The EU budget. JyllandsPosten has: The Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt stands firm on her demand that Denmark gets a 1 bio. DKK discount in the contribution to the EU budget. The most known discount is the British that Margaret Thatcher once extorted swinging her famous handbag. That is just one of a multiple of discounts that has been institutionalised over the years. Denmark being one of the few countries left that hasn’t any one – Germany – naturally another.
Denmark is said to be rather alone with that demand. President of the EU council Herman van Rumpuyhas – according to rumours suggested a compromise with a discount of several 100 mio. DKK. This compromise was flatly rejected by Thorning-Schmidt. That indicated some understanding from the Dutch. Going Dutch is perhaps more than a coincidental pun – but more of that later. Danish opposition has no comment: “Nobody ever tells me anything!” as Old Forsythe keeps saying in Galsworthy’s Saga.
Actually Thorning-Schmidt is standing so firm as wanting to veto the budget unless she gets her way! As the EU budget demands unanimity the threat is harsh and very real – and unprecedented from Denmark.
EU-expert Professor Marlene Wind of Copenhagen University comments, that there must be a reason for this adamant attitude and Denmark will get something – though she won’t guess what.
Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt has a glum view of his chances of securing the Swedish discount that was negotiated way back by PM Göran Persson – despite violent attitudes in Sweden that that right must be preserved.
I think, I might have a fair bid on the flimsy evidence presented. As my regular reader (still alive?) might have noticed there are two major infrastructural projects involving Denmark Germany and Sweden: The High Tension Direct Current power transmission net and the tunnel under the Femarn Belt.
Actually I think PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt has a more than strong case – in fact she has an unusually excellent case!
Taking the Fehmarn Belt connection first:
The tunnel has been agreed upon between Germany and Denmark for about a decade; but been held up by German procrastinations over and over again. As late as last winter a 1 bio. USD railway-bridge that sorely needs replacement (build before WW2) was emergency repaired but really solution is a new twin-track bridge and we are definitely approaching the end of life extensions both in capacity and ability to carry the weight of modern trains – not to mention the ferries that always have been overworked and have marginal harbour facilities. The German side does need substantial investments in road and especially rail modernisations the stretch between Puttgarten and Kiel has always been the stepchild of Bundesbahn – keeping diesel locomotives when all other places in Germany had electric traction.
Not only that but the entire rail and signal system is outdated all the way to the large shunting station at Hamburg Maschen. The maximum train length is 750 meters and the need and ambition of the Bundesbahn is 1500 meters train length – and no it is not only hooking up more cars after the locomotive: Braking distances and reaction time will need a remotely controlled locomotive in the rear as well as in front. There are other considerations as well, but there are more in the nature of obfuscation in technicalities – or rather: Bad excuses for not getting things done. There IS a considerable German investment to be done that among other things have been held up by the German reunification and the overhanging investments in the former German Democratic Republic.
The project is indeed in the common interest of all three countries:
Denmark will get huge tonnage of transit traffic that pays by the ton-mile on Danish rails without any Danish handling costs (Luxembourg and Switzerland has profited hugely for decades by transit rail). Freight by rail is not really an option in Denmark as the country is too small and businesses are small and medium size, so they rarely fill a railroad car. In fact most of Denmark’s export to China is through supplying German companies. So of course Germany and Sweden will pay for the connection eventually by normal usage.
Sweden is really in need of being tied up to Germany transport wise. The combined rail and road bridge Between Denmark and Sweden at Copenhagen has been build years ago. The urgency on the part of Sweden must come from the prospect of using Göteborg as a major port. APM Mærsk is conducting trials and simulations to see the requirements before Göteborg can actually handle an E-class containership!
An E-class has a capacity of roughly 15.000 TEU or 20’ containers which in a rough “back-of-envelope” estimate is 90 kilometers (or 60 miles) of train length – or 60 trains of 1500 meter length per call of port! This obviously isn’t for the domestic need of neither Denmark nor Sweden – even combined – that amount of freight needs to go further and deep down into Europe. Before embarking on a major investment Sweden just might like to know if Germany is serious about the EU! Or Poland is?
That amount of freight will never get through the Danish straits, knowing the waters in the Baltic roughly no port will be able to handle anywhere that size of ship nor volume of freight for that matter.
Germany is in need of port capacity as both Hamburg and Rotterdam are large, and in various ways hampered capacity-wise besides suffering from a remoteness to the eastern part of Germany, Poland and Czech Republic – and the road and rail system of West Germany is creaking under the present strain. Of course the full range of benefits will not be available immediately, but demand further investments. So far Germany has been a lot of excuses.
Leading to the second issue is the opportunity to connect Sweden to the German power-grid through said HTDC grid. Sweden does not have a great generating capacity – especially as the nuclear power plants are being phased out (one of them placed smack across Øresund from Copenhagen – Danish/Swedish relations have always been radiant about that one)! The limitation of the Swedish hydro-electrical generating capacity is partly due to precipitation and partly to water-magazine limitations (3 weeks is normal in Sweden); but what it does have is a high peak performance that is invaluable in regulating the dismal quality of solar panels and wind turbines (they generate at weird and unpredictable times).
The other major HVDC investment is connecting Norwegian hydroelectric plants (No, not everything in Norway is oil) with the windmills of