Today in Denmark: A roundup of the news on Monday

Danes protest against plan to abolish public holiday

Tens of thousands of Danes protested on Sunday against the government’s plan to abolish a public holiday to help fund the defence budget, amid the war in Ukraine.

“It’s a totally unfair proposal”, said Lizette Risgaard, the head of the FH union which organised the demonstration and which has 1.3 million members in the country of 5.9 million inhabitants.

Protesters, estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000 by police and organisers, gathered outside parliament in Copenhagen and carried signs reading “Hands Off Our Holiday” and “Say No to War”.

Around 70 buses ferried in demonstrators from across Denmark. Denmark’s left-right government coalition, in power since December and led by Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, plans to scrap the religious holiday known as Great Prayer Day, observed since the 17th century.

The government wants to use the money generated to raise the defence budget to NATO’s target of 2 percent of GDP by 2030, instead of 2033 as previously planned.

It insists the accelerated calendar is necessary due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

17-year-old seriously injured in stabbing

A 17-year-old man was seriously injured in a stabbing in Vanløse on the outskirts of Copenhagen on Sunday evening, although by 915pm, police told the media he was no longer at danger of losing his life. 

According to the B.T. newspaper, the young man was already on the police’s radar. 

The stabbing came only a day after another 17-year-old man was stabbed in Nørrebro, with CCTV footage showing two masked men carrying out the attack. 

After a series of stabbing events, police on December 19th brought in a stop-and-search zone in parts of Nørrebro and northwest Copenhagen, which was extended on January 19th. 

Danish vocab: forlænget – extended 

Denmark opposes Russia athletes competing at Olympics under neutral flag

The Danish government said on Friday it opposed Russian athletes competing under a neutral flag at the 2024 Paris Olympics, which the International Olympic Committee is considering despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since the invasion in February 2022, Russians and Belarusians have been banned from most international sporting events.  Ukraine wants to keep it that way and ban Russian athletes from competing in the 2024 Summer Olympics.

But the IOC has said it is examining a “pathway” for Russians to take part in the summer Games, competing under a neutral flag.

“It is Denmark’s official position, and it is my position as a minister, that we must not waver in our relations with Russia,” Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt told Danish news agency Ritzau.

“Russia must be excluded from all international sport as long as their attack on Ukraine continues,” he added.

Spy or jihadist? Denmark probes jailed man’s case

Danish lawmakers decided on Friday to investigate the case of a man who says he spied for Denmark in Syria, but wound up jailed by Spain over alleged IS group ties.

Ahmed Samsam, 34, a Danish national, claims he was working for Denmark’s secret service PET and military intelligence service FE in Syria in 2013 and 2014, spying on foreign jihadist fighters.

But he says they left him high and dry after he was arrested while on a trip to Spain in 2017, accused of himself supporting the Islamic State (IS) group.

Convicted and serving his sentence in Denmark since 2020, he has filed a lawsuit against the two intelligence services to force them to acknowledge his role with them. The case is due to be heard in August.

The new left-right government in power since December has rejected calls for an inquiry. But all of the other parties in parliament agreed on Friday to back a probe by the assembly’s Investigative Committee.

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