Danish PM ‘grossly misled’ during 2020 mink announcement

An official inquiry has found that Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen “grossly misled” at a November 4th 2020 press briefing when she announced that all Denmark’s captive mink population must be culled, according to initial reports of the commission’s findings.

Danish PM 'grossly misled' during 2020 mink announcement
An official Danish commission on Thursday submitted its report into the 2020 decision to cull fur farm mink.

Several million mink were culled following the government decision in early November 2020, which was made amid concerns that mutated versions of Covid-19 could emerge from the animals and threaten the effectiveness of vaccines against the coronavirus.

The government order to cull the minks was later found to have no legal basis.

A commission was subsequently appointed to lead an official inquiry into the scandal and was due to submit its conclusions on Thursday.

The commission concluded that Frederiksen’s announcements “objectively seen, were grossly misleading”, news wire Ritzau reports.

The conclusions have not yet been made public but have been partly leaked to broadcasters DR and TV2.

The commission also said that Frederiksen “did not have knowledge about of the intention of” misleading, meaning she was not aware that the legal basis for the decision was not in place, according to the reports.

It is not the duty of the commission to make a legal assessment of whether ministers acted intentionally or recklessly.

Parliament has the responsibility for final conclusions, meaning that the minority Social Democratic government’s allied parties on the left wing are likely to have a decisive say in whether the matter is taken forward, following the submission of the commission’s report.

Potential consequences for Frederiksen could take the form of an official reprimand, known as a næse, or the appointment of a special impeachment court, a rare occurrence in Danish politics.

Frederiksen is currently attending a Nato summit in Madrid and was not expected to comment on the matter on Thursday. Earlier this week, she said she “did not believe there was basis for an impeachment court” over the mink scandal.

Denmark was the world’s leading exporter of mink fur until it decided in November 2020 to cull all its 15-17 million minks, after studies suggested that a variant found in some of the animals could jeopardise the effectiveness of future vaccines.

The variant was later considered to have been eradicated before a compensation package worth billions of kroner was agreed for the farmers.

The original order by the government to cull the mink was shown to have been illegal shortly after the initial culling order was given, resulting in one of the biggest scandals in modern Danish politics.

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What did Danish PM Frederiksen say in New Year speech?

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Sunday gave the traditional New Year’s Day speech, sent by the government leader from official residence Marienborg on January 1st.

What did Danish PM Frederiksen say in New Year speech?

In the speech, Frederiksen said that a plan to scrap a public holiday was still a policy of the new government, despite its apparent unpopularity.

The government has stated that it wants to raise 4.5 billion kroner for additional spending on defence. To this end, it wants an extra working day to be added to the year, and therefore suggests that a public holiday be abolished.

In the New Year speech, Frederiksen did not mention a specific public holiday, but the springtime Great Prayer Day is thought to be the most likely day off to be cut.

“I can sense that the proposal is not supported by everyone,” Frederiksen said in the speech.

“But hand on heart. We can’t overcome war in Europe, the climate crisis and domestic challenges if we are not – every one of us – prepared to do more,” she said.

“We are entering a year of economic uncertainty. Also, unfortunately, with a risk of increasing unemployment,” she said near the beginning of the speech.

READ ALSO: Unemployment down in Denmark but analysts predict more without work

She made a number of references to defence – the area the government says it will use a scrapped public holiday to invest in.

“Europe must be stronger on its own. And Denmark must contribute more to NATO. We must push forward investments in our defence and security. That way, we will be up to the two percent [of GDP, contribution to NATO, ed.] that is needed and which we have promised our allies,” she said.

“The will demand something from all of us. That’s why the government has proposed we abolish a public holiday,” she said.

READ ALSO: How can Denmark earn money by abolishing a public holiday?

The New Year speech was Frederiksen’s fourth as prime minister. The traditional speeches are usually recorded at the official residence of the head of government, Marienborg, just before the end of December and broadcast on January 1st.

Topics tackled by prime ministers during the annual speeches are often domestically focused and can outline core issues on which the government plans to focus in the coming year.

The Covid-19 pandemic was the dominant topic in 2021. Last year, Frederiksen began the speech by stating that she would “not primarily talk about coronavirus”, but did thank members of the public who had been vaccinated and received boosters, along with healthcare sector and test centre staff.

In her first speech as PM in 2020, Frederiksen talked about society’s responsibilities towards underprivileged children, choosing to sideline the dominant political topic of the preceding year, climate change.

She mentioned national security and the war in Ukraine as she continued the focus on defence and shared contributions in 2023.

“Denmark continues our steadfast and loyal support for Ukraine. At the same time, we must also be prepared to face significantly sharpened threats at home,” she said.

“In Europe we tend to imagine that trade and growth will almost automatically lead to peaceful coexistence. We disarmed while others built up,” she said.

“And in a number of areas, we have made ourselves dependent on others. We are now seeing that we were too naïve. That we are on the threshold of a new era. Which will be hard,” she said.

READ ALSO: ‘There’s not enough gas in the world’: Can Europe keep the heating on this winter?

The government, formed in December, has announced a number of policies which could impact foreigners in 2023. These include potential changes to family reunification and work permit rules.

These elements of the new government platform were not directly mentioned by Frederiksen in the January 1st speech.

She stated that the new government’s “political solutions” would reflect its make-up as a coalition of both left and right-leaning parties and mentioned social welfare and climate as areas on which the government would focus.

Denmark’s Queen Margrethe also gives a traditional speech at the turn of the year. The monarch’s speech is broadcast live at 6pm on New Year’s Eve and watching it is a popular element of New Year celebrations.

In her speech on Saturday, the Queen addressed a rift that has emerged in the royal family following her decision to strip four of her grandchildren of their titles, along with more traditional topics relating to ethical and cultural issues as well as the need for solidarity in society.