“We are a strong community. We take care of each other.”
Prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) opened parliament today by reminding MPs that despite their political differences, their responsibility was to care for Denmark as a whole.
That didn’t stop her from congratulating her government for navigating the economy through the crisis and making important social reforms. That’s likely to be the only congratulations the government will receive, however, as voters flock to opposition parties in protest against the government’s broken election promises.
But another parliamentary year has started and with it comes another opportunity to convince the public that they are getting what they voted for. In its 40-page law catalogue for this parliamentary season, the government outlined around 200 laws they hope to pass before the summer recess.
Reform of vocational education
The largest reform the government has to tackle is the vocational education system, both to get more young people interested and to ensure that more complete their education once they’ve started.
“Vocational schools have been neglected for many years,” Thorning-Schmidt said. “Fewer and fewer are applying. More and more are dropping out.”
Turning to the economy, she made a passionate appeal to parliament to approve joining the EU patent court when parliament votes on it in October. Unless five sixths of parliament supports it, the issue will be put to a referendum in May, when there will be no guarantee that Danes will vote for it.
Thorning-Schmidt said that Danish businesses supported joining the court, which is a prerequisite for allowing Danish businesses to apply for a single EU patent.
Danish businesses won’t be forced to apply for EU patents, but doing so will be cheaper and simpler than the current system in which businesses have to submit patent applications in every single EU country they want to sell their product.
Given the clear advantages to Danish businesses, Thorning-Schmidt said she could not understand why two parties – Enhedslisten and Dansk Folkeparti – have threatened to vote against the patent court.
Dual citizenship creeping closer
Dual citizenship was notably absent from the prime minister’s speech but it did make an appearance in the law catalogue.
“[The law] is expected to contain a proposal to increase the acceptance of dual citizenship,” the catalogue states.
Other changes to affect migrants include a proposal to help Danish citizens who have lost their citizenship reclaim it, a law that will allow business to submit their annual reports only in English, and a new citizenship test that prioritises everyday and political life.
Here is a selection of some of the laws from this year’s law catalogue:
• The law about the EU patent court will receive its final reading. If it doesn’t secure approval of five sixths of parliament it will be voted on in a referendum next May
• A new citizenship test will be introduced that prioritises elements of everyday life and active political life
• A law to allow businesses to submit annual reports only in English
• Changes to the subsidies that newspapers and online media receive so that it is no longer based on the number of newspapers produced
• Changes to the criteria for the official definition of a 'ghetto' so that it also includes the average level of education and income of a housing complex
• Implement changes to primary school education that were agreed upon earlier this year. They include a longer and more varied school day, more exercise, and voluntary assisted homework periods.
• Increase the penalty for driving above the speed limit near road works.
• Increase the penalty for driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol so that police can immediately confiscate both the vehicle and the operator's driving licence
• Allowing churches, with the permission of the bishop, to rent out their premises for non-church activities
• Increased intelligence sharing between the US and Denmark regarding international taxation of foreign bank accounts
• Harmonising North Sea oil taxation so that all oil companies will be taxed according to the same rules as the Dansk Undergrunds Constortium, a consortium of companies made up of Shell, Chevron and Maersk
• Abolish the demand that EU residents in Denmark have to earn the right to child support allowance payments
• Increase the number of businesses that will specify the gender of their employees when reporting their wages. The goal is to highlight gender wage differences in an attempt to reduce them
• New laws and preventative initiatives to target the gang community
• Law to make it easier for the children of foreigners born in Denmark to earn Danish citizenship. Children who are born abroad will also automatically gain Danish citizenship as long as one of the parents is Danish
• Law granting health agency SSI access to the Danish vaccination register so that it can send reminders to parents who don’t get their children vaccinated in time. Parents can opt out of the programme.
• Reduce the length of time that fireworks are allowed to be sold and used.
• Changes to immigration law to allow foreign workers in Greenland to work on large-scale industrial projects
• A change to the copyright law so that libraries, museums and educational centres can digitalise different types of works and make them available on the internet without permission from the rights holder
• Introduce a number of initiatives to attract highly-qualified foreign workers.
• A law “is expected to contain a proposal that increases the acceptance of double citizenship.”
• A law to help Danish citizens who have lost their citizenship reclaim it
• A new climate law that will increase the surveillance of carbon emissions and keep track of Denmark’s efforts
• Law detailing significant changes to vocational education with the goal of helping more students choose a vocational programme right after leaving school and increase the number who complete their education
• Implement recommendations that will help the unemployed find work through individualised programmes