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Denmark’s acting government blocks own proposed relief for vulnerable families

A proposal which would have provided extended financial support to low income families in Denmark appears to have little hope of clearing parliament after the acting government said it would not vote for the bill, which it agreed on prior to the election earlier this month.

Denmark’s acting government blocks own proposed relief for vulnerable families
Danish employment minister Peter Hummelgaard in parliament. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The government said it voted against its own proposal to provide emergency financial relief for low income families because it is currently fulfilling a caretaker function while talks to form a new government are ongoing.

The bill was originally tabled before the election, when the government was still actively passing legislation.

Because of the bill’s likely failure, acting employment minister Peter Hummelgaard said that the current temporary subsidy for vulnerable families was not guaranteed to continue into the new year, broadcaster DR reports.

Originally proposed in the summer, when Hummelgaard said it would help families “here and now”, it was not backed by the Social Democratic government at its first reading on Tuesday.

The party said it would not vote for any new legislation because it stepped down following the election on November 1st.

Social Democratic leader and acting Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is currently leading talks with other parties to form a new government after a slim victory in the election.

“There’s set precedence that you do not pass new legislation when there isn’t a government and we are therefore awaiting a new government to be formed so that we can follow up of political agreements that were made before the last election and legislate what can be agreed upon,” Hummelgaard said.

Extension of the existing subsidy arrangement required a change to the law, and the government tabled a bill in October. But all outstanding bills lapsed when the election called.

After children’s charities called for action amid protracted negotiations to form a new government, the left wing Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) party re-tabled the bill.

The party’s parliamentary group leader Peder Hvelplund aimed sharp criticism at Hummelgaard and the Social Democrats after Tuesday’s debate.

“I think this is disappointing and completely incomprehensible. An agreement was made which had a parliamentary majority before the election. That majority remains after the election,” Hvelplund said in reference to the one-seat majority won by left-wing or ‘red bloc’ parties at the election.

Red Green Alliance lead political spokesperson Mai Villadsen said “poor families have been massively failed” by the decision, while another member of the party’s parliamentary group, Pelle Dragsted, tweeted that “an agreement is apparently not an agreement with the Social Democrats”.

The subsidy expires on January 1st 2023 but families will continue to receive payments until February, DR writes.

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POLITICS

Danes protest against plan to abolish public holiday

Tens of thousands of Danes protested on Sunday against the government's plan to abolish a public holiday to help fund the defence budget.

Danes protest against plan to abolish public holiday

“It’s a totally unfair proposal”, said Lizette Risgaard, the head of the FH union which organised the demonstration and which has 1.3 million members in the country of 5.9 million inhabitants.

Protesters, estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000 by police and organisers, gathered outside parliament in Copenhagen and carried signs reading “Hands Off Our Holiday” and “Say No to War”.

Around 70 buses ferried in demonstrators from across Denmark.

Denmark’s left-right government coalition, in power since December and led by Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, plans to scrap the religious holiday known as Great Prayer Day, observed since the 17th century.

The government wants to use the money generated to raise the defence budget to NATO’s target of 2 percent of GDP by 2030, instead of 2033 as previously planned.

It insists the accelerated calendar is necessary due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But Danish unions argue the decision to make Danes work an extra day violates the country’s sacrosanct collective wage agreements, negotiated by the unions and the government.

The government decision is “breaking into our Danish model”, Risgaard told AFP.

“The next time we in our parliament think that we need some more money, will they take another holiday or a Sunday and say, ‘oh you’ll have work there’,” she said.

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Mads Overgaard, an 18-year-old student, said he came out to support the Danish model.

“It’s very important that it doesn’t change, because it’s one thing to change this case, but what will they do next time?”, he told AFP.

Kurt Frederiksen, the 56-year-old head of the hotel and restaurant branch of the 3F union, said he also disagreed with the government using the money to boost defence.

“We don’t think that money for war will ever make peace”, he said.

Meanwhile, Johannes Gregers Jensen, the Dean of Copenhagen in Denmark’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church, of which around 73 percent of Danes are members, said the main problem was the “principle that is broken here”.

Denmark has a long tradition whereby Church matters “are decided by the people in the Church and the government shouldn’t put their finger into that”, he said.

“They are doing that… and that’s a huge problem.”

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