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Danish report
by Euro Reporter
2012-05-18 07:40:20
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Ex-minister equates gays with ‘killer snails’ to oppose equal marriage rights

A former Danish government minister as equated gays with the hermaphrodite ‘killer snails’ plague the country in an argument against gay marriage rights. Homotropolis reports a comment made by Birthe Rønn Hornbech and recorded with some measure of incredulity by Danish minister of culture, Uffe Elbæk, on his Facebook page. Ms Hornbech, who was Minister of Integration until 2011, had been speaking at a debate on marriage equality, laws for which the government has said it plans to enact this year.

According to the Danish-language transcript posted by Mr Elbæk, Ms Hornbech told the assembled that aside from the country’s “killer snails” and a few other species, the natural world was divided into male and female animals and this was “why the world still exists”.  As a result, she opposed equal marriage rights. The conclusion that gays and garden pests should be equally unable to marry because they do not have normal heterosexual relationships, has drawn condemnation from equal rights advocates and amateur malacologists alike.

Mr Elbæk, who is himself openly gay, advised his subscribers on Facebook they may want to read Ms Hornbech’s comments “one more time”. She has reportedly declined to comment further but confirmed her statement was a “description of reality”. The hermaphrodite Iberian snail has plagued Denmark for years but is known as the ‘killer snail’ for the way it has decimated vegetable patches, rather then the human population.


Banks endure write-down shock delaying recovery

Denmark’s banks face larger write-downs this year than those endured in 2011 as rules enforced since April take a bigger toll on lenders than the industry predicted. “We anticipate that loan losses won’t decline in 2012,” Per Tornqvist, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s based in Stockholm, said in an interview. “There’s no doubt that the provisions need to be done, and the sooner the better, in terms of working it out of the economy.”

S&P estimates total loan losses at Danish banks swelled to 155 billion kroner ($27 billion) in the four years through 2011, with another 30 billion kroner in writedowns yet to be taken. Danske Bank A/S (DANSKE), the country’s largest lender, accounted for almost half the industry’s bad loans, according to S&P. Denmark’s Financial Supervisory Authority told banks in February to comply with stricter write-down standards, a requirement it said would have limited impact on loan losses as it estimated most banks already followed the revised rules. Since then, Jyske Bank A/S (JYSK) and Sydbank A/S (SYDB), the country’s second- and third-largest listed lenders, respectively, raised their forecasts for impairments this year, citing the new regulatory standards.

“All of us have been quite surprised by the magnitude of the writedowns, given what the FSA said in February,” Thomas Hovard, head of credit research at Danske Bank in Copenhagen, said in an interview. “Most people had expected that loan losses would come down in 2012.”


Pig producers and the bankers

Writing in the Pig Research Centre's annual report, the chairman Lindhardt B. Nielsen and director Nicolaj Norgaard said that the European industry has rarely been looking so hard for reductions in production while prices have been rising so high. However, they have hit out at the banking sector for propping up unprofitable farms in the hope that better days will be around the corner. Instead, they say, it would have been better for the industry - and even the bankers - if the non-profitable farms had been shut down earlier. The research centre says that the average Danish pig farm has been in the red for the last five years, something the industry in Denmark has never experienced before. While feed prices have been at the heart of the straitened times for Danish pig producers, the research centre also sees losses on market speculation as another reason the farmers have found difficulties.

"Hedging has become an important and necessary discipline in the pig industry," Lindhardt B. Nielsen and Nicolaj Norgaard say in the annual report. There is also concern in the industry because the producers are finding that credit facilities and a willing ness to invest have been limited since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008. The research centre says that investment in the industry is a third of its normal level and Mr Nielsen and Mr Norgaard say that this is a situation that is unsustainable in the long run. However, the bright spot for the Danish industry is that weaned exports have remained high and as confidence came back to the pig slaughter sector, the export of finishing pigs fell away over the last year. Denmark saw some of the highest prices in Europe and this combined with high productivity has helped the Danish producer to do less badly than some others in Europe.

According to Mr Nielsen and Mr Norgaard, many of the obstacles that had been in the way to allow pig farmers in Denmark to adapt their farms to the new group housing that will be needed when the stall ban comes into effect in 2013, have been removed.  Farmers can adapt their present buildings and have full production in these facilities, but if they want to increase their production then they will still need to obtain environmental approval. Getting this approval through the local authorities and the Environmental Board of Appeal can be a long and difficult process. The centre said that the concept of "animal load" - a form of quota system - could also have a great impact on the industry both in its development and also economically and it has called on the authorities to handle the plan professionally and fairly. However, the leaders of the research centre also said that, at the same time, the industry has to fight to stay in the lead by accepting and adopting new technologies on the farm.

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