Have talks to form new Danish government gone quiet?

After Denmark’s caretaker government last week said talks to form a new administration after the election were likely to last until the end of November, updates from the negotiations have been relatively few.

Have talks to form new Danish government gone quiet?
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen prior to the latest round of negotiations to form a new government. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Negotiations to form a new government in Denmark after the November 1st election are currently “very quiet”, Moderate party leader Lars Løkke Rasmussen told news wire Ritzau on Wednesday.

The talks are being led by acting prime minister Mette Frederiksen after the ‘red bloc’ of left wing parties won a slim majority in the vote.

Like Rasmussen, Frederiksen has said she would prefer a coalition government including both centre-left and centre-right parties.

Talks are expected to last until the last week of November, the government said last week.

Speculation in recent days has suggested an agreement may be forthcoming between Frederiksen’s Social Democrats and the Liberal (Venstre) party, the largest party on the right and traditional rival of the Social Democrats.

Updates from the negotiations have been scarce “partly because everyone is awaiting a signal from the Liberals as to whether the Liberals have licked their wounds enough to be ready to take responsibility, or not,” Rasmussen told Ritzau.

The Liberal party, led by Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, endured a difficult election, losing 10 percent of its vote share and 20 seats from the 2019 election, leaving it with 23 seats. However, it remains the second-largest party in parliament.

Rasmussen also called it “natural” that a government is yet to be formed, more than two weeks after the election.

READ ALSO: No new Danish government expected for ‘at least two weeks’

“I think all of this should be seen in light of some parties not having yet signalled whether they want this,” he said in reference to a coalition across the centre.

The Liberals rejected such a coalition during the election campaign, saying they wanted a more conventional ‘blue bloc’ or conservative government.

But Ellemann-Jensen appears to be coming under pressure from his own party and other conservative parties to reconfirm his position.

That comes after suggestions he could be willing to work with Frederiksen after previously saying he “didn’t trust” the incumbent PM as a result of the 2020 ‘mink scandal’ for which her government was strongly criticised and received official rebukes.

On election night, leading Liberal MP Søren Gade said that partnership with the Social Democrats should not be “automatically” ruled out.

Gade has subsequently been voted in as the new speaker of parliament with Social Democratic support.

Rasmussen said he backs Frederiksen’s intention to work with a candidate “from another place in the political landscape”, calling it “certainly positive”.

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

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Faroe Islands renew fishing quota deal with Russia

Denmark's autonomous Faroe Islands have renewed a fishing quota deal with Russia for one year despite Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, a local minister said on Saturday.

Faroe Islands renew fishing quota deal with Russia

“The Faroe Islands are totally right to extend their existing fishing agreement with Russia,” the North Atlantic archipelago’s minister of fisheries Arni Skaale told the Jyllands-Posten daily.

He added however that the islands, which are not part of the European Union, condemned “all form of war – also the war in Ukraine” after Russian forces invaded in February.

The agreement has been in place since 1977 and is renewable each year.

It lays out catch quotas for cod, haddock, whiting and herring in the Barents Sea north of Russia for Faroese fishermen, and in waters off the coast of the Faroe Islands for Russian fishing boats.

Dependent on fishing

The autonomous territory is highly dependent on fishing for its income, and the fisheries ministry says the deal with Russia covers 5 percent of its GDP.

Russia has become a key commercial partner of the Faroe Islands since they and neighbouring Iceland fell out with the European Union – including Denmark – between 2010 and 2014 over mackerel and herring quotas.

An EU embargo on Faroese fish harmed the economy of the territory, which then turned to other markets.

“Today we only have free trade agreements with six countries – and not with the European Union,” said Skaale.

“If we cut ourselves off from one of these markets, it could be problematic for the whole of the next generation.”

Alternatives to be considered

Authorities on the archipelago have however said they would think about alternatives to the deal with Russia after local parliamentary polls on December 8.

Last month, neighbouring Norway – a NATO member – and Russia also agreed on catch quotas in the Barents Sea for next year.

Home to some 54,000 inhabitants, the Faroe Islands have been largely autonomous from Denmark since 1948.