Tens of thousands of Danes demonstrated on Sunday against the government’s plan to abolish a public holiday in order to finance the defense budget. “It’s a totally unfair proposal,” said Lizette Risgaard, head of the FH union, the origin of the demonstration and which has 1.3 million members in this country of 5.9 million inhabitants.
Estimated between 40,000 and 50,000 by the police and the organizers, the demonstrators had come from all over the country on board buses. Gathered in front of the Copenhagen Parliament, they held up placards proclaiming “Hands off our public holidays” and “Say no to war”. Social Democrat Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s left-right coalition, in power since December, plans to scrap the religious holiday known as the Great Day of Prayer, observed since the 17th century.
The war in Ukraine changes the calendar
The government wants to use the money thus generated to increase the defense budget up to the NATO target of 2% of GDP by 2030, instead of 2033 as previously planned. He insists that the acceleration of the timetable is necessary due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine almost a year ago. But the unions say that making Danes work an extra day would violate collective wage agreements, negotiated with the government. The government’s decision “is an attack on our Danish model”, said Lizette Risgaard.
Kurt Frederiksen, 56, the head of the hotel and catering branch of the 3F union, said he opposed the government’s plan. “We don’t think money for war will help make peace,” he said. For his part, Johannes Gregers Jensen, the dean of Copenhagen within the Lutheran Church of Denmark, of which around 73% of Danes are members, deplored the authorities’ plan.
Denmark has a long tradition that church affairs “are decided by the faithful, and the government should not interfere in that”, he said. “But he does (…) and it is a huge problem”.