Tens of thousands of people gathered this Sunday afternoon (5) in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, to protest against a government bill that aims to increase revenue and increase defense spending. According to the text, the means to guarantee this would be to abolish one of the country’s holidays, guaranteeing tax revenues and economic activity on a working day.
The act was convened by the largest Danish trade union federation, which estimated the attendance at 50,000 people —the city has 600,000 inhabitants. According to the Reuters news agency, this would make the demonstration the largest in the country in more than a decade. The police and the government, for their part, did not make such a calculation.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen introduced the bill in December to eliminate the Lutheran holiday called the “Store Bededag” or Great Day of Prayer. The date, which falls on the fourth Friday after Easter (this year, on May 5), has been celebrated since 1686.
In addition to the unions, the opposition, the bishops and even members of the parties that make up the government coalition criticized the idea, which was debated for the first time in Congress this week – there are two more rounds of discussions, on dates to be defined. Denmark now has 11 national holidays, the same number as Brazil.
Behind Frederiksen’s proposal is an increase in federal revenue that will allow for an increase in defense spending in the midst of the Ukrainian War. At the 2006 Riga Conference, NATO, the western military alliance, established that member countries should reserve 2% of their GDP for military spending, but this threshold is rarely reached and has never been followed by all 30 members of the group.
Frederiksen wants to bring forward the goal of reaching 2% of GDP by three years to 2030, and it is in this context that the proposal to end the Great Day of Prayer comes into play. Last year, the country’s defense budget was around €3.5 billion, 1% of GDP.
According to official calculations, the cancellation of the holiday, putting industry, commerce and services into activity, would generate up to €400 million (R$2.2 billion) more for the government —help, but not nearly enough, for the military spending reaches the €7 billion that NATO would like.
The prime minister also defends, after having gone through a political crisis, comprehensive reforms to deal with the country’s social welfare model. Frederiksen vows to push ahead with the idea in the face of general opposition, using his coalition’s fragile majority in parliament to push the bill forward.
“Usually these measures are discussed with the working class, but now this model is about to be trampled. We are protesting so that, with luck, we can make ourselves heard,” plumber Stig De Blanck, 63, told Reuters at the rally in front of the Parliament in Copenhagen.
Economists question the mid- and long-term impact of the end of the holiday on revenue, saying unions and workers would find ways to adjust hours anyway. According to OECD data, the Danes work fewer hours on average compared to other Europeans.
With a wealth of experience honed over 4+ years in journalism, I bring a seasoned voice to the world of news. Currently, I work as a freelance writer and editor, always seeking new opportunities to tell compelling stories in the field of world news.