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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
Danish ministers and officials will now be required to keep a record of work related texts. Photo by Alicia Christin Gerald on Unsplash

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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POLITICS

Danish Liberal party demands ‘high ambitions’ from Social Democrats

Liberal (Venstre) party leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen has said ambitions “above normal” should be aimed for in talks to form a government across the political centre.

Danish Liberal party demands ‘high ambitions’ from Social Democrats

On December 6th, ongoing negotiations to form a government will tie the all-time record for Denmark’s longest ever with the 35-day negotiation of 1975.

But the Liberal party is still holding out for more concessions from Frederiksen and the Social Democrats, its leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said after another major party on the right, the Conservatives, quit the talks over the weekend.

“The Liberals will continue negotiations with the Social Democrats in the coming days,” Ellemann-Jensen wrote on Twitter.

“If the Liberals are to commit to an agreement with the Social Democrats – whether in opposition or in government – the content of that agreement should be above the usual level of political ambition,” he said.

Ellemann-Jensen has cited to changes to the top tax bracket as a party priority, though that’s been a non-starter for the Social Democrats. 

The Liberals also hope to lower inheritance tax as well as income taxes for Denmark’s most modest earners, newswire Ritzau reports.

The withdrawal of the Conservatives means the Liberals are the only party on the right who could realistically enter government with the Social Democrats.

Six of the 12 parties elected to parliament at the election now remain in government talks with the Social Democrats.

These are the Liberals, Liberal Alliance and Danish People’s Party from the ‘blue bloc’ and the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) and Socialist People’s Party (SF), from the red bloc side. The centrist Moderates are the final party.

READ MORE: ‘Topskat’: What is Denmark’s high income tax bracket?

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