Denmark issues ban on ministers and officials from deleting texts

The Ministry of Justice has published new temporary rules for storage of text messages at ministries following controversy by an official inquiry.

Denmark issues ban on ministers and officials from deleting texts
Danish ministers and officials will now be required to keep a record of work related texts. Photo by Alicia Christin Gerald on Unsplash

The recently-published report by the Mink Commission, appointed to scrutinise the government’s 2020 decision to cull fur farm mink – later found to have been made without legal basis – criticised officials for deleting SMS messages that would have provided important context in the inquiry.

During the inquiry, the commission found that Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and several other officials had their mobile telephones set to automatically delete texts. That resulted in the commission being unable to see them.

The justice ministry has now set out new interim rules for storage of SMS communications, it said in a statement.

READ ALSO: What did Danish mink inquiry conclude and what happens next?

The new rules and guidelines are intended to ensure that ministries keep records of work-related text messages on devices used by ministers, special advisors and heads of department.

The texts must also be retained if officials switch to a new device or leave their positions.

Interim rules have been put in place because of “the timescale for clarification of the technical options for central and user-independent storage of SMS messages”, which will eventually be put in place to “ensure uniform practice”, the ministry said.

A uniform process for storing texts sent in an official capacity “takes time to develop”, Justice Minister Mattias Tesfaye said in the statement.

“We don’t have the solution [in place] today. That’s why it’s good that we now have temporary guidelines that we can use for now,” he said.

The Mink Commission last week published a 4,500-page report in which it found fault with Frederiksen, who, it said, made “grossly misleading” statements about the legal basis of the mink cull at a November 2020 press conference. 

It was not the duty of the commission to make a legal assessment of whether Frederiksen or other ministers and officials acted intentionally or recklessly.

Potential consequences for Frederiksen could have resulted in an independent legal assessment of the scandal, which could in turn have led to the appointment of a special impeachment court, a rare occurrence in Danish politics but used as recently as last year.

This does not now appear to be on the cards after the centre-left Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party said it did not back an independent legal assessment, meaning this move would not have the parliamentary majority it would need to go ahead.

The Social Liberals have, however, threatened to forward a motion of no confidence in the government if Frederiksen does not call a snap general election by October 4th.

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‘One of America’s best allies’: Denmark receives high praise from US

US President Joe Biden expressed great praise for Denmark when he met with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in the White House.

'One of America's best allies': Denmark receives high praise from US

“I would like to share with everyone back home in Denmark how much praise there is for our country in the United States,” Frederiksen said after the meeting with President Biden, the Ritzau agency reported.

“We have capable defence forces, we are a reliable cooperation partner for the US, and our intelligence service was praised at a meeting I had earlier today with the head of the CIA,” she said.

Frederiksen emphasizes that a good reputation is not something that comes by itself.

“It is something that has been built up in Denmark over many years. This is thanks to our soldiers, intelligence service, cooperation between authorities, and political cooperation…

“We are a small country, but we can do so much, and that is also what the Americans praised us for today,” the prime minister said.

Biden: Denmark is one of America’s best allies

During their meeting at the White House on Monday, President Biden expressed great praise for Denmark, hailing it as one of America’s best allies.

“Denmark is one of our best allies and most faithful friends,” President Biden told Prime Minister Frederiksen at the beginning of their meeting.

Highlighting the alignment of values, President Biden specifically mentioned Denmark’s resolute stance against Russian aggression, particularly in their support for Ukraine and its people.

“We share many of the same values…One of these values ​​includes standing up against Russian aggression,” Biden said.

Among other things, he expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Frederiksen for the defence cooperation between Denmark and the US.

Furthermore, President Biden thanked Denmark for its commendable efforts in the realm of green transition.