The Danish Job

This is really a hybrid post, although perhaps the unifying theme – for reasons which should be clear by the end – is Denmark.

In the first place Danish journalist Kjeld Hansen has a hard-hitting article in EU Observer about just what does actually happen to all that money paid-out in the form of agricultural subsidies (hat tip New Economist), whilst in the second one there is news today that the Commission is preparing a position paper on the EU’s social model for discussion at the October 27/28 summit.

As Kjeld Hansen indicates Denmark – in 2004 – became the first country in the European Union to publish a national register of the names of individuals and companies receiving annual farm subsidies distributed by its national government.

What Danish citizens discovered on reading the list was that “support worth many millions (of euros) was going to Princes, peers of the realm, estate owners and other millionaires, not to mention food corporations such as Arla, Danish Crown and Danisco…The list also included the names of Danish politicians such as Mariann Fischer Boel (then Minister of Food and Agriculture), the Minister of Economics and Business Affairs, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Education and many leading members of parliament as well as former ministers and politicians.”

But what perhaps surprised even the hardened cynical observers of these matters was the fact that “several public authorities such as the Danish Prison Service together with the National Forest and Nature Agency and the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences were each able to acquire a significant EU subsidy”.

Since the initial publication of this kind of list in Denmark the UK and the Netherlands have now followed suit, and part-publication of the relevant information has also taken place in Estonia, Spain, Greece, Sweden and Ireland. Meanwhile citizens in the remaining EU countries undoubtedly wait with baited breath.

Hansen suggests that his research into the destination of CAP funds raises two core issues:

– Firstly, agricultural subsidies ‘steal’ a huge amount of resources that could otherwise be invested in education and R&D in the EU.

– Secondly, subsidies encourage the ongoing deterioration of wildlife and the environment across Europe.

In this sense his work is in complete harmony with other research carried out by Mark Shucksmith, professor of planning at Newcastle University, in a report funded by European Spatial Planning Observation Network (ESPON) – discussed on afoe here – held a similar view:

The principal conclusion from this ESPON project is that in aggregate the CAP works against ESDP objectives of balanced territorial development, and does not support the EU objectives of economic and social cohesion.

On the second, social model, topic, not much information is available to date. We are informed that there are three basic models in operation in EU territory at the present time:the Anglo-Saxon (UK and some new EU member states), the continental (Germany, France) and the Nordic (the Scandinavian states)

The latest buzz expression is apparently “flexicurity” – “a mix of flexible labour market laws and social security provisions, with Denmark referred to as the model country to prove the advantages of such an approach”. So Denmark yet again sets the pace. My own opinion is that the debate surrounding the summit is likely to prove to be an interesting one, and that this post more than likely won’t be the only hybrid product to emerge from the issues it throws up.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

1 thought on “The Danish Job

  1. “EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – London is set to keep pressing for the EU’s economic reform at an October summit of the bloc’s leaders. The UK presidency has added a twist to the regular EU autumn summit, by making the summit informal and focusing primarily on economic reform and social policy. . .

    “The vague character of the debate is influenced by the lack of a clear definition of the term the ‘EU social model’ itself.”

    Absolutely. Too often I encounter absurd exhortations, like: “Personally, I’m totally opposed to globalisation because of the threat to workers’ rights in the European Social model. . . ” And in case you think I exaggerate, dear reader, try this:

    “In an interview with The Times, Mr Simpson [General Secretary of Amicus, one of the UK’s leading trade unions] said that free trade must be curbed to prevent job losses and the erosion of workers’ standards. . . ”,,2-1776256,00.html

    So much for this: “An embryonic Asian regional bloc could develop by 2020 into a ‘free trade area’ stretching from India to New Zealand, according to the Australian government. . . ” and, “Separately, Peter Mandelson, EU trade commissioner, said yesterday the EU was prepared to cut import tariffs on its highly protected farm sector if the US reformed its agricultural subsidies.”

    Nostalgia, it seems, is every bit as good as it used to be. However, hope looms, as the EUObserver report continues:

    “Experts argue that there are several models rather than a single volume of labour market and social policies, and they often play down the forthcoming debate and its potential outcomes. The three main types they point to – Anglo-Saxon (UK and some new EU member states), continental (Germany, France) and Nordic (the Scandinavian states) – it is the latter that has received the greatest recognition by both analysts and the union’s officials. . . ”

    But a moment to reflect: it wasn’t that long ago when the Poulder model of the Netherlands was widely upheld in the EU as the exemplar for restoring “competitiveness” – not least because it had been so remarkably successful during the 1980s in containing the increase in average real earnings in the Netherlands to less than 1 per cent a year:

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