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Danish report Danish report
by Euro Reporter
2011-12-22 10:59:52
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Denmark divided on EU’s fiscal pact as presidency approaches

Prime Minister Helle Thorning- Schmidt, who vowed to fight for European unity when Denmark takes over the bloc’s presidency next month, is battling a split at home over whether to embrace deepening fiscal ties. Thorning-Schmidt is fending off calls for a referendum on adopting the fiscal compact proposed this month for the 17 euro nations that leaders say is crucial for the euro’s survival and that polls show voters in the non-euro country would reject. Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal, who heads the anti-euro Socialist People’s Party, said Denmark can’t adopt all the measures in the accord.

“She has to handle a government which is deeply divided on the EU,” Rasmus Joensson, an associate professor in political communication at Roskilde University in Denmark, said in an interview. “It will be a difficult task to unite the EU when your own government isn’t united.” Denmark’s Socialist People’s Party, one of three groups in the ruling coalition, argues that joining the fiscal compact agreed on Dec. 9 would limit stimulus options as the country teeters on the brink of a recession. A referendum would probably end in defeat for Thorning-Schmidt, said Jens Nyholm, chief economist at Spar Nord Bank A/S. The 45-year-old led her Social Democrats to an election victory in September, ending a decade of Liberal-Conservative rule.

Denmark, which has opted out of the euro, will take over the EU presidency on Jan. 1 as the common currency hangs in the balance. The country, where voters have twice rejected the euro, faces a new debate over whether to strengthen ties to the bloc amid calls from opposition parties and the public for a vote on the proposed fiscal fix for the euro region’s debt woes. EU leaders this month created a blueprint for a tighter financial union in their latest attempt to stem the region’s two-year-old debt crisis. Political discord has so far prevented the leaders from delivering a deal that convinces markets they have the means to contain the turmoil. “Anything that’s got to do with the euro is going to get a ’No’ from Danish voters,” Nyholm said. “We’ve been following the rules while the guys inside the euro, they broke them.” Danes are split on the pact and want the question put to a referendum, according to a poll commissioned by Ugebrevet A4, a Danish Confederation of Trade Unions newsletter. Of the 1,085 Danes surveyed by Analyse Danmark, 43 percent were opposed to joining and 33 percent in favour, according to Ugebrevet A4. Twenty-four percent were unsure.

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Denmark sets ‘green’ tone for its presidency


Denmark has set out its stall for its forthcoming presidency of the European Union, which will begin in January, saying that the region’s financial crisis is a chance to transform into a greener economy. According to Reuter’s reports, Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Building Martin Lidegaard says that the answer to current financial woes is investment in energy efficiency and green growth.

Denmark has already a strong commitment to transforming its own economy, having pledged to reduce its domestic emissions by 40% by 2020 and be entirely fossil-free by 2050. But the immediate challenge facing the EU and Denmark is the falling carbon price in the region’s Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS). The EU-ETS caps the emissions of around 11,000 of the region’s largest emitters, who have to buy carbon permits to cover their emissions. The price of permits is supposed to drive improvements in efficiency and emissions reduction activities but the price has fallen to an all-time low of €6.30.

The Commissions are now proposing to tighten the cap on emissions by reducing the number of permits and auction the majority of permits in the third phase (2013-2020), instead of giving them away free. The proposals will be considered by a senior industry committee of MEPs in January before a full parliament vote later in the spring.

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Denmark's fat tax strikes again


Denmark first slapped a fat tax on saturated fats. Now lawmakers plan to hit sugar, and even chocolate consumption, in the second wave of its pioneering assault on the country's bulging waistlines and clogged arteries. If, as expected, parliament passes the new tax regime next week, Denmark will levy an extra six Danish Kroner ($1.05) on every kilogram of chocolate. The tax would go into effect on January 1.

From 2013, lawmakers plan a levy on the sugar-content of processed food set at as much as 24 Kroner ($4.20) per kilogram. "The new tax on sugar in food will first be implemented from 2013, and the details will be discussed in the coming year," said Martin Justesen, a spokesman for the Danish tax department. "The rationale is to improve the health in the Danish population by giving a stronger incitement to buy more healthy food."

It's a trend that could be mimicked all over the world, said Dr. Jorgen Dejgard Jensen at Copenhagen University, whose institute proposed the tax. "It’s very interesting to see that the Danish government has the courage to try these kinds of measures," he said. "From an academic perspective, we’ve tried to advocate for this for several years, so we’re quite excited that we now have the opportunity to learn how they work." Danish bakers, famed for their flaky cinnamon pastries, are predictably up in arms.



        
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