Green party quits Danish coalition, but PM stays in power


Margrethe Vestager, left, with Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt

The Danish centre-left minority government led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt's Social Democrats will soldier on in power, despite a decision by Denmark's Greens – the Socialist People's Party (SF) – to leave the coalition over Goldman Sachs's acquisition of the country's largest energy company, DONG Energy.

The Socialist People's Party on Thursday (30 January) confirmed that, although its leader Annette Vilhelmsen would be quitting the government – and resigning as party leader – the party would not bring down Thorning-Schmidt's administration.

The Socialist People's Party has been part of the Danish centre-left government since elections in September 2011 led it to join a coalition with the Social Democrats and the Social Liberals.

The green-socialist party is the smallest and also the most environmentally-conscious party in the minority government. For months it has been unhappy with government's decisions, ranging from austerity cuts to environmental plans. Its possible departure from Denmark's government was a hotly-debated topic in Danish media.

The US investment banking firm Goldman Sachs's acquisition of joint control in DONG Energy – the national energy utility – proved the straw that broke the camel's back. On Thursday, a majority of SF members voted against the acquisition plan which allowed Goldman Sachs to purchase 19% of DONG Energy's shares worth 8 billion Danish crowns (€1.07 billion) .

"The Socialist People's Party does not know how to act as a responsible party. This is one of the most ridiculous and embarrassing things I have experienced," said Ole Sohn, a member of the Socialist People's Party and former minister, according to the nation's biggest newspaper Politiken.

Denmark has been known for many years as one of the world's most environmentally-friendly countries. The Scandinavian country was the first to implement an environmental law in 1973, and wind energy today accounts for 25% of its energy supply.

The government also aims to make the capital Copenhagen carbon-neutral by 2025, with the country set to follow by 2050. On Monday, Danish Climate Minister Martin Lidegaard told EURACTIV in an interview that Denmark would keep fighting for tougher 2030 climate and clean energy goals.

Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt must now find new ministers among the Social Democrats and Social Liberals for the departments of Foreign Affairs, Transport, Health, Social Affairs, Children and Integration and Tax ministries.

In early January, the European Commission cleared the acquisition of DONG, saying it would not give raise to competition concerns, mainly because the overlaps between the parties' activities were very limited.

Danish social democratic prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was voted into power in September 2011, becoming Denmark's first female prime minister.

Her centre-left government has until January 2014 consisted of the Socialist People's Party, the Socialist People's Party, and the Social Liberals.

The minority government has been supported by the semi-communist party, the Red-Green Alliance.

  • Feb. 2014: Thorning-Schmidt to appoint new ministers.

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