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Danes Up in Arms Over Removal of Christian Holiday to Raise Defense Spending

© AFP 2023 / JOHN MACDOUGALL View of the main square and the church in downtown Aeroeskoebing, on the small Danish island of Aeroe August 30, 2012
View of the main square and the church in downtown Aeroeskoebing, on the small Danish island of Aeroe August 30, 2012 - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.01.2023
The abolition plans have been widely slammed by the clergy, politicians, trade unions and ordinary Danes alike, who found the alleged connection between abandoning a historic holiday and increasing defense spending hard to swallow.
The Danish government has confirmed its intention to abolish Great Prayer Day, a historic holiday, in order to fund its military spending, despite widespread protests.
The Great Prayer Day, introduced in 1686, is one of eleven official holidays in Denmark. It falls on the fourth Friday after Easter and three weeks before Pentecost and was traditionally used for fasting, prayer and church visits.
According to the government’s calculation, though, scrapping the holiday will bring an extra DKK 3.2 billion ($460 million) to the treasury. This, it claimed, will help replenish the nation's war chest, which was emptied by Copenhagen’s recent moves to assist Ukraine amid Russia's special operation. The Danish defense capabilities are admittedly severely undermined by its massive military help to Kiev, which includes Harpoon missiles.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen stressed that Denmark does not meet the NATO requirement that defense spending must amount to at least 2 percent of the country's GDP. If this is to be achieved, money must be released, she emphasized.
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However, the plans have been widely slammed by the clergy, politicians, trade unions and ordinary Danes alike.
The country's 11 bishops have submitted a rare protest to the church minister, claiming that the abolition proposal was a "regrettable intervention in the folk church's tradition." They argued that the holiday was "essential both the Christian preaching and the community building in the society." They also argued that the connection between abolishing a public holiday and increasing defense spending was "somewhat puzzling."
The trade union movement was also obviously riled up, as numerous unions from doctors to industrial workers asked the government to either drop the proposal or hold a referendum. The trade unions argued that the government was meddling in things that traditionally have been settled by work life parties. According to the head of Denmark’s main trade union organization Lizette Risgaard, this may set a dangerous precedent for arbitrarily removing holidays. Numerous economic commentators even warned of high risks of strikes due to the already high inflation pressure amid a cost-of-living crisis.
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As a token of popular opposition, a petition against the move gathered 100,000 signatures within an hour.
Last but not least, wholly nine Danish parties found themselves in a rare alliance against the coalition government. However, the Social Democrats, the Liberals and the Moderates have a majority in the parliament and don’t need the support of any sidekicks to get the controversial proposal through. Furthermore, the government even issued an ultimatum to fellow parliamentary parties, threatening to disbar them from negotiations about defense spending unless they back the abolition of Great Prayer Day. However, subsequently it backed down following accusations of "complete arrogance of power."
Overall, the West has poured tens of billions in arms assistance to Ukraine to the point of emptying its own arsenals. However, despite the numerous problems facing the Washington-led Western coalition supporting Ukraine (including various arms trickling down into the black market), it appears to be resolute to continue this trajectory and further fuel the conflict. Moscow, for its part, has consistently pointed out that military assistance to Kiev accomplishes nothing but drawing out the conflict.
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