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Politics unraveled: Seven candidates for the upcoming municipal elections wooed an international audience in the Ceremonial Hall
Seven candidates running for the City Council discussed their political agenda Wednesday night in front of a packed audience at the Ceremonial Hall, University of Copenhagen.
The City Council manages a budget of about DKK 6 billion and decides on topics such as schools, healthcare, housing and other everyday services in the city. City elections are coming up later in November. The event was organised by Cph Volunteers and Cph International Service.
“Everyone in Copenhagen should vote – no matter if you’re here for one semester of your whole life,” said Lord Mayor Frank Jensen.
Read more about the elections and find out if you are entitled to vote here.
Candidates agree that Copenhagen needs to more welcoming to internationals and become a better place to do business.
“We need to create more jobs,” said Lord Mayor Frank Jensen (Social Democrats), who hopes, if re-elected, to bring the city back to pre-crisis growth levels.
Rasmus Jarlov, Leader of the Conservative Party, pledged for lower taxation, arguing that high taxes kill businesses.
“We call ourselves an international city, but the standard contract is still in Danish and international students have to read through Danish curricula” said Heidi Wang of the Liberal Alliance.
Ms Wang, who was born in Taiwan and moved to Copenhagen two decades ago, said that it was her “horrible experience” in the hostile job market that prompted her to enter politics.
The Lord Mayor stressed that the Council has been working to tackle this sort of barriers. “If you move to Copenhagen today, you can get all your paperwork done in English, in one place, at the Citizen’s Service at the International House. That’s an achievement we are proud of.”
Several questions addressed the need for affordable housing for students and low-income families.
Pia Allerslev (Venstre) supported the idea of building student housing in an abandoned lot of land in Nørrebro. This would result in 240 new units, but, she added, “we still need other affordable options.”
The Social Liberal Party and the Socialist Party agreed that the housing situation is critical.
Rasmus Jarlov (Conservative) said that they will support housing projects for students, but not for low-income families.
“A fortune is being spent on building affordable housing for a minority,” he said. “In this way, we make housing more expensive for everyone else, by causing property taxes to rise.”
The Mayor of Copenhagen, Frank Jensen has pledged to build 5,000 new dwellings at DKK 5,000 a month. “I don’t want to be mayor of a city where poor people can’t afford to live,” he said.
There were several questions about Danish language: from the use of English on the workplace, to cuts to language classes. Consensus among the city politicians was that the choice of working language should be left to the employers:
“English-speaking environments are more common than you think,” said the Lord Mayor Frank Jensen, pointing out the case of Novo Nordisk, UN City or Mærsk.
“However, the easiest way to get around Copenhagen will always be by speaking both English and Danish,” said Pia Allerslev (Venstre), echoed by several others.
Heidi Wang (Liberal Alliance) said she was “worried” by cuts to language classes, but no solutions were proposed.
In the end, what will make Copenhagen a real international city? English signs, thriving businesses, more diversity?
“An international city,” said Heidi Wang, “ is a city where I can find a very good Chinese restaurant, open 24 hours, that has a menu in Danish, Chinese and English.”
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