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MINKS

Danish PM ‘grossly misled’ during 2020 mink announcement

An official inquiry has found that Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen “grossly misled” at a November 4th 2020 press briefing when she announced that all Denmark’s captive mink population must be culled, according to initial reports of the commission’s findings.

Danish PM 'grossly misled' during 2020 mink announcement
An official Danish commission on Thursday submitted its report into the 2020 decision to cull fur farm mink.

Several million mink were culled following the government decision in early November 2020, which was made amid concerns that mutated versions of Covid-19 could emerge from the animals and threaten the effectiveness of vaccines against the coronavirus.

The government order to cull the minks was later found to have no legal basis.

A commission was subsequently appointed to lead an official inquiry into the scandal and was due to submit its conclusions on Thursday.

The commission concluded that Frederiksen’s announcements “objectively seen, were grossly misleading”, news wire Ritzau reports.

The conclusions have not yet been made public but have been partly leaked to broadcasters DR and TV2.

The commission also said that Frederiksen “did not have knowledge about of the intention of” misleading, meaning she was not aware that the legal basis for the decision was not in place, according to the reports.

It is not the duty of the commission to make a legal assessment of whether ministers acted intentionally or recklessly.

Parliament has the responsibility for final conclusions, meaning that the minority Social Democratic government’s allied parties on the left wing are likely to have a decisive say in whether the matter is taken forward, following the submission of the commission’s report.

Potential consequences for Frederiksen could take the form of an official reprimand, known as a næse, or the appointment of a special impeachment court, a rare occurrence in Danish politics.

Frederiksen is currently attending a Nato summit in Madrid and was not expected to comment on the matter on Thursday. Earlier this week, she said she “did not believe there was basis for an impeachment court” over the mink scandal.

Denmark was the world’s leading exporter of mink fur until it decided in November 2020 to cull all its 15-17 million minks, after studies suggested that a variant found in some of the animals could jeopardise the effectiveness of future vaccines.

The variant was later considered to have been eradicated before a compensation package worth billions of kroner was agreed for the farmers.

The original order by the government to cull the mink was shown to have been illegal shortly after the initial culling order was given, resulting in one of the biggest scandals in modern Danish politics.

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MINKS

Denmark issues ban on ministers and officials from deleting texts

The Ministry of Justice has published new temporary rules for storage of text messages at ministries following controversy by an official inquiry.

Denmark issues ban on ministers and officials from deleting texts

The recently-published report by the Mink Commission, appointed to scrutinise the government’s 2020 decision to cull fur farm mink – later found to have been made without legal basis – criticised officials for deleting SMS messages that would have provided important context in the inquiry.

During the inquiry, the commission found that Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and several other officials had their mobile telephones set to automatically delete texts. That resulted in the commission being unable to see them.

The justice ministry has now set out new interim rules for storage of SMS communications, it said in a statement.

READ ALSO: What did Danish mink inquiry conclude and what happens next?

The new rules and guidelines are intended to ensure that ministries keep records of work-related text messages on devices used by ministers, special advisors and heads of department.

The texts must also be retained if officials switch to a new device or leave their positions.

Interim rules have been put in place because of “the timescale for clarification of the technical options for central and user-independent storage of SMS messages”, which will eventually be put in place to “ensure uniform practice”, the ministry said.

A uniform process for storing texts sent in an official capacity “takes time to develop”, Justice Minister Mattias Tesfaye said in the statement.

“We don’t have the solution [in place] today. That’s why it’s good that we now have temporary guidelines that we can use for now,” he said.

The Mink Commission last week published a 4,500-page report in which it found fault with Frederiksen, who, it said, made “grossly misleading” statements about the legal basis of the mink cull at a November 2020 press conference. 

It was not the duty of the commission to make a legal assessment of whether Frederiksen or other ministers and officials acted intentionally or recklessly.

Potential consequences for Frederiksen could have resulted in an independent legal assessment of the scandal, which could in turn have led to the appointment of a special impeachment court, a rare occurrence in Danish politics but used as recently as last year.

This does not now appear to be on the cards after the centre-left Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party said it did not back an independent legal assessment, meaning this move would not have the parliamentary majority it would need to go ahead.

The Social Liberals have, however, threatened to forward a motion of no confidence in the government if Frederiksen does not call a snap general election by October 4th.

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