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New center-left Danish government withdraws border control plans

Denmark's previous government was harshly criticized for a decision to re-introduce permanent border controls. Germany has welcomed the new center-left government's decision to keep its borders open.

The border crossing from Germany at Krusaa, Denmark.

Denmark's border with Germany is now to remain open

Germany has welcomed a plan by Denmark's newly elected center-left government to reverse a decision to place permanent customs controls at the country's borders.

"This is a decision in favour of liberty for European citizens," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin.

Germany, along with the European Commission, had been among the harshest critics of the plan, which was introduced by Denmark's previous center-right government.

The German foreign minister's statement came in response to the announcement earlier in the day by Denmark's new Social Democrat prime minister.

"The former government's decision on borders is to be stopped," Helle Thorning-Schmidt said, shortly after unveiling her cabinet on Monday.

Controversial plan

The government of former Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen began implementing stricter border controls earlier this year at the behest of one of his coalition partners, the far-right, anti-immigration Danish People's Party.

Under the plan, about half of the 100 extra customs officers had already been deployed to Denmark's borders with Germany and Sweden. Permanent border control facilities were to have been back in place by 2014.

Critics of the move said it contravened the Schengen Agreement, which provides for the free movement of people and goods between some European countries.

A government of 'firsts'

Thorning-Schmidt, 44, who is Denmark's first woman prime minister, also announced the reversal of other conservative policies, including a strict point system that has made it more difficult for foreign spouses of Danish residents to move to the country. However, a controversial ban on spouses under the age of 24 from non-EU member states from joining their partners in Denmark remains in place.

New Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt

Thorning-Schmidt's government promises big changes

The Social Democrat prime minister said one of her government's top priorities would be strengthening the country's struggling economy, by introducing a 1.3-billion-euro ($1.8 billion) stimulus package.

The two highest-profile porfolios in her cabinet went to the leaders of the other two parties in her center-left coalition. The head of the Socialist People's Party, Villy Soevndal, is Denmark's new foreign ministry, while the leader of the Social Liberal Party, Margrethe Verstager, was handed the economics and interior portfolios.

Thorning-Schmidt's cabinet, which is made up of 14 men and nine women, includes Taxation Minister Möger Petersen, who at 26 is Denmark's youngest ever cabinet minister, as well as the country's first minister from a visible minority, Indian-born Manu Sareen.

Author: Chuck Penfold (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Michael Lawton

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