Ritt Bjerregaard

Ritt Bjerregaard (full name Jytte Ritt Bjerregaard, b. 19 May 1941) is a Danish politician. She is a member of the Danish Social Democrats, and is Lord Mayor of Copenhagen since 1 January 2006. She is Copenhagen's first female Lord Mayor.

Bjerregaard was Education Minister in 1973 and from 1975 to 1978 in the Cabinets of Anker Jørgensen I, II and III, and Social Minister from 1979 to 1981 in Anker Jørgensen's fourth cabinet. She was European Commissioner for the Environment from 1995 to 1999 and Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries in the Cabinet of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen IV from 2000 to 2001.

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Political career

She was a member of the Danish parliament (Folketinget) from 21 September 1971 to 22 January 1995 and from 20 November 2001 until 8 February 2005. She was a minister of various cabinets under Anker Jørgensen, and Poul Nyrup Rasmussen. In 1970, she was elected to the Odense City Council where she served just one term and resigned in 1973. Ritt Bjerregaard won the election for Lord Mayor of Copenhagen for the Social Democrats on 16 November 2005.

Ritt Bjerregaard was the European Commissioner for Environment, Nuclear Safety and Civil Protection in the Santer Commission from 1995 to 1999, representing Denmark. She has attended at least one Bilderberg Group meeting.

She has been involved with various organisations. She was vice-president of both CSCE's Parliamentary Assembly and Socialist International Women from 1992 to 1994.

Personal life

After getting her teachers' certificate in 1964 she worked as a folkeskole (primary school) teacher until 1970. In 1971, she became assistant professor at Odense College of Education. She has been married to historian Søren Mørch since 1966.

In her spare time, she is a gardener in her organically-managed manor, mostly growing apples.

Controversy

During her time as minister of education in 1978, she stayed in a luxury suite at the Ritz Hotel in Paris during a Unesco conference, and this forced her to step down when it became known. In the early 1990s it was revealed she had used her connections within the Social Democratic organisations to get a large flat in Copenhagen, although she rarely used it, living on Funen. She was then forced to step down as parliamentary group leader of the Social Democrats. At one occasion, she used her political status to hold back a Great Belt ferry. When asked by the Council of Agriculture what she wished for her 50th birthday, she replied she would rather just have money than a gift. [Danmarks Radio, P3: [http://www.dr.dk/P3/Arkiv/Kronsj/Gaester/2005/RittBjerregaard.htm 'Kronsj' with Ritt Bjerregaard] , November 20, 2005 (in Danish)]

'5,000 Cheap Flats' promise

Her main campaign promise for the city council elections of 2005 was to erect 5,000 cheap dwellings for 5,000 kroner (948 USD) rent a month within 5 years, should she be elected Lord Mayor. This would allow an average-earning couple, such as policemen and nurses, to gain access to the expensive housing market in Copenhagen. Economists and other experts criticised the plan for being impossible to implement. As of the summer of 2007, twelve such flats had been built.

On 11 July 2007, Ritt claimed she never promised Copenhageners would get 5,000 cheap dwellings within five years, but merely that she would "work" for that aim. She claimed many unexpected and legal obstacles had come about, and that the government obstructed the issue. She also expected, however, that the 5,000 flats would be ready within 7-10 years. [Politiken: [http://politiken.dk/indland/article339701.ece Ritt: I Never Promised 5,000 Cheap Flats in Five Years] , July 10, 2007 (in Danish)]

Leadership

Since the November 2005 city elections, three prominent Social Democrats have left their fraction: Winnie Berndtson, Finn Rudaizky and Winnie Larsen-Jensen. In June 2007, long-time city politician Larsen-Jensen claimed::"As a city council member I have experienced four Lord Mayors. Ritt is the most autocratic, absolutist, centralist and undemocratic of all." [Politiken: [http://politiken.dk/indland/article326479.ece Social Democrat Slams City Hall Door] , June 17, 2007 (in Danish)] In return, Ritt claimed that Larsen-Jensen "suffered personal problems" which could not be commented in public. [Politiken: [http://politiken.dk/indland/article326523.ece Ritt: Social Democratic Defectant Has Personal Problems] , June 17, 2007 (in Danish)] The opposition, as well of the left-wing fractions, have accused Ritt of a dictatorial conduct and obstructing their insight into political cases.

Doormats

As one of her first acts as Lord Mayor, Ritt ordered a great number of doormats and postcards with the word "Welcome", costing a total of 430,000 kroner (81,000 USD), without asking the city council. The doormats were placed on the city hall square as part of an openness campaign. Later they were distributed to the city's libraries and kindergartens. [Politiken: [http://www.dr.dk/Templates/NewsArticle.aspx?NRMODE=Published&NRNODEGUID=%7B03D46B58-07FF-46F3-A557-06CE8ED7331E%7D&NRORIGINALURL=%2FRegioner%2FKbh%2FNyheder%2FAndet%2F2006%2F03%2F10%2F075024.htm%3F&NRCACHEHINT=Guest Ritt Bought Doormats and Postcards for 430,000 Kroner] , March 10, 2006 (in Danish)]

Office refurbishment

In August 2007, Ritt ordered custom designed furniture for her Lord Mayor office at a price of 850,000 kroner (USD 161,000). [B.T.: [http://www.bt.dk/article/20070803/POLITIK/108030721/1323/A Ritt Buys New Furniture for 850,000 Kroner] , August 3, 2007 (in Danish)] [ B.T.: [http://www.bt.dk/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=BT&Dato=20070803&Kategori=POLITIK&Lopenr=803002&Ref=PH Photo Serial of Ritt's new office] , August 3, 2007]

References

* [http://www.ft.dk/BAGGRUND/Biografier_english/Ritt_Bjerregaard.htm# CV] - From Folketinget
*da icon [http://www.ritt.dk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=70 Ritt's CV] - From Ritt's personal webpage

External links

*da icon [http://www.ritt.dk Ritt Bjerregaard's personal webpage]
*da icon [http://www.socialdemokraterne.dk The Danish Socialdemocrats' webpage]


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