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POLITICS

Here’s how many local politicians in Denmark took paid leave

Almost 200 city councillors in Denmark have taken a paid, voluntary leave of absence from work since January 1st 2018.

Here’s how many local politicians in Denmark took paid leave
City Hall in Aarhus. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

A total of 194 local politicians took paid leave in the period, which began following the most recent municipal and regional elections in late 2017.

That means extra costs for municipalities of over 10 million kroner. The extra expenses cover the cost of bringing in a deputy to stand in for an absent representative.

The figures come from an analysis by broadcaster DR of paid leave provisions for municipal politicians.

Municipal politics researcher Roger Buch told DR he was unsurprised by the figures.

Rules allow municipal politicians to take paid leave for either three or nine months, an option that is commonly taken up, Buch said.

Three months of paid leave can be granted for instances including vacation, studying and to cope with the demands of other employment. Nine-month leave periods encompass parental leave and sick leave and require approval from other members of the relevant municipal council.

“If (the leave) is within three months, I don’t think anyone has ever been given a ‘no’. That’s a right you have,” Buch said to DR.

Local politicians taking extended periods of paid leave should be accepted provided that the leave is relevant to their work in the municipality to which they are elected, according to Michael Christiansen, who was head of a 2016 commission looking into salary, pension and working terms for municipal politicians.

“I certainly don’t think leave options should be reduced, but leave should not be paid for when it has no value for the municipality,” Christiansen told DR.

Rules providing for payment of municipal politicians are set out by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Interior. Minister Astrid Kragh said she could understand debate around the issue, and said rules would be scrutinized by her ministry.

“I have initiated work in partnership with [representative bodies] Danske Regioner and Local Government Denmark to look at these rules and see if there is anything we can do to tighten things up. I expect to be able to make some conclusions relatively soon,” Kragh told DR.

The left-wing party Socialist People’s Party (SF) is strongly critical of the paid leave provisions.

“SF wants to bring an end to the lucrative salary, leave and pension rules which politicians in local councils, regional councils and at parliament. One of the rules which is quite clearly unreasonable is the provision for city councillors to receive a salary if they take voluntary leave. We want to revoke this before the new year,” the party’s group spokesperson Jacob Mark said.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about sick leave in Denmark

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DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

Danish politicians consider autumn visit to Taiwan 

Members of the Danish parliament from six different political parties say they would consider travelling to Taiwan after a possible election this autumn.

Danish politicians consider autumn visit to Taiwan 

Representatives from six Danish parties told newspaper Politiken that they are prepared to take part in a possible trip to Taiwan.

The six parties, which encompass both the left and right wings, are the Conservatives, the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), the Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre), the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti, DF), the Liberal (Venstre) party, and the new Denmark Democrats (Danmarksdemokraterne) party. 

“What Taiwan needs now is our support. We must be firm on this – Taiwan should not be isolated in the way that China wants it to be. They must not succeed in that,” Michael Aastrup Jensen, foreign affairs spokesman for the Liberal party (Venstre) told Politiken. 

A group of politicians are already planning a trip to Taiwan in the autumn, Jensen said.

The group of parties includes two close allies of the minority government – the centrist Social Liberals and the left-wing Red Green Alliance.

The foreign affairs spokesperson with the Social Liberals, Martin Lidegaard – a former foreign minister – stressed that such a trip must have a “relevant purpose”, however.

But Karsten Hønge, foreign affairs spokesperson with another left-wing ally of the government, the Socialist People’s Party (Socialistisk Folkeparti, SF), said stirring the pot in Taiwan could cause more harm than good. 

Talk of a Danish visit comes shortly after high-profile visits to China by leading US politicians, including speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

In response to the US visits, China has carried out a number of military exercises close to Taiwan.

A 2019 visit to Taiwan by former DF leader Pia Kjærsgaard resulted in the Chinese Embassy in Copenhagen submitting a complaint to parliament.

Speaking to Politiken, Andreas Bøje Forsby, a researcher of Chinese foreign policy at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), said a visit by Danish politicians to Taiwan would be “risky” in the current climate.

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