According to new reports, the US and Denmark worked together to spy on top European politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Danish broadcaster DR said Denmark’s Defense Intelligence Service (FE) collaborated with the US National Security Agency (NSA) to gather information from 2012 to 2014.
Both FE and the NSA are yet to comment.
Denmark’s Defense Minister, Trine Bramsen, did not confirm or deny the report but told AFP that “systemic eavesdropping of close allies is unacceptable”. She was not in charge of the ministry during the alleged spying.
“This is not acceptable between allies, and even less between allies and European partners,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, after speaking with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Angela Merkel said she agreed with President Macron’s comments, but that she was also reassured by the Danish defense minister’s condemnation.
Intelligence was allegedly collected on other officials from Germany, France, Sweden and Norway. Those nations have also called for explanations.
Norwegian PM Erna Solberg told public broadcaster NRK: “It’s unacceptable if countries which have close allied co-operation feel the need to spy on one another.”
The NSA is said to have accessed text messages and the phone conversations of a number of prominent individuals by tapping into Danish internet cables in co-operation with the FE.
The alleged set-up, said in the report to have been codenamed “Operation Dunhammer”, allowed the NSA to obtain data using the telephone numbers of politicians as search parameters, according to DR.
DR interviewed nine sources, all of whom are said to have had access to classified information held by the FE.
Along with Chancellor Merkel, then-German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the opposition leader at the time, Peer Steinbrück, are also said to have been targeted.
Similar allegations emerged in 2013.
Then, secrets leaked by American whistleblower Edward Snowden alleged tapping of Angela Merkel’s phone by the NSA.
When those allegations were made, the White House gave no outright denial but said Angela Merkel’s phone was not being bugged at the time and would not be in future.
Following the new report, Edward Snowden accused President Joe Biden of being “deeply involved in this scandal the first time around”. Joe Biden was vice-president at the time the reported surveillance took place.
According to the fourth World Happiness Report, Denmark is the world’s happiest country while Burundi is the least happy.
The new survey also found that countries where there was less inequality were happier overall.
Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland, which like Denmark have strong social security systems, made up the rest of the top five.
The US was the world’s 13th happiest country, the UK was 23rd, China was 83rd and India was 118th.
At the bottom of the 156 countries on the list was Burundi, which is experiencing severe political unrest and the threat of violence. It scored worse than Syria, where a civil war has killed more than 250,000 people over the past five years.
The survey found Syrians had a better healthy-life expectancy and were also seen as being more generous than Burundians and people in the three other nations – Togo, Afghanistan and Benin – making up the five least happy countries.
Northern America, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe were the happiest regions overall.
South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa were the only regions where the average rating for wellbeing was less than five out of 10.
The World Happiness Report – compiled by the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) – is an analysis of Gallup World Poll data generated from surveys of 1,000 people in each country every year for three years. They were asked to evaluate their lives on a ladder scale of zero to 10.
The researchers defined six key categories: GDP (a nation’s output of goods and services) per capita, social support, healthy-life expectancy, personal freedom, charitable giving and perceived corruption.
The report found that people are happier living in societies where there is less inequality of happiness. Likewise it found that the bigger the gap – or inequality – in a country’s happiness, the more widespread unhappiness is as a whole.
It also looked at social support – defined as being able to count on someone in difficult times – and the presence or otherwise of corruption.
Denmark’s lawmakers will vote on January 26 on a highly controversial proposal to confiscate asylum seekers’ valuables to pay for their upkeep.
The proposal drew sharp criticism in Denmark and abroad when it was announced earlier this month.
Danish authorities insist the policy brings refugees in line with jobless Danes, who must sell assets above a certain level to claim benefits.
With broad cross-party support, the bill looks set to pass into law.
The Danish government will also vote on another controversial proposal – delaying family reunifications for refugees in an attempt to discourage them from travelling to the country.
Denmark expects to receive around 20,000 asylum seekers in 2016, compared with 15,000 in 2015.
The country insists that the new laws are needed to stem the flow of refugees, despite both Denmark and Sweden recently tightening their borders.
Many have compared the plan to the confiscation of valuables from Jews during the World War II.
Integration Minister Inger Stoejberg was forced to announce that no items deemed sentimental would be taken. The law would apply to cash or assets worth more than 10,000 kroner ($1,450) – a figure raised from 3,000 kroner following objections.
UN refugee agency the UNHCR has warned that the proposals violate the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UN Refugee Convention.
Both the ruling center-right Venstre party and the right-wing, anti-immigration Danish People’s Party back the bill, meaning it is likely to pass.
PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen of the Venstre party has shrugged off criticism, calling the bill “the most misunderstood bill in Denmark’s history”.
Denmark has decided to tighten its border controls with Germany, hours after Sweden imposed similar measures to deter refugees entering from Denmark.
Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen said the decision was “not a happy moment” but Denmark “must respond” to Sweden’s restrictions.
Danish police will carry out border spot checks for the next 10 days.
The two countries are the latest to impose controls in Europe’s Schengen passport-free travel area.
In a letter to the European Commission, Inger Stojberg, Denmark’s integration minister, said the controls would focus initially on the border with Germany but may be extended to all of Denmark’s borders.
Inger Stojberg said the measures taken by Sweden meant Denmark was “faced with a serious risk to public order and internal security because a very large number of illegal immigrants may be stranded in the Copenhagen area”.
The new controls would not cause a problem for “ordinary” Danes and Germans, Lokke Rasmussen said.
“We are introducing temporary border controls, but in a balanced way,” the prime minister said.
“If the European Union cannot protect the external border you will see more and more countries forced to introduce temporary border controls.”
A Danish Elvis Presley museum has been forced to rebrand after a legal challenge over its use of the name of the singer’s Graceland home.
Graceland Randers, which opened in 2011 in the town of Randers, will now be known as the Memphis Mansion.
The building is a replica of Elvis Presley’s Memphis home, but is twice the size to house a shop and restaurant.
Henrik Knudsen, who runs the Danish attraction, said Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc demanded a name change.
He said the company also sought 1.5 million kroner in compensation for the infringement of the Graceland name.
Henrik Knudsen opened Graceland Randers in 2011 and put almost 6,000 Elvis items, from guitars and letters to clothes, on display.
In a statement, he said: “Pending the case, we have chosen to change the name… namely to Memphis Mansion!
“It has been very difficult to find a new name, which covered the we stand for. But we believe Memphis Mansion says it all. We also hope our customers and friends of the house will welcome our new name.”
Reports that the museum would have to close because of the lawsuit were incorrect, Henrik Knudsen added. More than 130,000 people visited the museum in 2015.
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