Danish opposition parties offer defence spending plan to save public holiday

The right and left wing parties in Denmark’s opposition have presented a plan which they say could enable increased spending on defence without the measure of abolishing a public holiday.

Danish opposition parties offer defence spending plan to save public holiday
Denmark's parliament meets on Thursday morning. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

The nine parties which are not part of the coalition government say they have found alternative financing which will enable Denmark to meet targets for additional defence spending without abolishing a public holiday.

The government has tabled a bill to formally abolish the springtime Great Prayer Holiday, in a move that it says is necessary for sustained and additional investment in the country’s military. The proposal has met with hefty criticism, including from the influential trade union confederation FH.


The nine parties announced their alternative proposal in a joint statement on Thursday. The parties behind the proposal come from opposite ends of the political spectrum and include the Red Green Alliance, Alternative, Socialist People’s Party (SF), Social Liberals, Conservatives, Liberal Alliance, Denmark Democrats, Danish People’s Party and Nye Borgerlige.

On Tuesday, all of the nine parliamentary parties refused to comply with a government demand that they vote for the Great Prayer Day bill in order to be part of an upcoming defence agreement. The refusal is significant because national defence policy usually has consensus across parliament.

The nine parties urged the government to drop this demand, which has been characterised as an “entrance ticket” for negotiations on a defence agreement.

The nine opposition parties do not all oppose abolishing Great Prayer Day but are united in their rejection of the government’s tactic of attaching it to the defence spending plan.

“It is unreasonable to demand of negotiating parties a single possible option for financing before negotiations are called,” the statement says.

“Based on this, the nine parties now propose other financing options in the hope that the government will open entry to the upcoming defence negotiations,” it said.

“We have presented financing krone for krone. There is no longer any argument for attaching a defence settlement to Great Prayer Day. It is now up to the government whether it actually wants to work together so that defence isn’t taken as a hostage,” Conservative leader Søren Pape Poulsen told news wire Ritzau.

The nine parties say three elements of its proposal can raise three billion kroner, the amount the government says will be made by scrapping Great Prayer Day.

These include 1.25 billion from the public investment budget, 1 billion kroner from a winter assistance programme which the parties say was over-financed, and savings on business support spending of 0.75 billion kroner.

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KEY POINTS: What is in Denmark’s 2023 budget proposal?

Denmark’s coalition government presented on Thursday a new budget proposal in which it said it was “stepping on the brakes” on state spending.

KEY POINTS: What is in Denmark’s 2023 budget proposal?

Danish budgets are usually tabled and eventually adopted during the autumn, but last year’s election disrupted the normal timetable.

The proposed budget, given the title “A Responsible Way Forward” (En ansvarlig vej frem) was presented by ministers from the three coalition parties on Thursday: Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen, acting Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen and Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt.

A cautious economic approach to spending is needed given global circumstances including the war in Ukraine, inflation and last year’s energy crisis, Wammen said.

“Even though a lot of things look good when we look at the Danish economy, that doesn’t change where we are. Uncertain times,” he said.

Engel-Schmidt added that some might describe the proposed budget as “boring”, given that it “doesn’t bring a shower of presents”.

Key points from the proposed budget are outlined below. The proposal will go into negotiations with other parties in parliament before being voted through in its final form.

Inflation assistance to lower income groups 

Last year saw the highest inflation rate for 40 years in Denmark, and the effects will still be felt in 2023 even if the inflation percentages themselves are less severe.

Although the government wants to “step on the brakes”, it has still set aside 2.4 billion kroner for financial assistance to people vulnerable to rising prices.

Some 1.1 billion kroner will be spent on 5,000 kroner “cheques” for elderly persons who receive social welfare. People who have high medicine costs and students who receive subsidies because they must provide for others, such as single parents (SU-forsørgertillæg) are also among groups to be assisted with the inflation spending.

READ ALSO: Danish government agrees inflation package for vulnerable families 

‘Acute plan’ for hospitals

An agreement with regional health authorities on an “acute” spending plan to address the most serious challenges faced by the health services has already been agreed, providing 2 billion kroner by the end of 2024.

The agreement was announced by the government along with regional and municipal officials in February.

READ ALSO: What exactly is wrong with the Danish health system?

‘Lower than ever’ reserve fund

A so-called “negotiation reserve” (forhandlingsreserve), a pool of money in the budget that can be allocated at a later date based on agreements between parties, has been significantly cut to 200 million kroner.

A 2023 budget proposal from August last year, which was not adopted due to the election, had the fund at 600 million kroner. The reserve has been as high as 1.5 billion kroner in the past, according to broadcaster DR’s report on Thursday’s proposal.

The previous, single-party Social Democratic government was reported to favour mental health services and the elderly as areas which could benefit from the fund in 2023.

The lower amount is partly due to the shorter timescale of this year’s budget. The 2024 budget will be proposed and passed in late 2023 under the regular timetable.

“There are still things we can prioritise but we are asking you to take responsibility to get Denmark through while inflation is still a major challenge,” Wammen said.

Spending on courts system

Some 32.2 million kroner has been put aside to specifically target a reduction in waiting times for court dates, DR writes. The money is part of a larger amount, 185 million kroner, to be spent on the courts.

Denmark’s courts system has in recent years seen a rising number of criminal cases and lengthy processing times.

Broadband internet to get boost in rural spending

The “broadband fund” or bredbåndspulje will get an additional 100 million kroner to improve coverage in areas that still have patchy connection.

Another 100 million kroner will go into the landsbypulje or “Village Fund”, giving rural municipalities funding for demolition or renovation of deteriorated buildings.


A majority in parliament has already voted in favour of a seven-billion kroner fund in 2023 to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion.

The fund will be spent on Danish military, civilian and commercial assistance to Ukraine.

Part of the spending is funded by Denmark’s international development budget, while over 5 billion comes from spending an increased portion of the national GDP on the 2023 budget.

READ ALSO: Denmark announces seven-billion kroner Ukraine fund