Denmark’s international reputation was on the line during Minkgate, maintains PM

Expert tells DR that PM’s actions were understandable in such “exceptional circumstances”

Under interrogation in the witness stand yesterday, PM Mette Frederiksen revealed that her primary motivation behind the swift killing of the country’s mink in November 2020 was Denmark’s international reputation.

She told prosecutor Jakob Lund Poulsen, in one of several tense exchanges between the pair on a day that started with demonstrators greeting the PM as she arrived in court, that the country was dealing with extraordinary circumstances that needed urgent attention.

Nevertheless, she was not at fault, she maintained in court. Instead she was let down by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.

Expert: PM makes strong argument for quick action
Following a meeting on November 3, the PM held a press conference on November 4 to announce the cull of the 17 million mink, but she only became aware there was no legal basis for the order on November 8. 

“I assessed it was necessary to make the decisions that had to be made so that we could subsequently execute for reasons of public health and the outside world’s view of Denmark,” she said.

“There was a sincere concern about how it would be for Denmark if we sat for too long on the information that had been provided.”

Pernille Boye Koch, the head of research at the Department of Human Rights who is an expert on constitutional law, told DR that the PM made a strong argument for quick action.

“From a responsibility perspective, there is a rather weighty argument that there were some exceptional circumstances,” she said.

“It seems logical in light of how seriously the government took the situation that it had to deviate from the procedure to a certain extent and therefore did not, for example, read the appendices or ask about all relevant matters.”

PM: Handout suggested legal basis
Frederiksen’s testimony largely passed the blame for the illegal order onto the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries for failing in its task to assess all the legislation.

At the pivotal November 3 meeting, a handout prepared by the ministry stated on its cover that “the parties in Parliament are informed prior to the announcement”. 

Had there been no legal basis, the PM pointed out in court, the other parties would have been called in for negotiation, not merely informed. 

“If I had been made aware there was no legal basis, I would have held exactly the same press conference the next day [so November 5]  with an addition that the Parliament should make a law and ask to have it dealt with urgently. It would have taken 30 seconds,” concluded the PM. 

The minister for food, agriculture and fisheries, Mogens Jensen, eventually resigned from office on November 18. 

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