Danish premier attempts to resolve crisis over environment minister

Denmark's beleaguered Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen invited his minority government's parliamentary backers to new talks Wednesday in a bid to avert a looming collapse.

"These talks will determine if trust can be restored," he said, adding that the political cooperation between the non-socialist parties was at stake.

Leaders of the parties backing his centre-right Liberal government held emergency talks late Tuesday but failed to resolve the crisis.

Rasmussen told reporters Wednesday he had confidence in Environment and Food Minister Eva Kjer Hansen and expressed surprise over calls for her to resign.

The crisis emerged late Tuesday when Conservative Party leader Soren Pape Poulsen said his party no longer had confidence in her.

Announcing the new talks, the prime minister said he had considered calling fresh elections but this was "a risk." It would also delay efforts to take on challenges facing Denmark including job creation and economic growth, he added.

Earlier, Pape Poulsen said his Conservative Party had not changed its position on Kjer Hansen. 

"We can't say on the one hand that we lack confidence in the minister and then do nothing if she remains in office," he told broadcaster TV2, adding his party backed the government and premier.

Kjer Hansen came under fire after it emerged that she had presented incorrect data about potentially harmful effects on the environment in a package for the agriculture sector adopted in December that allowed farmers to use more fertilizers.

In addition to the Conservatives, centre-left opposition parties have also criticized the package.

Rasmussen formed his minority government in June. It controls just 34 of parliament's 179 seats, meaning he has to rely on support from centre-right lawmakers, including the populist Danish People's Party, the Conservatives and the Liberal Alliance.

Liberal Alliance leader Anders Samuelsen welcomed Rasmussen's invitation and hoped leaders would agree to continue their cooperation.

Last update: Wed, 24/02/2016 - 17:43
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