Denmark has scrapped a public holiday in order to help pay for its NATO defence spending commitments.
The newly formed government says the move will help raise tax revenues for money to boost the country’s defence in the wake of the Ukraine war.
NATO asks that member states commit a minimum of 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) to defence spending to ensure the alliance’s military readiness.
Denmark will aim to meet that target by 2030, three years earlier than planned.
The government says most of the extra 4.5 billion Danish crowns (£533million) needed to meet the spending goal will be covered by the higher tax revenues anticipated from abolishing the holiday.
But labour unions have protested the plan to abolish the Great Prayer Day, a Christian holiday that falls on the fourth Friday after Easter and dates back to 1686, since it was put forward in December.
Opposition lawmakers called the bill “foolish,” “crazy” and “totally wrong” but failed to agree on calling a referendum on the issue. In Denmark, 60 lawmakers can demand a public vote.
“Stop the thief,” Karsten Honge, a member of the Socialist People’s Party, said during a three-hour parliamentary debate. “The government is ordering people to work one day more.”
Workers in Denmark currently have up to 11 public holidays, but the figure is lower in years where Christmas and New Year fall on weekends.
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The government’s pledge to accelerate defence spending comes amid increased geopolitical uncertainty after Nord Stream pipelines carrying gas from Russia to Germany through Danish waters were damaged.
The US and NATO have called the incident “an act of sabotage”, while Sweden and Denmark have both concluded that the pipelines were blown up deliberately.
Neither country has spoken up on who may be responsible for the attacks.
Meanwhile, Russia has blamed the West for the unexplained explosions and said the US had questions to answer over its role in what may have happened.