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Danish report Danish report
by Euro Reporter
2011-06-16 07:18:40
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Tensions remain over Denmark's border-control plans

Germany and Denmark have failed to resolve a dispute over the Danish government's plans to re-establish permanent border controls. Following a meeting with his Danish counterpart, Lene Espersen, in Berlin, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle underlined Germany's objections. “We are very critical of Denmark's decision to re-establish permanent customs checks at the border with Germany,” Westerwelle said. “This could be the writing on the wall for freedom in Europe,” he added.

At the same time though, Westerwelle stressed that relations between Germany and Denmark remained strong.  Espersen defended her government's plans, saying the new border checks would be implemented in complete compliance with the Schengen agreement, which guarantees the free movement of people between the 26 European states that have signed on to it. She said the sole aim of the new border controls was “to fight the entry of illegal goods and drugs” into the country.

“Denmark will remain a country open to the world,” said Espersen, who added that there were no plans to introduce regular passport controls. Espersen is on a mission to mend fences with Germany and Sweden, which has also been irritated by the move. Espersen is to meet with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Friday. Denmark's centre-right minority government agreed to impose the border controls in order to win the support of the right wing Danish People's party. The plan still has to be approved by the Danish parliament. No date has been set for the vote.


Poverty on the rise

Once – not very long ago – Denmark had fewer poor per capita than any other EU country. Now we are in seventh place on that list and lag behind Iceland, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, France and Norway, according to a new report by the Economic Council of the Labour Movement (ECLM), a Danish think tank that specialises in economic policy. “It’s a really worrying development, that poverty in Denmark is rising year after year,” Jonas Schytz Juul, ECLM’s chief analyst told public broadcaster DR. “Poverty represents a bigger and bigger social problem in Denmark.”

Between 2002 and 2009 the number of Danes living in poverty rose by more than 55 percent to a total of 234,000, or roughly four percent of the population. When students were included in the tally, the number rose to 350,000, or more than six percent. A poor person is someone whose income is less than half the average national income, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), whose figures formed the basis for the ECLM’s new report. Denmark does not have its own definition of the poverty level. “The new figures show with absolute clarity that poverty in Denmark is a reality that we need to respond to,” Juul said. “It’s essential that this development stops, to avoid creating a new social and economic underclass in Denmark.”

ECLM, which has historic ties to the Social Democratic party, attributed rising poverty in Denmark to the economic policies of the Liberal-Conservative government, which has been in power since 2001.  According to the report the government’s plans to shorten the period for unemployment benefits and to reduce cash benefits for families with children would exacerbate the growing poverty figures. Statistics from Eurostat and the OECD confirmed that Denmark has more people living below the poverty line now. Between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, according to the OECD, Denmark saw a “small increase” in the number of poor – a reversal of the decreasing trend in the previous decade. The same study showed that while income inequality was steady from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s it increased in the following decade.

Nevertheless the OECD also determined that as of 2008 Denmark, as well as Sweden, still had less income inequality than other countries and that income redistribution through public services such as free education, healthcare and housing subsidies were highly effective in reducing the hardship and stigma of low incomes. According to the report Denmark’s extensive welfare benefits effectively reduced inequality by some 40 percent.  On the other hand, the report judged that Denmark’s 25 percent sales tax increased inequality by seven percent on average, because the poorest citizens end up spending a much larger proportion of their income on heavily-taxed goods. Denmark was also found to be among the countries with the highest “income mobility” – where poor people were least likely to remain poor for more than two to three years – usually between jobs or while getting an education – and where chronic poverty, lasting a lifetime or even generations, was rare.


Denmark Tech finance probe goes on

The S.C. State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education's probe into Denmark Technical College's use of purchasing cards is continuing. State Tech Vice President for Finance Mandy Kibler was scheduled to report on the review at DTC's Area Commission meeting on Monday. The discussion was moved into closed session.

Area Commission Chairman James Hayes said that there were some "confidential personnel materials" in the report. Following the 2.5-hour closed session, Hayes announced that "there will be an ongoing investigation." He said he does not know when the report will be released. Instead, he referred questions to Kibler.

"Currently, it's just a personnel matter," Kibler said. "For the protection of the employee, I have to wait. It's ongoing, but as soon as we're able to release anything, we will." The purchasing card is a Visa card issued to some state employees for job-related purchases, and there are rules governing its use. The State Tech Board did an initial review on March 28 after claims of abuse were reported to the state office's hotline. The review covered the period from July 2010 through February 2011.

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