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Posts tagged ‘Nordic Land of Denmark’

Social Democrats appear headed back into power in Denmark

June 06, 2019

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Social Democrats emerged as Denmark’s biggest party in elections Wednesday, with preliminary results indicating gains for left-leaning parties and a big loss for populists.

If confirmed in final returns, the outcome pointed to the Social Democrats returning to power after four years as the country’s leading opposition party. The Social Democrats got about 25.9% of the votes after a campaign in which party leaders vowed a tough stance against immigration.

Mette Frederiksen, the party’s leader, said late Wednesday that the Social Democrats will try to govern as a minority rather than form a governing coalition with smaller parties. It will seek support from the right on some issues, such as immigration, and from the left on other matters, such as social welfare, she said.

Although Frederiksen won’t try to form a coalition, other left-leaning parties that increased their vote shares will likely support her effort to form a government to avoid the center-right from getting a chance. The Social Democrats and other left-of-center parties appear headed to having one more vote than a majority in the 179-seat parliament, the Folketing.

With nearly 100 percent of the votes counted, the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen showed a slight gain from four years ago. But the populist Danish People’s Party, which often voted with the center-right Liberals, was hit with a big drop in support, meaning Loekke Rasmussen can no longer muster a majority in parliament.

The Danish People’s Party’s performance was a contrast to some other European countries, where far-right populists have been on the rise. The party was the second-largest party in the outgoing parliament, but its vote share plunged to about 9% Wednesday, compared to 21.1% in 2015.

Loekke Rasmussen conceded defeat and would resign Thursday. “You have chosen that Denmark should have a new majority, that Denmark should take a new direction,” Frederiksen said told a jubilant crowd at parliament. “And you have chosen that Denmark should have a new government.”

At age 41, Frederiksen could become Denmark’s youngest-ever prime minister. “The election campaign is now over. It’s time to find solutions,” she said. Many Danish People’s Party voters have drifted to the Social Democrats, mainly because of it readopting tough views on immigration. The party advocated restricting immigrants in the 1980s and 1990s but softened its position later while in a coalition with left-wing parties.

Its lawmakers voted for several laws introduced by Loekke Rasmussen’s government to tighten immigration. “This is really, really bad,” People’s Party leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl said of his loss at the polls, but he said the party would not change its politics.

The Hardliner Course party didn’t cross the 2% threshold needed to enter Parliament. The New Right, another openly anti-Muslim group that also fielded candidates for the first time, will be in the legislature after getting 2.4% of the votes.

This story has been corrected to show that the name of leader of the Danish People’s Party is spelled Kristian Thulesen Dahl.

A look at the main candidates in Denmark’s election

June 04, 2019

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A look at the main candidates in Wednesday’s elections for Denmark’s 179-seat parliament.

LARS LOEKKE RASMUSSEN

Loekke Rasmussen has been in power since 2015. He presently heads a minority center-right government with his Liberal Party, the center-right Liberal Alliance and the Conservative Party.

A member of parliament since 1994, the avid cyclist and jogger also was prime minister from 2009-2011, and earlier was interior and health, and finance minister.

Described as a skilled negotiator, Loekke Rasmussen, 55, has been at the heart of several scandals about using party funds for personal use.

His government has tightened Denmark’s immigration laws several times, bowing to pressure from the populist, anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, which isn’t part of the government but supports it with the needed seats to muster a majority.

METTE FREDERIKSEN

Frederiksen, 41, took over Denmark’s largest party, the Social Democrats, in 2015 after Helle Thorning-Schmidt lost to Loekke Rasmussen.

A member of Denmark’s Folketing, or parliament, since 2001, she comes from a working-class background. Frederiksen was minister for employment and justice in the Social Democratic-led governments of Thorning-Schmidt.

Frederiksen has insisted on forming a one-party government if her party can garner a majority. She started the election campaign with a 16-percentage point lead ahead of Loekke Rasmussen.

KRISTIAN THULESEN DAHL

He became Danish People’s Party leader in 2012 after its founder and leader Pia Kjaersgaard voluntarily stepped down.

A member of parliament since 1994, the 49-year-old Thulesen Dahl has in recent years changed his image to become folksier. He has managed to position his party and its 37 seats in parliament by supporting the center-right government in exchange for tightening Denmark’s immigration laws.

Thulesen Dahl has said his party shouldn’t be in government because it has greater influence by being outside. Polls also have shown people who traditionally voted for the Danish People’s Party are drifting to other parties, mainly to the Social Democrats.

PERNILLE VERMUND

Vermund, a 43-year-old architect, founded in 2015 the conservative New Right, which has an anti-immigration and euroskeptic agenda.

The party has been promising a stricter immigration policy in a challenge to the Danish People’s Party.

The New Right wants asylum only given to those with “a job in hand,” an end to spontaneous asylum, calls for random border controls and wants to limit Danish citizenship to people who “contribute positively” to society.

Vermund has said her party is “ready to withdraw Denmark from the EU and seek a looser connection if a satisfactory agreement for Denmark cannot be achieved.”

RASMUS PALUDAN

The 37-year-old lawyer came first to public attention when burning Islam’s holy book, the Quran. He did it across the country, often in neighborhoods with a large immigrant population under heavy police protection. Paludan said it was done to support free speech.

The burning of the Quran sometimes sparked violent clashes with counterdemonstrators. Police eventually issued bans, citing Paludan’s own safety.

In a video posted on Dec. 19 on the YouTube channel of his party which he founded in 2017, Paludan said: “The enemy is Islam and Muslims … The best thing, however, is if there are no Muslims left on our dear Earth.”

In April, a Copenhagen suburban court found Paludan guilty of racism for comments directed at the spokeswoman of an ethnic group and was given a 14-day conditional jail sentence which he has appealed.

Three years earlier, he was convicted of insulting a police officer and told the court that he sustained a head injury in a 2005 accident after which “he found it very difficult to tolerate other people’s mistakes without being very frustrated.”

In 2013, he got a five-year restraining order for harassing a fellow student and, as a lawyer, he has been defending cases where asylum-seekers had their applications rejected.

A look at what is at stake in Denmark’s general election

June 04, 2019

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark is holding a general election Wednesday and unlike in other European countries, far-right populists don’t seem to be on the rise here. The center-left Danish Social Democrats, in fact, may be making a comeback after four years in opposition.

While far-right parties are making gains across Europe after the 2015 refugee crisis, Denmark’s largest party has elbowed itself back thanks to taking a tougher line on immigration. At the same time, Danish populists seem to have lost support.

A look at what is at stake in Wednesday’s elections to renew Denmark’s 179-seat Folketing, or parliament, at the end of its four-year term.

THE MAIN CONTENDERS

The Social Democrats, the main party in the so-called red bloc, and four other center-left parties face a center-right blue bloc that is losing steam. The latter is splintered into eight parties of which three are newcomers, including two openly anti-Muslim groups.

Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen’s three-party coalition isn’t campaigning together, and none wants to rely on support from the anti-immigration newcomers. At the same time, the populist Danish People’s Party that has been supporting the minority government sees shrinking support in polls.

Denmark’s 4.2 million voters can pick from 13 parties. The red bloc could get up to 55% of the vote, according to polls.

THE KEY ISSUES

Immigration, climate and environment along with welfare, where there have been cuts in recent years.

LIKELY OUTCOMES

Whatever the result is, it likely will end with a minority government.

The Social Democrats want to form a one-party government headed by its leader, Mette Frederiksen, and will seek support on the right when it comes to immigration issues and on the left for matters like social welfare, said Nicolai Wammen, the party’s No. 2 official.

“There is a limit as to how many people we can take in and preserve (Denmark’s) welfare state,” Wammen said.

Many Danish People’s Party voters have drifted to the Social Democrats, mainly because of its stricter stance on immigration policy. It’s a position they already had in the 1980s and 1990s, but which they later watered down in a coalition with left-wing parties. They also have voted for several of the center-right government’s tightening of immigration laws.

The 2015 migration crisis, in which mostly Muslim asylum-seekers sought shelter in European countries, was “an eye-opener” for the Social Democrats, said Kasper Moeller Hansen, a political analyst with Copenhagen University, to explain why the party has shifted back to a firm line. He added it “triggered a change in their view on immigration.”

THE CENTER RIGHT

Loekke Rasmussen is heading a coalition with his Liberal Party, the smaller center-right Liberal Alliance and the Conservatives. But it depends on the Danish People’s Party to muster a 91-seat majority in parliament. They have been pressing for tightening Denmark’s immigration laws several times.

Laws range from a ban on garments covering the face, including Islamic veils such as the niqab or burqa to require newly arrived asylum-seekers to hand over valuables such as jewelry and gold to help pay for their stays or requiring anyone who becomes a Danish citizen to shake hands at the naturalization ceremony.

Last year, Denmark made international headlines when it was decided to send rejected asylum-seekers or those with a criminal record awaiting expulsion to an island that once housed a defunct laboratory for contagious animal diseases.

Wammen said if they win, they have no plans to reverse any of the laws on immigration.

THE POPULISTS

In last month’s European Parliament elections, populists and anti-immigration parties made significant gains across the continent.

That trend didn’t happen in Denmark where the Danish People’s Party suffered a major blow when losing three of its four seats in the 751-seat European assembly.

Voters have turned away from the party because of fraud scandals involving European Parliament funds, domestic backpedaling but also criticism that it is no longer a protest party and doesn’t give enough attention to climate change and environmental protection.

In 2015, the party had its best-ever result in a national election when the euroskeptics grabbed more than 21% to become the second-largest party in the Scandinavian country of 5.8 million.

This time around, the party could see its support cut in half, according to polls.

THE NEW FAR-RIGHT

In recent months, Hardliner Course and New Right have been challenging the Danish People’s Party, claiming its immigration line is too soft.

Hardliner Course leader Rasmus Paludan has burned Islam’s holy book, the Quran, sometimes in public and under heavy police protection.

The 37-year-old lawyer has said in online videos that “the best thing is if there are no Muslims left on our dear Earth.”

“Only massive returns of Muslims can solve the problems that Denmark faces,” a party flier said.

More moderate is Pernille Vermund, 43, who founded the conservative, pro-business New Right in 2017 which calls for a stop to spontaneous asylum, limit Danish citizenship to people who “contribute positively” to society and calls for Denmark to leave the European Union which the Scandinavian country joined in 1973.

These parties, plus the third newcomer, headed by fraud-convicted businessman Klaus Riskjaer Pedersen, hover around the 2% threshold to win parliamentary seats.

6 killed, 16 injured in Danish bridge train accident

January 02, 2019

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A passenger train on a bridge linking central Denmark’s islands hit an “unknown object” early Wednesday, killing six people and injuring 16 others, Danish police said. The rail operator, Danish Railways, earlier told Denmark’s TV2 that the victims were passengers on a train going from the city of Odense, on the central Danish island of Fyn, to Copenhagen when the accident took place about 8 a.m. local time.

Danish media reported that a tarpaulin on a freight train hit the passenger train, which was going in the opposite direction, prompting it to brake violently. Police spokesman Arne Gram said the passenger train “hit an unknown object,” but did not further comment.

Photos from the scene show the freight train was carrying crates of beer, and the tarpaulin that covered the train was torn in pieces. Kasper Elbjoern, spokesman for Danish brewery group Carlsberg, confirmed that a freight train transporting its cargo was involved in the accident.

Jesper Nielsen, who was on the passenger train, told Denmark’s TV2 the train “was out on the bridge when there was a huge ‘bang’ …. very quickly thereafter, the train braked.” The Storebaelt bridge is part of a system of bridges and a tunnel linking the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen.

Flemming Jensen, the CEO of state-owned Danish Railways, said police and the Danish Accident Investigation Board are investigating the damages. He said the operator “will contribute everything that we can to the investigations.”

In a statement, police urged passengers to contact next of kin to inform them of their safety and urged people not to share photos and videos of the accident. The accident took place on a road-and-rail bridge, part of a transport system consisting of a road suspension bridge and a railway tunnel.

The transport system was closed to cars overnight because of strong winds but trains could pass. Road traffic resumed Wednesday with a 50 kph (31 mph) speed limit.

Danish prince visits ailing father after leaving Olympics

February 10, 2018

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik has returned from the Winter Olympics in South Korea to visit his ailing father at a Copenhagen hospital. The royal household said Saturday that Frederik, the heir to Denmark’s throne, was joined by his mother, Queen Margrethe, and his wife during the visit late Friday.

The queen’s French-born husband, 83-year-old Prince Henrik, was hospitalized with a lung infection on Jan. 28. Last year, the palace announced Henrik was suffering from dementia. The palace said Friday that Frederik, an International Olympic Committee member, left the Winter Games in Pyeongchang because his father’s condition had “seriously worsened.”

Wolves return to Denmark for first time in 200 years

Stockholm (AFP)

May 4, 2017

At least five wolves, including one female, have returned to Denmark for the first time in two centuries, a zoologist who has obtained DNA evidence said on Thursday.

The predators came from Germany to settle in western Denmark’s agricultural region, the least densely populated in the Scandinavian country.

Peter Sunde, scientist at the University of Aarhus, told AFP the wolves must have walked more than 500 kilometers (310 miles).

“We think these are young wolves rejected by their families who are looking for new hunting grounds,” the researcher added.

Scientists have established a genetic profile from the faeces of five wolves — four males and one female — but there could be more.

Sunde said researchers had suspected since 2012 that wolves had entered Denmark. “Now we have evidence (including) that there’s one female,” signalling the possibility of giving birth this spring, he said.

Proof was also established through the wolves’ fingerprints and video surveillance showed their location, which scientists refuse to reveal out of fear that it will attract hunters.

“We’re following that. The wolf is an animal we’re not allowed to hunt so we must protect it,” Henrik Hagen Olesen, spokesman at the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, told AFP.

Exterminated by hunters, wolves had been completely extinct in Denmark since the beginning of the nineteenth century.

In other Nordic countries with a higher wolf population, culling the species, protected by the Bern Convention, is under a fierce debate between inhabitants, farmers, hunters, the government, the European Union and wildlife activists.

Source: Terra Daily.

Link: http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Wolves_return_to_Denmark_for_first_time_in_200_years_999.html.

Denmark urged to clean up US military waste in Greenland

November 26, 2016

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Greenland is calling on Denmark to clean up an abandoned under-ice missile project and other U.S. military installations left to rust in the pristine landscape after the Cold War.

The 1951 deal under which NATO member Denmark allowed the U.S. to build 33 bases and radar stations in the former Danish province doesn’t specify who’s responsible for any cleanup. Tired of waiting, Greenland’s local leaders are now urging Denmark to remove the junk that the Americans left behind, including Camp Century, a never-completed launch site for nuclear missiles under the surface of the massive ice cap.

“Unless Denmark has entered other agreements with the United States about Camp Century, the responsibility for investigation and cleanup lies with Denmark alone,” said Vittus Qujaukitsoq, Greenland’s minister in charge of foreign affairs.

Camp Century was built in 1959-60 in northwestern Greenland, officially to test sub-ice construction techniques. The real plan was top secret: creating a hidden launch site for ballistic missiles that could reach the Soviet Union.

The project was abandoned in 1966 because the ice cap began to crush the camp. The U.S. removed a portable nuclear reactor that had supplied heat and electricity, but left an estimated 200,000 liters of diesel oil and sewage, according to an international study published in August.

Scientists are warning that as global warming melts the ice cap, the waste could surface and pollute the environment. In an Oct. 24 letter to Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen, obtained by The Associated Press, Qujaukitsoq asked about Denmark’s plans for Camp Century, adding that an international study said the waste includes “radioactivity, oil and PCB pollution.”

PCBs stands for polychlorinated biphenyls, a man-made chemical once widely used in paints, plastics and other products, but were banned after they were demonstrated to cause cancer and other ailments.

At a meeting on Nov. 17 in Nuuk, the Greenland capital, to discuss the issue, Jensen said Denmark’s Environment Ministry was investigating the environmental risks. “I hope it can be done as quickly as possible,” he told a news conference, declining to give any specifics.

Jensen later told The Associated Press in an email that “it is still too early to say who will be involved in a possible cleanup.” The U.S. military was interested in Greenland during the Cold War due to its strategic location in the Arctic. Under the 1951 agreement, the U.S. also built four radar stations as part of an early warning system to detect incoming Soviet bombers.

The U.S. Air Force still uses the Thule Air Base, about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) below the North Pole. Military airfields in Narsarsuaq, Kulusuk and Kangerlussuaq have become civilian airports. Several other military installations have been abandoned, some in remote areas, in the hope they would be entombed forever in the thick ice cap that covers most of the vast island.

Local authorities have started clearing some of the sites, but don’t have sufficient resources, said Rasmus Eisted of Danish engineering company Ramboll, which has been involved in some cleanup projects.

Eisted singled out a junkyard in Kangerlussuaq containing miscellaneous military equipment from the time it was a U.S. Air Force Base known as Sondrestrom. The continuing cleanup task was larger than first anticipated, he said.

Aleqa Hammond, a former Greenland premier who now represents the mostly Inuit population of the Arctic island in the Danish Parliament, said Greenland could bring Denmark before a U.N. panel on indigenous issues unless it deals with the junk.

“Denmark is responsible for cleaning up after the Americans,” Hammond told AP. “I see a potential political crisis between Greenland and Denmark.”

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