Denmark

   

Executive Accountability

#4
Key Findings
Marked by mature and well-functioning oversight mechanisms, Denmark’s executive-accountability score places it in the top ranks internationally (rank 4). Its score on this measure has gained 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Citizens have good knowledge of domestic and EU policies, with recently implemented mandatory digital mailboxes making it easier for the government to communicate with the public. The media covers domestic policy more thoroughly than it does international issues. Funding for the public radio services is being shifted to a tax-funded system.

Parliamentarians have modest resources, but reasonably strong formal oversight powers. The audit and ombuds offices are independent and well respected. The independent data-protection authority deals with complaints and monitors implementation and enforcement of data-protection rules.

Political parties show a significant degree of internal democracy. Economic and non-economic interest organizations are typically sophisticated, and often have a strong influence on policy, while still oriented toward the consensus tradition. Major interest organizations are often members of committees and commissions tasked with preparing legislation.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#3

To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual public policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of public policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of public policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
Political Knowledge
8
Citizens get most of their information on government policy developments through television, radio, newspapers, news websites and social media. Government documents are, as a rule, freely accessible via the internet, and published work is also often free. Documents can further be read in public libraries, of which there are many. Mail from the public is nearly exclusively going to Digital Post mailboxes. These are now mandatory for businesses and for citizens (with a few exceptions for the latter). Already most public services require online applications using a so-called easy ID (NemID). There is ongoing discussions about whether the information provided is comprehensible to most citizens, given the technicalities and complexities involved.

Election campaigns serve the purpose of presenting and debating the policies of the government as well as the opposition. A very high turnout during national elections (85.89% for the 2015 election) suggests a high degree of interest and enough knowledge to consider voting important. In the EU context, Danes are considered among the most knowledgeable about EU issues (partly due to the use of referendums), but turnout at elections for the European Parliament are much lower than for national ones (turnout for EU elections in 2014 was 56.32%), presumably because the issues in the former are considered less important.

Citations:
Lise Togeby et al., Power and Democracy in Denmark. Conclusions. Århus: Magtudredningen, 2003.

“Voter turnout data for Denmark,” http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?CountryCode=DK (accessed 8 October 2015)

“Denmark mandates digital postboxes,” http://www.itnews.com.au/News/365479,denmark-mandates-digital-postboxes.aspx (accessed 22 October 2014).

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

10
 9

The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 8
 7
 6


The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 5
 4
 3


The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
 2
 1

The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
Open Government
9
All governmental agencies have websites where a lot of information is made publicly available. When new policy initiatives are suggested or approved, the responsible ministers will usually hold press conferences allowing the media – print, online and TV – to inform citizens and debate the proposals. TV2’s dedicated news program, TV2 News, is very good at covering new policy events, and broadcasts several programs during the week in which well-informed journalists and experts debate the news. Important parliamentary debates are covered by the media and sometimes directly broadcast by TV channels. Furthermore, Denmark has the “access to public administration files act” of 1985, which replaced the Public Recors Act of 1970.

Citations:
Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen og Jørgen Elklit (red.), Det Demokratiske System. 4. udgave. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#11

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
8
Parliamentary committees have staff, as do political parties. The parliament also has its own library and recently opened a (small) unit offering consultation on economic issues. In 2015, the total parliamentary staff was 430, which is not huge. More than a quarter of staff are secretaries, a little less than a quarter are academic staff, followed by security personnel and IT staff. In general, the members of parliament depend a lot on the government for information and expertise. To gather information, they ask written and oral questions of ministers, and use hearings, independent sources as well as contacts within interest organizations and think tanks. There is, however, no tradition in Denmark for major independent investigations initiated by the parliament. This can weaken its power in the political game vis-à-vis the government. Party discipline is also a strong factor in Danish politics, which can weaken individual members’ possibilities.

Citations:
Anders Henriksen, “Folketinget er for svagt i forhold til regeringen,” Politiken. 24 August 2010. http://politiken.dk/debat/kroniken/article1042660.ece (accessed 26 April 2013).

Året der gik i Folketinget: Beretning om Folketingsåret 2015-2016. http://www.ft.dk/~/media/sites/ft/pdf/publikationer/aarsberetning/aaret-der-gik-i-folketinget-2015_16.ashx (Accessed 19 October 2017).

Året der gik i Folketinget: Beretning om Folketingsåret 2016-2017. https://www.ft.dk/~/media/sites/ft/pdf/publikationer/aarsberetning/aaret-der-gik-i-folketinget-2016_17.ashx?la=da (Accessed 7 October 2018).

Folketingets administration, http://www.ft.dk/Folketinget/Folketingets_administration.aspx (Accessed 1 December 2016).

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen and Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det demokratiske System. 4. udg. Chapter 4. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not request government documents.
Obtaining Documents
9
Parliament is entitled and granted access to most government documents. There are internal ministry documents, however, that are not made available. This is occasionally criticized by some politicians, especially from the opposition. However, ministers and ministries know that it is politically important to heed parliament requests. Documents may be stamped confidential, but, in general, most committee documents are publicly available.

Citations:
Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 1: Institutioner og regulering. Copenhagen: Christian Ejlers’ Forlag, 2005.

Folketinget, Håndbog i Folketingsarbejdet. Oktober 2015. http://www.ft.dk/dokumenter/publikationer/folketinget/haandbog_i_folketingsarbejdet_2011.aspx (accessed 22 October 2014).

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
10
Committees regularly summon ministers for meetings, called consultations (samråd). These meetings are key elements of how the Danish parliamentary system works. Consultations play an important role in the legislative process for members of parliament. At the same time, the meetings are where the People’s Assembly exercises its parliamentary control of the government.

Citations:
Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 1: Institutioner og Regulering, 2005.

Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 2: Regering, forvaltning og dom, 2004.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
9
Normal committee meetings take place behind closed doors. However, committees can decide to hold open meetings – including ones without the minister present – and invite experts from outside, as well as civil servants and representatives from interest organizations to explore and discuss issues. Such meetings are also open to the press.

Committees may also decide to conduct larger hearings, sometimes in cooperation with the Danish Board of Technology or other organizations. Such hearings normally take place in the room in which the former second chamber of the Danish parliament, the Landsting, met until it was abolished by the new constitution in 1953. To learn more about the issues they legislate, members of parliament also go on study trips and take part in conferences.

Citations:
Folketinget, Håndbog i Folketingsarbejdet. October 2015.
http://www.ft.dk/Dokumenter/Publikationer/Folketinget/~/media/Pdf_materiale/Pdf_publikationer/Folketinget/H%C3%A5ndbog%20i%20folketingsarbejdet_web_7%20MB.pdf.ashx (accessed 24 April 2013).

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
8
The committee structure largely corresponds to the structure of ministries. The Ministry of Social Affairs, for instance, corresponds to the social affairs committee in the parliament (Folketinget). The Ministry of Taxation corresponds to the fiscal affairs committee in the assembly. Other committees, for instance, deal with energy, defense, culture, environment, health care and education, and have strong ties to the applicable minister.

A few committees do not have a direct parallel, such as the European Affairs Committee. Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for coordinating EU policy, the European Affairs committee will have consultations (samråd) with all ministers that take part in European Council meetings, and seek a mandate for upcoming negotiations in the council. This may create internal coordination problems in the parliament, between the European Affairs committee and the committees dealing with the substance of EU legislation (fagudvalg).

Citations:
Folketinget, Håndbog i Folketingsarbejdet. Oktober 2015. http://www.ft.dk/dokumenter/publikationer/folketinget/haandbog_i_folketingsarbejdet_2011.aspx (Accessed 22 Oktober 2014).

Finn Laursen, “The Role of National Parliamentary Committees in European Scrutiny: Reflections based on the Danish Case,” in Katrin Auel and Arthur Benz, eds. The Europeanisation of Parliamentary Democracy. Abingdon: Routledge, 2006, pp. 110-125.

Media

#9

To what extent do media in your country analyze the rationale and impact of public policies?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing public policies. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
8
Media play an important role in the democratic process and, through editorial choice, the media has an important influence on agenda-setting. Among media outlets, there is a tendency to make the news easier for the public to relate to by simplifying or personalizing the stories reported, and emphasizing an element of conflict. There is also a tendency to favor senior politicians and government representatives. Weaker actors, such as representatives of immigrants or ethnic minorities, get less coverage, although immigration stories have become important in recent years and are now regularly reported.

In addition to daily news programs, some television and radio stations offer more analytical in-depth programs, which can be quite informative. It is worth mentioning that the education of journalists has improved in recent years. Overall, the Danish media focus more on national rather than international news, including EU issues.

Traditional media face increasing competition from alternative news sources (e.g., news websites and social media) and their financing is declining due to falling advertisement revenue. Policymakers are increasingly using social media (e.g., Twitter) to make policy statements.

Media access to internal government documents has been a sensitive issue because of changed legislation regarding the access to such documents (offentlighedsloven). The new law entered into force 1 January 2014. The two aspects of the new law most criticized were the possibility of the government denying access to internal documents exchanged between a minister and experts (Article 24) and between a minister and a member of the parliament (Article 27). Despite criticism from the Danish Association of Journalists that the exemptions are too extensive, the law remains in force.

The funding of public TV and radio has been debated for some years, and – as a result the funding of the main operator Danmarks Radio (DR) – has been changed from a near-universal license fee to financing via general taxation.

Citations:
Peter Munk Christiansen og Lise Togeby, Magten i Danmark. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.

“Fakta om ny offentlighedslov,” http://www.politiko.dk/nyheder/fakta-om-ny-offentlighedslov (accessed 23 October 2014).

“Ny offentlighedslov – ny praksis for journalister,” http://www.aabenhedstinget.dk/ny-offentlighedslov-ny-praksis-for-journalister-2/ (accessed 23 October 2014).

Dansk Journalistforbund, Udtalelse fra DJ’s delegeretmøde: Styrk offentlighedsloven, https://journalistforbundet.dk/nyhed/udtalelse-fra-djs-delegeretmode-styrk-offentlighedsloven (Accessed 7 October 2018).

Jørgen Grønnegård Christiansen and Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det demokratiske system. 4. udg. Chapter 7. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.

Parties and Interest Associations

#4

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Decision-Making
8
The political parties have a membership structure and are democratic organizations. Parties have annual meetings where policies are determined and leaders elected. They are open to the press and covered widely.

Four of the political parties represented in the Danish parliament – the Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Social Liberal Party and the Conservative Party – have existed for more than 100 years and have all regularly participate in government. Since they are either in power or have the prospect of being in the next government, they have a strong interest in proposing plausible and coherent policies, and it is fair to say that they do so. This is reinforced by the fact that most governments are minority governments and the country’s tradition of consensus-driven policies. There is a strong tradition of broad compromise and agreement, and daily politics is less partisan than in some other countries.
Newer parties (e.g., the second largest party currently in the parliament, the Danish People’s Party, or the Alternative) may be more tempted to propose popular, even populist, policies. However, parties that aspire to participate in future governments have to moderate their views. The Danish People’s Party provided the necessary parliamentary support for the previous liberal-conservative minority government (2009 to 2011) and the current three-party government, and has managed, in this way, to promote some of the party’s core issues (e.g., elderly and immigration policy). Similarly, the Socialist People’s Party participated in government for the first time in 2011, although it left the government in January 2014 because of internal disagreements over the policies pursued by the coalition.

Citations:
Antal medlemmer i partigrupperne, http://www.ft.dk/Folketinget/findMedlem/Mandatfordelingen.aspx (accessed 10 October 2015)

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen and Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det demokratiske system. 4. udg., Chapter 3. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.

Websites of the Danish political parties currently represented in the parliament (Folketinget) in order of representation after the June 2015 election:
The Social Democratic Party: www.socialdemokratiet.dk
The Danish People’s Party: www.danskfolkepart.dk
The Liberal Party: www.venstre.dk
The Unity List: www.enhedslisten.dk
The Liberal Alliance: http://liberalalliance.dk
The Alternative: http://alternativet.dk/
The Social Liberal Party: www.radikale.dk
The Socialist People’s Party: www.sf.dk
The Conservative Party: www.konservative.dk

To what extent are economic interest associations (e.g., employers, industry, labor) capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Employers & Unions)
9
Given the corporatist tradition in Denmark, the major interest organizations are regularly involved in policymaking. The most recent examples include initiatives focusing on the employment of immigrants and life-long learning. This policy setting enforces discipline on organizations. Although they promote their special interests, they also have to bring them into a realistic political setting to have influence. This consensus tradition is also seen in the labor market, where organizations have a tradition of settling issues to avoid political interference.

Citations:
Peter Munk Christiansen og Lise Togeby, Magten i Danmark. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2005.

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen og Jørgen Elklit (eds.). Det demokratiske system. 3. udgave. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2013.

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
8
In accordance with the corporatist tradition, major interest organizations are often members of committees and commissions preparing legislation. They provide information for the government and legitimacy for the policies adopted, thereby facilitating implementation. Some civil society organizations may find it more difficult than the larger labor market organizations to get access to the government. Despite occasional criticism of the role of experts and commissions, they remain important.

Citations:
Peter Munk Christiansen og Lise Togeby, Magten i Danmark. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen og Jørgen Elklit (eds.), Det Demokratiske system. 4. udg. 2016.

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#3

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent audit office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
Audit Office
10
The national audit office, Rigsrevisionen, is an independent institution under the authority of parliament. It examines the soundness of state accounts and assesses whether institutions have applied funds in the best possible ways. The Rigsrevisionen may initiate investigations on its own initiative, but more often on the request of the State Auditors (Statsrevisionerne), the parliamentary audit office. The work is made public via various reports, some of which also attract quite a lot of media attention. Its work is highly respected and can lead to policy action. This was seen recently, for instance, with the report on the principles for the valuation of housing underlying the tax levied on housing values (ejendomsværdiskatten). The issue of valuation of real estate for tax purposes remains a political issue in connection with the government’s 2025 plan.

Citations:
Hentik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret, 2.
Website of national audit office: http://www.rigsrevisionen.dk/ (accessed 20 October 2017).

Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an effective and independent ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
10
In 1955, Denmark became the third country in the world, after Sweden and Finland, to introduce the institution of the ombudsman. The ombudsman is appointed by parliament and the office is an independent institution. Distinguished law professors have held the position of ombudsman, especially in the early years. Criticisms from the ombudsman normally lead to a change in practice or policy.

Citizens can complain to this office about decisions made by public authorities. The office, which had a staff of approximately 100 in 2014, can also initiate investigations on its own and visit other institutions. In 2017, 5,062 cases were concluded: 17.9% were rejected for formal reasons,17.7% were investigated, and 64.4% led to other forms of processing and assistance to citizens. Again, the largest number of complaints were about municipalities (1,568 cases) and the Ministry of Justice (718 cases), with only a few complaints about the Ministry of Immigration and Integration (186 cases).

Citations:
Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 2.

Web site of the Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman: http://en.ombudsmanden.dk/ (re-accessed 8 October 2018).

Folketingets Ombudsmands Beretning 2017, http://beretning2017.ombudsmanden.dk/ (Accessed 8 October 2018)

Is there an independent authority in place that effectively holds government offices accountable for handling issues of data protection and privacy?

10
 9

An independent and effective data protection authority exists.
 8
 7
 6


An independent and effective data protection authority exists, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


A data protection authority exists, but both its independence and effectiveness are strongly limited.
 2
 1

There is no effective and independent data protection office.
Data Protection Authority
9
Denmark has an independent data protection authority (Datatilsynet), which monitors the implementation and enforcement of data protection rules. The authority also deals with complaints, and gives advice to government institutions and companies. The council has a chairperson and six other members appointed by the minister of justice. The council first of all takes decisions about cases of a principal nature concerning personal data and the law concerning public institutions treatment of personal information.
During 2017, the agency took part in 391 cases of law preparation, received 1,511 questions and complaints about private companies and other data-responsible actors, and received 702 questions and complaints about public authorities. The agency initiated 73 cases and there were 255 international cases.
The agency takes part in international cooperation, including in the European Union, and monitors the handling of data in relation to Schengen and Europol cooperation.
Since 25 May 2018, when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) entered into force, the Datatilsyn’s director represents Denmark in the new European Data Protection Board (EDPB).

Citations:
Website: https://www.datatilsynet.dk/om-datatilsynet/ (Accessed 8 October 2018).

Datatilsynet, Datatilsynets årsberetning 2017 (September 2018), https://www.datatilsynet.dk/media/6916/aarsberetning_2017.pdf (Accessed 8 October 2018).

Datatilsynets Årsrapport 2017, https://www.datatilsynet.dk/media/6824/aarsrapport_2017_-_dat__soegbar__120318_endelig.pdf (Accessed 8 October 2018)

Databeskyttelsesrådet (EDPB), https://www.datatilsynet.dk/internationalt/databeskyttelsesraadet-edpb/ (Accessed 9 October 2018).

Niels Fenger (red.), Forvaltningsret. København: Jurist- og Økonomforbundets Forlag, 2018.
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