreign Aid, Jan Trøjborg, was appointed Minister of Defense (apart from this, several ministers were fired, newly appointed, or received new responsibilities - not reported here).
 

What happened in the Months following the Election (October-November 2000)

During the days after the Danish "no" to the Euro, the yes-side was quite paralyzed. Frustrated by the defeat they were reluctantly forced to recognize that the turnout was close to 90%.

Moreover, it was a one sided campaign: while the no side had no problems delivering their message to the media, the vast majority of politicians, experts, artist, industrial managers and editorials of newspapers strongly favored a yes vote. So, basically, the elite lost while the people "won".

Presently, the debate in Denmark deals with what will happen in the coming years. While the politicians from the yes-camp the day after the referendum stated that there would be no decision on joining the Euro in Denmark for "many years", they soon forgot that promise.  Now, it is discussed when we will have to vote again. The opposition leader (Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Right Liberals) has stated that a new referendum may be held within four years. 

The Danish cabinet will probably be reconstructed during the next days, because the minister of Defense Hans Hækkerup has been appointed UN administrator of Kosovo by Kofi Annan. It is believed that prime minister Nyrup Rasmussen will use this event as a welcome excuse for firing some ministers and appoint some new ones, thus bringing in fresh-blood. That is much needed since the present Government of Social Democrats and Left Liberals are struggling with very poor and disappoint approval ratings according to polls.


Nice-Treaty

The yes-camp fears that the Nice-Treaty will necessitate a new referendum in Denmark. This happens when sovereignty is transferred from Denmark to the EU. The referendum may be triggered if the Nice-treaty rules that all issues dealing with social security and labor market are subject to the majority decision procedure (today these issues are due to an unanimous procedure). So far, it does not seem that these issues will be due to the majority decision procedure.

Another problem may arise when EU agrees upon a charter of human rights and when this carter is supposed to set aside (overrule) the Danish constitution. Then, once more, a referendum may be necessitated. Some argue that even the Danish constitution needs to be changed if this is the case. Changing the Danish Constitution (§ 88) is a very difficult procedure, because it involves both a separate parliamentary election and a referendum (with a quorum of 40% approval of the whole electorate). There is a good chance that the prime minister and government prior to that procedure is not the same than the one after it is finished (assumed that the referendum at all surpasses the quorum, which it did not in 1939!).

At the time of this update (December 11) it does not seem that the Nice-Treaty necessitates a new Danish Referendum. A few paragraphs concerning European Patents are causing some concern amongst experts: Provided that Denmark acknowledges the precedence of the European Patent Office over the Danish Patent Office, then this implies that we hand over sovereignty to a supernational body. In such a case the Danish Constitution's §20 prescribes that a referendum be held (unless there is a 5 out of 6 majority in the Danish parliament). So far, Danish politicians and experts argue, that even if this issue will bee deemed in conflict with §20, then we can postpone a referendum until the law needs to be enacted in Denmark, which is years ahead. 

It is conventional wisdom amongst main political parties that the other elements of the Nice-treaty "do not cause any problems" concerning a new referendum. This means that a new referendum will not be necessary.  

When the Danish chief-negotiater spoke with the Danish press some days ago, it became quite clear that he regarded a Danish referendum on the Nice-Treaty as "a problem" that needed to be circumvented if by any means possible. He used the word "problem" but he was speaking out of serious concern and it is no doubt that he regarded a referendum as a "threat"! Definitely not as a new and welcome opportunity to involve and engage the "confused and backwards" Danish voters.

A more theoretical problem relates to the equal treatment and non-discrimination of citizens due to religious preferences and beliefs. The Danish Constitution's §4 states that protestant (Evangelic-Lutheran) church is the Danish peoples church and as such is subsided by the state. §6 states that the Danish king shall be a member of the Evangelic-Lutheran church. Note, that almost all Danes are member of the church. Every member pays a church-tax (about 1% of the taxable income), that is collected together with the annual income tax form (it physically appears on the form).


What do recent polls tell?


A few recent polls provide an update on what the people think with regard to the recent Danish no to the Euro:

 
   
bullet54% of the voters think that the no constitutes a victory for Danish democracy (only 21% find it was bad for democracy)
bullet23% think the no implies that our democracy is in a state of crises (59% disagree)
bullet80% of voters do not think that the EU should be commissioned to interfere into the national politics of member countries (like they did in the case of Austria early in 2000). Assumed that this is to be mandated by the Nice-Treaty, then 71% think that Denmark should oppose it by using the veto-remedy.
bullet50-60% do not want issues like taxes and social security to be decided upon by majority within the Council of Ministers. They still favor an unanimous decision making concerning such issues.
bulletOnly 27% think the politicians have been honest in handling (accepting) the no. 51% do not think they have reacted in an honest manner.