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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Danish employment minister against easing immigration rules for labour

Denmark’s employment minister, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, is not in favour of easing immigration rules to make it easier for companies to recruit foreign labour despite calls from elsewhere in the government to do so.

Danish employment minister against easing immigration rules for labour

Social Democrat Halsboe-Jørgensen said she was against allowing more foreign labour in Denmark, saying it could have a negative impact on society.

“As a government we must have an eye on everything. The question I have to ask myself as minister, which individual employers don’t ask themselves is, that if they get those workers, let’s say from an African country, what does that mean for the cohesive force [of society],” the minister said in an interview with newspaper Politiken.

Government policies on labour and immigration are closely related, she said in the interview.

“I think they are related when you start talking about, for example, 50,000 [people] from Kenya. Then we certainly must look not only at what it what do for the place of work those people are taken into, but very much also what it would do to society as a whole,” she said, citing a figure recently given by the Danish Chamber of Commerce in a proposal for raising Denmark’s international workforce.

“I think individual people from Kenya could be of great benefit to Denmark but I think that the number means something,” she said.

The minister recognised that foreign recruitment from both inside and outside the EU could ease the labour shortage, but said that recent talk of seeking agreements with non-EU countries on the area, as well as easing existing rules, was not in line with the immigration policy followed by the Social Democrats.

“It’s now been a while since almost everyone at Christiansborg [parliament, ed.] fortunately recognised that the number [of immigrants] means something,” the minister said in reference to the so-called ‘paradigm shift’ of 2019, in which most parties inside and outside of government agreed on a stricter approach to immigration, particularly asylum.

Businesses and other political parties – including partners in the coalition government – have more recently come out strongly in favour of more foreign labour to address Denmark’s ongoing shortage in many sectors.

READ ALSO: Fear of slack migration rules holds back Denmark on foreign labour: Deputy PM

Young Danes who are currently not engaged on the labour market should instead be drawn upon to help ease the worker shortage, according to the minister.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, leader of coalition partner the Moderate party, said last month that Denmark’s businesses should be allowed to freely hire international staff, provided they comply with labour market collective agreements.

“The proposal we have should speak directly to a good social democrat because it’s a real tribute to the Danish labour model,” Rasmussen said at the time.

Rasmussen has previously suggested Africa, citing Kenya as a possible example, as a region in which Denmark could seek agreements with specific countries in relation to recruitment of labour.

Earlier in September, deputy prime minister and economy minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said a fear of being seen as weak on immigration is a factor in Danish politics which hinders measures to recruit much-needed labour from abroad.

Ellemann-Jensen is leader of the Liberal (Venstre) party, the third partner in the coalition.

“Since the 2000s, successive governments have tightened the [immigration] rules,” Ellemann-Jensen said.

“But we have ended up in a situation where we are afraid of making sensible and necessary decisions that would ensure international labour for fear of being called ‘a slackener’,” he said at a Danish Chamber of Commerce event.

Some 42 percent of Danish businesses said they were short of labour in 2022, according to figures from national agency Statistics Denmark reported by Politiken.

The Confederation of Danish Industry has called for action to avoid a potential shortage of labour amounting to 130,000 people within the next ten years, the newspaper writes.