Ritt Bjerregaard

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Ritt Bjerregaard
Ritt Bjerregaard portrait.JPG
Lord Mayor of Copenhagen
In office
1 January 2006 – 31 December 2009
Preceded by Lars Engberg
Succeeded by Frank Jensen
Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries of Denmark
In office
23 February 2000 – 21 November 2001
Preceded by Henrik Dam Kristensen
Succeeded by Mariann Fischer Boel
European Commissioner for the Environment
In office
1 January 1995 – 15 March 1999
Preceded by Ioannis Paleokrassas
Succeeded by Margot Wallström
Social Minister of Denmark
In office
26 October 1979 – 30 December 1981
Preceded by Erling Jensen
Succeeded by Bent Hansen
Education Minister of Denmark
In office
13 February 1975 – 5 January 1979
Preceded by Tove Nielsen
Succeeded by Dorte Bennedsen
Education Minister of Denmark
In office
27 September 1973 – 19 December 1973
Preceded by Knud Heinesen
Succeeded by Tove Nielsen
Personal details
Born (1941-05-19) 19 May 1941 (age 75)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Political party Social Democrats
Spouse(s) Søren Mørch
Alma mater University of Copenhagen
Religion Lutheran/Church of Denmark

Ritt Bjerregaard (full name Jytte Ritt Bjerregaard, born 19 May 1941) is a former Danish politician. She is a member of the Danish Social Democrats, and was Lord Mayor of Copenhagen from 1 January 2006 to 2010.

Bjerregaard was Education Minister from 27 September to 19 December and again from 13 February 1975 to 22 December 1978. 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 1994 to 1999 and Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries in the Cabinet of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen IV from 2000 to 2001.

Political career[edit]

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 the 1970's Bjerregaard's political career really took off. In 1971, she was elected to the Odense City Council where she served just one term and resigned in 1973. In 1971 and 1975-1978 she held the position as minister of education. As minister of education she managed to change the Primary School Act in 1975 with the support from the majority of the other parties. On 5 November 1975 Bjerregaard hired an external chancellor for Roskilde University. Venstre and Conservative People's Party wanted to abolish the university, but thanks to the independent politician, former Conservative People's Party member Hans Jørgen Lembourn, the university was saved. In 1976 she introduced restricted admission at the universities meanwhile secured the protection of minorities. In 1977 Bjerregaard got the law about Erhvervsfaglige Grunduddannelser - EFG (Vocational basic training) approved. With former head of department Erik Ib Schmidt she launched the ambitious, complete education plan U 90 from 1978. Bjerregaard won the election for Lord Mayor of Copenhagen for the Social Democrats on 16 November 2006.

Four days after Bjerregaard was appointed minister of food in February 2000, the first case of mad cow disease, a dangerous brain disease, occurred. With the ministry Bjerregaard acted fast and consistently. The butchering methods were changed and a ban on risk products was installed. These consistent measures were first not received well, neither by the farmers nor the food industry. Especially the initiative to withdraw certain foods from the retailers was criticised. But later on the industry realized that the measures protected the consumers and created great confidence in Danish food products at the export market. In 2001 Bjerregaard introduced the Smiley system.[1] It made occasion for big discussions but today the system is generally recognized.

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 on 8–11 June 1995. She has also attended Trilateral Commission meetings in 1992, 1998 and 2002.

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

Personal life[edit]

Bjerregaard grew up in Vesterbro in Copenhagen as the daughter of joiner Gudmund Bjerregaard and bookkeeper Rita Bjerregaard. She is the oldest of three siblings. She was hospitalized several times because of narrow and unhealthy conditions, until the family aquired an allotment. She finished her exam from Christianshavn Gymnasium in 1958 and became a modern side student from Statens Kursus til Studentereksamen in 1966.

After getting her teachers' certificate in 1964 from Emdrupborg, she worked as a folkeskole (primary school) teacher until 1970. In the same period she was a consultant for publishing house Gyldendal. 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.


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. Because of this, Prime minister Anker Jørgensen fired her as minister. The National Audit Office declared that she had not spent more money than other ministers.[2] This later fueled a debate at the Danish Parliament.[3]

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. After a year, the case was dropped by the municipality. 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.[4]

'5,000 Cheap Flats' promise[edit]

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, Bjerregaard 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.[5]


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.[6]

In return, Bjerregaard claimed that Larsen-Jensen "suffered personal problems" which could not be commented in public.[7] The opposition, as well of the left-wing fractions, have accused Ritt of a dictatorial conduct and obstructing their insight into political cases.

Ritt Bjerregaard is regarded as one of the four most influential social democrats from the so-called golden generation, the others being Mogens Lykketoft, Svend Auken and Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.


Ritt Bjerregaard

As one of her first acts as Lord Mayor, Bjerregaard 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.[8]

Office refurbishment[edit]

In August 2007, Bjerregaard ordered custom designed furniture for her Lord Mayor office at a price of 850,000 kroner (USD 161,000).[9][10]

2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference[edit]

Quote from Der Spiegel:

Copenhagen's city council in conjunction with Lord Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard sent postcards out to 160 Copenhagen hotels urging COP15(United Nations Climate Change Conference Copenhagen 2009) guests and delegates to 'Be sustainable – don't buy sex'.

"Dear hotel owner, we would like to urge you not to arrange contacts between hotel guests and prostitutes," the approach to hotels says.

Now, Copenhagen prostitutes are up in arms, saying that the council has no business meddling in their affairs. They have now offered free sex to anyone who can produce one of the offending postcards and their COP15 identity card, according to the Web site avisen.dk.


  1. ^ http://en.mfvm.dk/focus-on/smiley-food-inspection/
  2. ^ "The National Audit Office's Report" (PDF). 
  3. ^ "The debate in the Danish Parliament" (PDF). 
  4. ^ Danmarks Radio, P3: 'Kronsj' with Ritt Bjerregaard, 20 November 2005 (in Danish)
  5. ^ Politiken: Ritt: I Never Promised 5,000 Cheap Flats in Five Years, 10 July 2007 (in Danish)
  6. ^ Politiken: Social Democrat Slams City Hall Door, 17 June 2007 (in Danish)
  7. ^ Politiken: Ritt: Social Democratic Defectant Has Personal Problems, 17 June 2007 (in Danish)
  8. ^ Politiken: Ritt Bought Doormats and Postcards for 430,000 Kroner, 10 March 2006 (in Danish)
  9. ^ B.T.: Ritt Buys New Furniture for 850,000 Kroner, 3 August 2007 (in Danish)
  10. ^ B.T.: Photo Serial of Bjerregaard's new office, 3 August 2007
  11. ^ Spiegel

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Knud Heinesen
Education Minister of Denmark
27 September 1973 – 19 December 1973
Succeeded by
Tove Nielsen
Preceded by
Tove Nielsen
Education Minister of Denmark
13 February 1975 – 5 January 1979
Succeeded by
Dorte Bennedsen
Preceded by
Erling Jensen
Social Minister of Denmark
26 October 1979 – 30 December 1981
Succeeded by
Bent Hansen
Preceded by
Ioannis Paleokrassas
European Commissioner for the Environment
1 January 1995 – 15 March 1999
Succeeded by
Margot Wallström
Preceded by
Henrik Dam Kristensen
Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries of Denmark
23 February 2000 – 27 November 2001
Succeeded by
Mariann Fischer Boel
Preceded by
Lars Engberg
Lord Mayor of Copenhagen
1 January 2006 – 31 December 2009
Succeeded by
Frank Jensen