In the Nordic countries, the great questions of State (Defense, Immigration, Energy) feed the ideological debate, but they hardly destabilize the country. What really shakes these societies and their governments is lies, or rather mistrust. Antti Rinne, a former Finnish prime minister elected at the polls in April 2019, was forced to resign six months later for allegedly failing to inform Parliament about the causes of a strike by postmen of the public postal service, Posti, as a result of a labor reform that was going to lead to layoffs. This time it has been the Danish Government that has been on the brink of the cliff on account of the sacrifice of some 17 million minks as an exceptional measure to prevent the spread of a covid-19 mutation among humans that could endanger effectiveness of the future vaccine. With the forced resignation of the Minister of Agriculture, Mogens Jensen, for having authorized the slaughter without legal basis, Denmark is currently experiencing a scandal that is long announced: the #minkgate (# visóngate).
That mink farms are being scrutinized for their propensity for the spread of coronavirus – due in part to the crowded conditions in which these creatures live – is a fact across Europe. But in Denmark, a country with almost six million inhabitants, the measure was a jug of cold water because it is the world’s leading producer and hatchery of mink, with China coincidentally the main customer. Its 1,000 farms directly employ 3,000 people who, like 65-year-old Peder Elbek Pedersen, became unemployed overnight. “The decision [del sacrificio] it was stupid, it was taken too quickly ”, this vet from Aarhus, in the north of the country, tells the phone. Neither he nor his colleagues understand what the government relied on to order the extermination of the entire mink population, and not just those that inhabited the 284 infected farms, according to data from FurEurope, an umbrella organization that encompasses fur producers. of animals, which represent between 25% and 30% of the country’s total. “The minks that were infected had the virus for three to four days. After that there was no trace left [de la enfermedad]”, Says Pedersen, who has been dealing with mink for 20 years, a business for which he earned about 8,000 euros a month, according to himself. “The Prime Minister has done a great job [respecto a la pandemia], but #minkgate It’s too much, ”he continues, referring to the speed and illegality with which the Government allegedly acted. The data support the scale of the scandal. According to a study by the University of Aarhus cited by local media, the popularity of the Social Democratic leader, Mette Frederiksen, plummeted 20 points (from 75%) just after ordering the slaughter of minks and after it was made public that the Government did so without debate it in the Folketing (Parliament) and without a legal basis.
On November 4, the authorities ruthlessly ordered the extermination of 17 million minks in all Danish farms, which are mainly located on the Jutland peninsula, with less population density, because they had found a mutation of the covid-19 called “Cluster 5” that had jumped at least 12 people. The government panicked – “This is extremely serious and is a threat to the whole world,” Frederiksen went so far as to say – because the future vaccine was in danger even before it was released. The Social Democrat, once again showing off her pragmatism – many analysts say she has airs thatcherianos– He chose to tackle the root problem justifying the drastic measure in the urgency required for health. “Of course public health is a priority, but it would have been better to cull only the minks from the affected farms, not the entire country,” Liberals spokesman Michael Aastrup Jensen says by phone.
The opposition en bloc – which until now had closed ranks with the minority government of Frederikesen and its applauded management of the pandemic (802 deaths in total) -, denounced that the measure lacked the legal basis to carry out the task and that , therefore, the premier he had to resign. “It is against the Constitution and someone who violates the law cannot be prime minister,” says Conservative MP Naser Khader by phone. The professor of Law at the University of Copenhagen Mikael Rask Madsen explains via email that the urgency that the Government had does not legitimize him to act illegally. “It is not a question of legitimacy, but of legality. The only way the government could have legally justified its actions was by considering it an emergency measure under constitutional law. However, they never claimed this basis for their action and instead acted as if they had a legal basis (…). They acted outside the law and legality ”, he maintains in a visibly upset tone.
Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, leader of the conservative opposition (in Denmark, the parties that support the Government even externally, in this case green and socio-liberal, are not part of the opposition), assured that there are technical reports that warned from weeks ago there had been no legal basis to carry out the extermination of all minks in the country. “The Constitution prohibits the Police, the Army from going from farm to farm asking to sacrifice your animals. The Constitution says that you can’t do anything with private property without a law, ”illustrates Aastrup Jensen. The US agency Bloomberg ensures that the documents circulated in the expert groups where decisions are made since October, a month before the massacre; and the public television DR indicates that up to six ministers were warned of the legal vacuum posed by the massive sacrifices. The Government, however, far from debating the measure in the Folketing, continued with the plan.
After months of rigorous engagement with the Government, the opposition, in short, has returned to opposition. The Executive “has crossed the limits”, says the liberal spokesman. And so, last week the first victim arrived: the head of Agriculture, Mogens Jensen, 57 years old. “I would like to say that it is clear that my ministry has made a mistake in relation to the mink sacrifice announced by the Government. I have apologized for this, I ask again and I assume my responsibility for it, “said the head in a statement. Despite this MEA culpa (which on the other hand is not strange in these societies), many maintain that it is Frederiksen who holds the smoking gun. “She centralizes all power,” adds Khader.
The Social Democratic Executive now defends itself saying that the proposal to kill the minks was a mere recommendation, while the entire opposition assures that the former Minister of Agriculture, when he announced the drastic measure at a press conference, was imperative. “Now the former minister says he only recommended. That is not true ”, points out the conservative Khader, who looms a legal battle over the meaning of“ recommending ”or“ ordering ”outside or inside the Folketing. Despite the fact that the law professor understands the pressure the authorities were under, he believes that the Government should resign, even in the midst of a pandemic with the dangers and instability that this could entail for society: “The real cost is that democracy and the rule of law are undermined if those in power are not willing to accept their responsibility, ”he says.
Meanwhile, the Executive fixed the legal mess at the beginning of the week by putting forward a rule that retroactively gave legal coverage to the massacre. In addition, all the parties with parliamentary representation are these days negotiating with the Government economic aid for the mink industry in Denmark and although it is not official, there is already talk of about 20 billion Danish crowns (about 2,700 million euros). “People have to find a new job,” justifies Michael Aastrup Jensen. Veterinarian Pedersen is much more pessimistic and says that the mink industry in Denmark “is 99.9% finished”.
Despite the fact that former minister Jensen was immediately replaced by Rasmus Preh, so far at the head of the Cooperation area, his withdrawal does not seem sufficient for the entire political class on the right and left, who has already announced up to three investigations into what happened, who I knew what, since when and if it was an order or a mere recommendation. An investigation will be led by independent attorneys; another will enter a parliamentary commission promoted by the conservative opposition; and the last one is about a kind of hearing (public hearing) to the American thing that the parties to the left of the Government request. The latter, however, has no future, since it is not contemplated in the laws of the country.
“The prime minister will continue to fight,” says the liberal spokesman, who agrees with the conservative deputy that the investigations will last “a maximum of one year” and that it is unlikely that there will be a motion of censure against her without waiting for the conclusions of the inquiries. The Frederiksen government, for the moment, quietly survives the #minkgate.