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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‘It’s time to reset Britain’s relations with Europe’, says UK foreign secretary

As he begins his first overseas trip, the UK's new Foreign Secretary David Lammy writes for The Local on how Britain plans to rebuild ties with Europe and become a better neighbour.

'It's time to reset Britain's relations with Europe', says UK foreign secretary

I am a man of multiple identities. Londoner. English. Patriotic Brit. Proud of my Caribbean heritage. A transatlanticist. And, throughout my political career, absolutely committed to a close partnership with our European neighbours. 

As the new British Foreign Secretary, with our Prime Minister Keir Starmer, this government will reset relations with Europe as a reliable partner, a dependable ally and a good neighbour. 

That is why I am travelling immediately to some of our key European partners. Sitting down with Germany’s Annalena Baerbock, Poland’s Radek Sikorski and Sweden’s Tobias Billström, my message will be simple: let us seize the opportunity for a reset, working even more closely together to tackle shared challenges. 

READ ALSO: New UK foreign minister in Germany for first trip abroad

The most immediate of these challenges, of course, is Ukraine. We will stand by the brave people of Ukraine, as they defend their freedom against Vladimir Putin’s new form of fascism.

British military, economic, political and diplomatic support for Ukraine will remain ironclad. But we are always stronger when we work with others. Germany, Poland and Sweden are all also staunch supporters of Ukraine. European security will be this government’s foreign and defence priority.

Russia’s barbaric invasion has made clear the need for us to do more to strengthen our own defences.

Next week, the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary and I will all travel to Washington for the NATO Summit. 75 years ago, my political hero and former Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, was pivotal to forming the Alliance. He would have been delighted to see NATO grow larger over the years, with Germany, Poland and now Sweden all joining the most successful defensive alliance in history. 

This Government’s commitment to the Alliance is unshakeable, just as it was in Bevin’s time. I will be discussing this weekend how NATO allies can go further in investing in our tightly connected defence industries and providing Ukraine with its own clear path to joining our alliance. 

Alongside security, we want to do more together to bring prosperity to our continent. None of us can address the urgency of the climate emergency alone – we need coordinated global action. This is particularly important in Europe, whose energy networks are so closely connected – together, we must invest in the industries of the future and deliver sustained economic growth for all.

And finally, we must do more to champion the ties between our people and our culture. Holidays, family ties, school and student exchanges, the arts, and sport (I was of course cheering on England in the Euros…). Thanks to this, our citizens benefit from the rich diversity of our continent. 

We can deliver more cooperation in many areas bilaterally, via NATO and in groupings like the G7, the Joint Expeditionary Force or the European Political Community which will gather at Blenheim Palace on July 18th. 

But if we are to fulfil our ambitions for a reset, we must also improve Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

I will be explaining to my new fellow Foreign Ministers how our new Government’s proposal for an ambitious and broad-ranging UK-EU Security Pact would underpin closer cooperation between us, enshrining a new geopolitical partnership. I also look forward to hearing their ideas for how we can rebuild trust and reset the relationship between the UK and the EU. 

Over centuries, our individual and national stories have come together to tell a wider story of shared progress. Today, we all share a commitment to democracy, human rights and international law. Tragic experiences in our continent’s shared past have helped us to understand how our shared security and prosperity depend on these shared values.

And I believe these values also offer a foundation for closer partnership in the future. My visit this weekend is just the beginning. I look forward to seeing Britain reconnect with our European neighbours in the years ahead.