Danish Social Liberals press for more foreign labour in government talks

The centre-left Social Liberal party, a potential partner in a new coalition government, says it wants Denmark to increase its foreign workforce.

Danish Social Liberals press for more foreign labour in government talks
Martin Lidegaard, Katrine Robsøe and Samira Nawa (R) of the Social Liberal party at parliament on Thursday. The party wants Denmark to attract more foreign labour. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

Thursday’s talks over a new Danish government focused on the economy,  including how ongoing inflation should be responded to.

The Social Liberals, a financially liberal party which is progressive on social issues, wants more foreign labour to help bolster the economy be easing a labour shortage that is currently affecting the private and public sectors.

“It is still far too difficult for Denmark’s businesses to bring foreign labour to Denmark. There are trip wires everywhere, and we have a whole catalogue of proposals,” Social Liberal leader Martin Lidegaard said ahead of talks on Thursday.

“But this is actually also about the foreign labour we already have in Denmark, which is sitting and twiddling its thumbs at asylum centres or waiting for permission for family reunification with a Danish citizen,” he said.

“Today [under current rules] they are not allowed to work. Why is that?”, he said.

READ ALSO: How the dizzying cost of family reunification keeps Danes and foreign partners apart

The Social Liberals are one of three parties – the others are the Moderates and the Social Democrats – to be actively pursuing a centrist coalition government following last week’s election.

Because the Social Democrats are the largest party and their leader, caretaker prime minister Mette Frederiksen, is leading the talks, such a government remains a likely outcome of the election despite being a rare occurrence generally in Danish politics.

Earlier this week, Lidegaard said he wanted a new government to include the parties behind the “national compromise” political agreement from March this year. The agreement was backed by parties spanning the left and right of the Danish political centre.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s Social Liberal party calls for ‘national compromise’ government

“Maybe the most important message today is: Let’s get the negotiations progressing and try to create a strong, Danish broad government,” Lidegaard said on Thursday.

Currently, 11 of the 12 parliamentary parties remain involved in talks. Only the national conservative Denmark Democrats have so far withdrawn.

“In a way, there’s something very beautiful about the fact that everyone is still there and wants to be part of the process. But it’s certain that at some point, of course we have to move forwards,” Lidegaard said.

READ ALSO: Is there any progress on talks to form Danish government?

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Lawyers criticise Danish parliament for ‘special treatment’ of party leader

Two lawyers have accused parliament of double standards for deciding not to legally pursue Alex Vanopslagh, the leader of the Liberal Alliance party, after he was found to have breached rules relating to apartments provided to MPs.

Lawyers criticise Danish parliament for ‘special treatment’ of party leader

Parliament’s decision not to take Vanopslagh’s case to the courts suggests that the public and politicians are not equal before the law, according to two lawyers who spoke to broadcaster DR.

As an elected member of parliament, Liberal Alliance leader Vanopslagh was provided with a free apartment in Copenhagen and given parliamentary subsidies for “double household” (dobbelt husførelse) because he was registered as living at an address in Struer, West Jutland.

It later emerged he did not genuinely use the Struer address as his home and had thereby broken the rules. He later paid back the subsidies in full and returned the Copenhagen apartment.

“I’m not for one second in doubt that if this had been a municipal case, the municipality would have asked for the money back and reported him to the police,” lawyer Mads Pramming, a benefit fraud specialist, told broadcaster DR.

In 2019, parliament – including Liberal Alliance – voted for stricter rules on benefit fraud, including obliging municipalities to report certain types of cases to the police.

“It looks a bit funny that parliament is enacting strict control to prevent the public being paid money they are not entitled to, and giving municipalities an obligation to report it. And when it then comes to parliament itself, things are a lot less strict,” Pramming told DR.

Struer Municipality has ruled that Vanopslagh broke CPR (central person registration) rules by not living in Struer enough between 2020 and 2022 for it to be deemed his actual residence, as he claimed at the time.

Two left-wing parties, Red Green Alliance and Alternative, have called for the Præsidium – speaker’s council – in parliament to consider whether Vanopslagh should be prosecuted over the issue.

The speaker of parliament, Søren Gade, has told DR that the case will not be taken further. A previous case from 2015 has been cited as precedent for the decision.

A second lawyer, Michael Bjørn Hansen, called that stance “absurd” in comments to the broadcaster. Hansen also has expertise in benefit fraud cases.

“Based on some kind of objective consideration, this is certainly benefit fraud. Because he has cheated on some rules and received public benefits which he is not entitled to,” he said.

Equal status before the law “is not present here” unless parliament files a report with police, he argued.

“This is different to the demands parliament is making on municipalities,” he said.

The Præsidium is responsible for managing Denmark’s 179 lawmakers. Five members of parliament sit on the council, with the speaker being the senior member.

Vanopslagh has admitted to wrongdoing in the “double home” scandal and said his knowledge of the rules had been lacking.

“It’s my fault, I made a mistake. But other people make the judgement and say what I have to pay back,” he said earlier this week.

A number of legal experts previously told newspaper Dagbladet Information that the matter should be investigated by the police.

Vanopslagh received a total of around 75,000 kroner to which he was not entitled, according to DR.