How a Danish gentlemen’s agreement can ensure more family-friendliness in European parliaments

written by Jule Ahles, 04.10.2021

Denmarks parties agreed long time ago not to use all of their seats when it comes to voting. – symbolic image by Jule Ahles

In the Danish Parliament (Folketing), the parties have long agreed to fill only a certain proportion of their seats for each vote. The so-called clearing agreements allow Members of Parliament to make other appointments without affecting the majority.

This arrangement also simplifies reconciling family and work in a political office, for example to look after their children in emergencies. The clearing agreements are not binding anywhere, but apart from individual cases, all parties adhere to them.

In other European countries, too, such a regulation could facilitate the discussion about the compatibility of family and work in politics. It is unclear whether a verbal commitment based on the Danish model would work there as well, but for example in Germany, there was a similar proposal a few years ago: if an MP drops out for family reasons, the opposition should also be deprived of a vote. However, this never came into force.