For members


How an accidental email has put Denmark’s government in a spot of bother

An internal Social Democrat email, ostensibly planning a media attack on the opposition Liberals as a negotiation strategy, has caused a stir after being accidentally sent to a journalist.

How an accidental email has put Denmark's government in a spot of bother
Senior Liberal politicians Sophie Løhde (L) and Troels Lund Poulsen (C) have criticized the government over the leaked strategy. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix

What exactly is going on here?

Have you ever written a furious email about your boss and then accidentally sent it to your boss? Or a text to your friend in which you say you’re going to break things off with a date, before unintentionally sending it as a reply to a text from the date? Then you’ll know the feeling of horror probably experienced by a Social Democrat staffer this weekend. It goes right to the depths of your stomach.

So what did they send?

An email about negotiating strategy in government talks with the opposition Liberals over a proposal to recalibrate state spending across municipalities, known in Danish as udligningsreformen.

According to reports, an email outlining strategy for the talks over the coming week – including a planned attack on the Liberals in the media – was not only sent to the ministers, spin doctors and party staff for whom it was intended, but also (accidentally) to a journalist at Jyllands-Posten. Seemingly, this was an innocent mistake. Oops.

Why is it a big deal?

The cloak-and-dagger tone of the email has riled politicians from other parties, not least the Liberals. It outlines instructions for “attacks” on the opposition party ad encourages the press advisor to finance minister Nicolai Wammen to find “stories on” the Liberals based on answers given during the negotiations, according to Politiken’s report of the fall-out.

The email outlines a “daily effort on Twitter, offensively and defensively” during the talks. The finance ministry, interior ministry and the prime minister's office are all reported to have been involved in coordination of the strategy.

And the fallout?

This is Denmark, so any political outrage against the government will probably feel measured and proportionate, depending on your basis for comparison. But the Liberals have had some choice words for their counterparts in the municipal spending negotiations.

According to Ritzau, the Liberals have accused the government of making the talks “completely toxic”, in a strongly-worded statement. They have also demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

“You must at least expect the prime minister to face up and distance herself from the way some government ministers are negotiating,” finance spokesperson Troels Lund Poulsen said. Political spokesperson Sophie Løhde called the government’s tactics a “double-play in disguise”.

Is that it?

Despite its apparently clumsy origins, the matter could be a damaging one for the government, which is negotiating with the Liberals, a traditional political rival, over a key domestic policy for the first time since being elected last year. Being able to land agreements across the aisle is key for Mette Frederiksen’s minority government, which does not want to solely rely on left-wing parties to pass laws.

Social Democrat finance spokesperson Christian Rabjerg, in comments to Jyllands-Posten, denied a breakdown in trust between the parties after the leaked mail.

“There is no reason to be concerned that we could compromise confidentiality, which must of course be kept,” Rabjerg told the newspaper.

“The internal mail is written in direct language and expresses itself in a different way than you normally would. If anyone feels offended, I’ll be the first to apologise,” he said.

READ ALSO: Here's how many local politicians in Denmark took paid leave

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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