Danish ministers show up less than average at Council meetings
Summary It is not always ministers that show up at meetings in the Council of the European Union. This is evident after an examination of participation lists from Council meetings June 2015 to August 2018, which has been conducted by Think Tank EUROPA. Average ministerial participation across the 28 EU member states is at 76 % while Danish ministerial participation is at 70 % and has had a tendency to decline during the investigated time period.
The level of participation varies substantially across Council configurations. Most notably, Danish ministerial participation is at 26 and 10 percentage points below the EU average for GAC- and ECOFIN-meetings respectively. Conversely, Danish ministers are very present at EPSCO-meetings with 100 % attendance by ministers during the period.
JHA-meetings are also well-attended by Danish ministers, especially during the time around the Danish referendum to abolish the opt-out from Justice and Home Affairs, and the refugee crisis, 2015-2016. This suggests that ministers prioritise going to meetings when the agenda includes subjects that are high on the government’s domestic political agenda.
It is not necessarily problematic for Denmark to be represented by a civil servant instead of a minister at these sorts of meetings. But Danish ministers participate in Council meetings remarkably less than EU countries on average, as well as a number of countries that Denmark would traditionally compare to. It could potentially be a democratic problem if political work, to a very high extent, is carried out by civil servants, and it can cost influence in the EU when Danish ministers do not participate.