Contentious ag bill creates Danish government crisis

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Contentious ag bill creates Danish government crisis
Food and Agriculture Minister Eva Kjer Hansen was grilled at a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Scanpix

An agriculture bill expected to pass parliament on Thursday has set off a major political drama within the Danish government.


Agriculture Minister Eva Kjer Hansen has been at the centre of controversy for weeks, accused of using questionable calculation methods in order to make a new ag bill appear ‘greener’ by minimizing its impacts on the environment. 
Hansen was also accused of building the ag bill by essentially copying the plans of an agricultural lobby group verbatim. The bill, among other things, will give farmers the ability to use significantly more fertlizer than they currently do, creating concerns about the pollution of ground water. 
The minister has countered that the experts don't know what they are talking about. 
"If the researchers would have delivered this at a university, they would have failed," Hansen said about a hearing statement on the ag bill written by University of Copenhagen researchers. 
The criticism hit its crescendo on Tuesday, when a long line of experts used a parliamentary hearing to contradict Hansen and her questionable environmental calculations. 
By the end of the day, government support party the Conservatives had moved to back a vote of no confidence in the minister. 
“The minister has not lived up to her responsibility. This is despite repeated requests from our side to do so. The minister hasn’t been willing to live up to it and therefore we no longer have confidence in the minister,” Conservative leader Søren Pape Poulsen said at a Tuesday night press conference. 
Despite the Conservatives' lack of confidence in Hansen, the party still plans to back the agriculture bill – a stance that fellow members within the 'blue bloc' have a hard time understanding. 
"I think there are many Danes that are surprised by that," Danish People's Party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl told Politiken. 
The minority Venstre government is heavily reliant on the Conservatives' mandates so PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen called the leaders of the blue bloc parties into an emergency meeting on Tuesday night. 
“I’ve called the leaders of the blue parties to a meeting at 9pm. Then we’ll see if the government still has a majority to rule…” Rasmussen wrote on Twitter. 
After a three hour meeting, Hansen emerged at midnight still holding her position as the food and agriculture minister, but many think it may be just a matter of time until she’s shown the door. 
Poulsen made it clear that his party wants Hansen out as minister. 
“We don’t think that the public has been given an accurate picture [of the ag bill’s implications, ed.]. Therefore we have said that we don’t have confidence in the minister. That’s where we stand,” he told Jyllands-Posten early on Wednesday. 
Asked if he expected Hansen to show up for work on Wednesday, Poulsen said “you’d have to ask the prime minister that.” 
As of 9am on Wednesday, Rasmussen had not made any public statements about the situation but both Venstre and the Conservatives are expected to hold group meetings on Wednesday, followed by another parliamentary hearing with Hansen at 2pm – if she’s still the food and agriculture minister at that time. 



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