Danes divided over new minister

January 17, 1997

Jytte Hilden, Denmark's new minister of research and technology, has been given a mixed reception by the research and university communities. Although some were sceptical after judging her four-year performance as minister of culture, others were looking forward to her tenure.

In a reshuffle announced after one of the coalition government's minority partners withdrew, prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen promoted Frank Jensen from the ministry of research and technology to the ministry of justice.

Among Ms Hilden's first responsibilities will be the publication and implementation of Denmark's new research strategy, negotiations to liberalise telecommunications and the formulation of policies to ensure personal and financial security in the face of increasing computerisation.

Ms Hilden has a chemical engineering degree and worked in the organic chemistry laboratory at the Technical University of Denmark and at the Danish Academy of Technical Sciences before becoming a school head. Elected to the Danish parliament for the Social Democrats in 1984, she was her party's spokesperson on research.

"As far as research is concerned, Ms Hilden is a relatively unknown quantity," said Henrik Tvarnoe, rector of Odense University. "She's taken over an area that she hasn't had much contact with for a long time. But Ms Hilden is a professional politician with long experience as a minister."

Ole Fejerskov, chairman of the Danish Research Academy, added: "With the experience we have of Jytte Hilden as minister of culture, there can be little doubt that she will be an engaged and active minister of research and technology. She has taken over a ministry that has made a very powerful entrance under the previous minister and I believe she will be strongly bound by the developments launched by Frank Jensen."

Following an initial comment that "sport is like pornography: it's more fun to participate than to watch", Ms Hilden's 47 months as minister of culture were characterised by a number of initiatives that were given mixed receptions by the cultural establishment as well as by the man in the street. These included the total abolition of age-related film censorship (put on hold by her successor), new legislation for literature, libraries, cultural foundations and the media, and a much-discussed redistribution of the public lending right.

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