Justin Cremer for The Copenhagen Post, November 8, 2012:
The government’s proposal to cut 200 million kroner from the funds available to language centres that teach Danish to adult foreigners looks to be scrapped thanks to the influence of far-left party Enhedslisten (EL).
As part of the ongoing budget negotiations, EL, which looks like the government’s only route to secure a deal after talks with opposition parties Venstre (V) and Konservative (K) broke down early in the week, is insisting that the planned cuts to Danish classes be dropped.
“If what the government and Enhedslisten are currently negotiating becomes a reality, and we end up with a budget agreement, then the 200 million kroner budget cuts to Danish lessons will be removed,” EL’s spokesperson Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen told Politiken newspaper. “We believe that the cuts would seriously affect the standard of Danish language courses that refugees and immigrants receive. One needn’t be a professor of integration to see that it is precisely these Danish lessons that are essential for effective integration.”
When the government proposed the cuts in August, it pointed to high dropout rates as one of the reasons that the cuts should be made. About 30 percent of students who start Danish classes drop out before they finish, according to reports.
However, that claim was questioned by at least one headmaster of a Danish language centre.
“Language centres are the only educational system in Denmark where the school receives half of a student’s funding when they start their education and does not see the rest of the cost of educating that student until they graduate,” Walther Jeppesen, the headmaster of Sprogcentre Nordsjælland, told The Copenhagen Post in August. “The state does not lose money if our students do not graduate, but our students lose every time the state cuts our funding.”
EL’s attempt to avoid the cuts to the Danish language courses are just one element that will have to be ironed out as the budget negotiations move forward.
According to Politiken, EL is also insisting that the government backs off from its proposal to carry out more than 300 million kroner in cuts to the state railway operator DSB. EL also vocally opposed that proposal in August. Back then, party spokesperson Henning Hyllested said: “It is obviously a deterioration of public transportation.”
The budget negotiations are clearly working out well for EL. Earlier on Thursday, it reached a deal with the government on ‘social dumping’ – the exploitation of foreign workers – that will give government authorities more power to impose fines on employers and improve the registration of foreign workers in Denmark, among other things.
Among the other budget details still under negotiation are how to finance the removal of the much-maligned sugar and fat taxes and what to do with the controversial plan to make Danes, who work abroad for more than 183 days a year, pay Danish taxes from their earnings.
On Tuesday, V-K representatives said that they felt “thrown out” of the budget talks, and it has since been confirmed that the opposition parties are officially out of the negotiations.