Danish MP denies ‘Nazi reference’ after widespread criticism

Morten Østergaard, the leader of Denmark’s Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party, has denied a phrase he used to describe political opponents had deliberate connotations with Nazism.

Danish MP denies 'Nazi reference' after widespread criticism
Morten Østergaard. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

In an interview with newspaper Børsen, Østergaard criticised Mette Frederiksen, leader of the Social Democrats and an erstwhile political ally, for announcing her party would not seek to govern in coalition with Østergaard’s Social Liberals.

The announcement by Frederiksen increases the possibility of closer collaboration between the Social Democrats and right-wing Danish People’s Party.

Østergaard described such a potential combination as a “red-brown cabinet”.

“A red-brown cabinet like this, with a Social Democratic government with the Socialist People’s Party [smaller left-wing party, ed.] and Danish People’s Party – would they be capable of strengthening society,” he said to Børsen.

The use of the expression “red-brown” was subsequently flagged as being associated with Nazism and the brown shirts worn by the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party.

Historians, as well as politicians from the Social Democrats, Socialist People’s Party, Danish Party and the Liberal party, the senior partner in the government, all criticised the wording used by Østergaard.

Socialist People’s Party leader Pia Olsen Dyhr wrote in a tweet that Østergaard was “desperate”, ostensibly in reference to the decision by her party and the Social Democrats to align themselves more closely to the Danish People’s Party.

Dyhr also wrote that she was “shocked and quite angry”, adding that the reference was “ahistorical”.

Frederiksen, in an appearance on the Deadline news programme on national broadcaster DR2, said that Østergaard should “stick to political discussion”.

“My basic feeling is that that if we politicians do not show respect for each other and are civil, we cannot ask the Danish population to respect us. So I will not be debating in this way,” she said.

In statements made to newspapers Berlingske and Kristeligt Dagblad, Østergaard denied he had intentionally made the connection.

“What unites these parties is some very left-wing economic policies and right-wing immigration policy. This is not about the past, it’s about the future. That’s all there is to it,” he told the two newspapers via text message.

Speaking on DR radio station P1 on Friday, Østergaard said that the combination of parties can be called “red-yellow, if that’s how it should be”.

“My point is, listen to want I’m saying. Listen to what I said. It’s [about] left-wing economic policies and right-wing values,” he said, adding that he considered the outrage over the issue to be an “intentional misunderstanding”.

READ ALSO: Social Democrats go it alone in break with allies over immigration

For members


KEY POINTS: What is in Denmark’s 2023 budget proposal?

Denmark’s coalition government presented on Thursday a new budget proposal in which it said it was “stepping on the brakes” on state spending.

KEY POINTS: What is in Denmark’s 2023 budget proposal?

Danish budgets are usually tabled and eventually adopted during the autumn, but last year’s election disrupted the normal timetable.

The proposed budget, given the title “A Responsible Way Forward” (En ansvarlig vej frem) was presented by ministers from the three coalition parties on Thursday: Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen, acting Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen and Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt.

A cautious economic approach to spending is needed given global circumstances including the war in Ukraine, inflation and last year’s energy crisis, Wammen said.

“Even though a lot of things look good when we look at the Danish economy, that doesn’t change where we are. Uncertain times,” he said.

Engel-Schmidt added that some might describe the proposed budget as “boring”, given that it “doesn’t bring a shower of presents”.

Key points from the proposed budget are outlined below. The proposal will go into negotiations with other parties in parliament before being voted through in its final form.

Inflation assistance to lower income groups 

Last year saw the highest inflation rate for 40 years in Denmark, and the effects will still be felt in 2023 even if the inflation percentages themselves are less severe.

Although the government wants to “step on the brakes”, it has still set aside 2.4 billion kroner for financial assistance to people vulnerable to rising prices.

Some 1.1 billion kroner will be spent on 5,000 kroner “cheques” for elderly persons who receive social welfare. People who have high medicine costs and students who receive subsidies because they must provide for others, such as single parents (SU-forsørgertillæg) are also among groups to be assisted with the inflation spending.

READ ALSO: Danish government agrees inflation package for vulnerable families 

‘Acute plan’ for hospitals

An agreement with regional health authorities on an “acute” spending plan to address the most serious challenges faced by the health services has already been agreed, providing 2 billion kroner by the end of 2024.

The agreement was announced by the government along with regional and municipal officials in February.

READ ALSO: What exactly is wrong with the Danish health system?

‘Lower than ever’ reserve fund

A so-called “negotiation reserve” (forhandlingsreserve), a pool of money in the budget that can be allocated at a later date based on agreements between parties, has been significantly cut to 200 million kroner.

A 2023 budget proposal from August last year, which was not adopted due to the election, had the fund at 600 million kroner. The reserve has been as high as 1.5 billion kroner in the past, according to broadcaster DR’s report on Thursday’s proposal.

The previous, single-party Social Democratic government was reported to favour mental health services and the elderly as areas which could benefit from the fund in 2023.

The lower amount is partly due to the shorter timescale of this year’s budget. The 2024 budget will be proposed and passed in late 2023 under the regular timetable.

“There are still things we can prioritise but we are asking you to take responsibility to get Denmark through while inflation is still a major challenge,” Wammen said.

Spending on courts system

Some 32.2 million kroner has been put aside to specifically target a reduction in waiting times for court dates, DR writes. The money is part of a larger amount, 185 million kroner, to be spent on the courts.

Denmark’s courts system has in recent years seen a rising number of criminal cases and lengthy processing times.

Broadband internet to get boost in rural spending

The “broadband fund” or bredbåndspulje will get an additional 100 million kroner to improve coverage in areas that still have patchy connection.

Another 100 million kroner will go into the landsbypulje or “Village Fund”, giving rural municipalities funding for demolition or renovation of deteriorated buildings.


A majority in parliament has already voted in favour of a seven-billion kroner fund in 2023 to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion.

The fund will be spent on Danish military, civilian and commercial assistance to Ukraine.

Part of the spending is funded by Denmark’s international development budget, while over 5 billion comes from spending an increased portion of the national GDP on the 2023 budget.

READ ALSO: Denmark announces seven-billion kroner Ukraine fund