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Today in Denmark: A roundup of the news on Thursday

Under-strain emergency departments turn patients away, what the Liberal party wants from government negotiations, and a carbon tax for Danish agriculture are among the top news stories in Denmark on Thursday.

Today in Denmark: A roundup of the news on Thursday
Now that a CO2 tax on Danish agriculture seems likely, industry representatives want a seat at the negotiation table. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Danish emergency departments turn patients away 

Emergency departments at two hospitals in Zealand have become so overwhelmed they’ve needed to reroute patients to other hospitals for hours at a time, broadcaster DR reports.

On both November 14th and November 21st, people arriving with emergencies to Nykøbing Falster Hospital were diverted to other emergency departments — some up to 100 kilometres away. This happens when an emergency department and its associated hospital is so overcrowded management decides to take a ‘time out’ (yes, the term is in English). During a ‘time out,’ exceptions are made for patients with life-threatening illness or who were in a serious accident, DR says. 

Holbæk Hospital had either two or three ‘time outs’ in August alone and has seen about one a month since, the report adds. 

Region Zealand puts the ‘time outs’ down to a long-running increase in emergency department patients and a lack of staff. But officials from the Region admit hospitals don’t actively track their ‘time outs,’ the duration, and the number of patients they divert. 

READ MORE: Lack of staff ‘biggest challenge’ for Danish health authorities 

What the Liberal Party wants from government negotiations 

After a poor showing in the last parliamentary election, the Liberal party (Venstre) has warmed to the idea of joining a ‘broad, central government’ helmed by Mette Frederiksen. And with the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedlisten), one of the parties that gave Frederiksen’s red bloc a slim parliamentary majority, out of negotiations, the pressure is on to find an agreement. But what does the Liberal Party want? 

One priority for the Liberal Party is reforming labour supply and taxes — particularly changing the limit for the top tax bracket (topskat), according to newswire Ritzau. The Liberal party wants to raise the limit so fewer Danes pay the highest tax rate, which currently applies on money earned after the first 600,543 kroner a year. 

“Is there the will to reform that is needed if we are to future-proof our society?” asks Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, leader of the Liberal party. 

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

Danish agricultural sector increasingly resigned to possible carbon tax 

After years of firm opposition to any carbon tax on agriculture, the Danish Agriculture & Food Council (Landbrug & Fødevarer) is changing tact after seeing which way the winds blow politically, newspaper Berlingske reports. 

While chairman Søren Søndergaard still believes it’s a bad idea, “we can see that the parties that are close to the [current negotiations to form a government] all want a CO2 tax on agriculture,” he tells Berlingske. Now the Danish Agriculture & Food Council wants a seat at the table when those rules are set. 

They’re hoping to keep reduction targets at 5 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030, a figure set in 2021, while politicians are likely to push for a more ambitious schedule. Other items on their wishlist are incentives for farmers and companies and a promise that funds collected from a CO2 tax will be reinvested in the food industry. 

“You can argue against a tax but you will not be right,” Liberal leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen told Danish Agriculture & Food Council representative earlier this month. “It will happen, because there is a majority behind it.” 

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Today in Denmark: A roundup of the news on Friday

Falling unemployment, the Danish government refusing to accept debt payments from citizens, and plans for a fully swimmable Copenhagen harbour are among the top news stories in Denmark on Friday.

Today in Denmark: A roundup of the news on Friday

Danish government returns debt payments from 138,000 people 

Having a debt to the Danish public sector on your books can have serious financial consequences, including jeopardizing your eligibility to secure a mortgage. But from January to October 2022, 138,000 Danes trying to square their debts with the government were refused due to confusion about whether the Danish Debt Collection Agency actually has the right to receive it, newspaper Berlingske reports.

Data from the agency indicate the number of debts considered “not ready for recovery” has leapt 1.5 million this year alone. Half of those debts are connected to Danish tax agency, Skat. 

According to Berlingske, the issues with ‘unpayable’ debts arose in 2015 when EFI, the IT system Skat used to collect debt, was shuttered. 

Based on the scale of the problem, the government will have to consider cancelling some of the debts, Peter Bjerre Mortensen, professor of public administration at Aarhus University, tells Berlingske. 

“They need to swallow some very big camels and/or simplify some legislation or forgive some debts, because right now it seems that things are still going the wrong way,” Mortensen says. 

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

Politicians push for ‘fully swimmable’ Copenhagen harbour 

Currently, swimming in Copenhagen’s harbours is only allowed at 11 designated bathing zones — though that doesn’t deter the estimated 200,000 people who take a dip elsewhere in the harbour yearly, risking fines. Now, Copenhagen mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen and other local politicians hope to flip the system on its head, making the vast majority of the harbour swimmable with a few ‘no-go’ zones. 

City officials plan to mark certain areas — for instance, near wastewater outlets or sailboat traffic — with ‘no swimming’ signs. 

READ MORE: Why the shocking cold of winter bathing is a Nordic favourite 

Unemployment continues to fall in Denmark 

October marked another record-breaking low for unemployment in Denmark, according to data from the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment and the Danish Chamber of Commerce. 

Just 11,519 full-time workers were experiencing ‘long-term unemployment’ (meaning they had been unemployed for at least 80 percent of the previous year) in October. That’s down from 12,400 in September, which was the lowest figure in 26 years, according to newswire Ritzau. 

In March 2020, there were 22,000 long-term unemployment benefit recipients, which spiked to 40,000 in April 2021.