Part 2: The regional council
Text: Narcis George Matache
The pandemic caught the world by surprise. Although scientists predicted the possibility and encouraged governments to raise the levels of preparedness, few believed in it. Last year, when everyone was running around trying to cope with the first pandemic wave, the Danish regional governments stood out as an example of organisation. It ensured testing for corona was available at a moments notice, it organised the hospitals so that they could continue as usual while receiving covid-19 patients, and it allowed you to get vaccinated in an orderly fashion.
Unlike the local council, which has its own resources from taxes, the regional council depends on grants from the national level. This means that most of the money is earmarked towards specific sectors, leaving a small amount to be decided upon by regional councilmen. However, the importance of the regional council lies more in the administration of the healthcare system and less in the division of financial resources.
In 2020, I had the chance to participate in the work of the Regional Council North Denmark for half a year as a regional councilman. I was in the belly of the beast, so to speak. I still remember the rush I felt when the negotiations for the yearly budget started. A small amount of money, many ideas on the table and a "hunger games" style battle between the regional councilmen on who's idea become a reality the following year. I put forward a few ideas – language match between family doctors and patients; international health house where non-Danish speaking doctors can work with non-Danish patients; just to name a few. Unfortunately, my political influence wasn't strong enough to stand a chance in the "hunger games". One idea made it through only because other regional council members had personalised medicine on their agendas already. The lesson here is – to become an effective regional councilman, having ideas is simply not enough. It would help if you also cultivated your political influence, a process that can be painstakingly slow and hard.
There are 41 regional councilmen for each regional council. A regional councilman is a part-time representative (that does this work next to his job) who specialises (usually) in two areas of regional competence. Among the regional councilmen's, there is one full-time politician and the president (the regional councilman that obtained the most personal votes).
The regional council is mainly responsible for your health (physical or mental), your experience within the healthcare system, and your protection from epidemics and pandemics. Also, it is responsible for your care if you have special needs, your child's education from gymnasium until university, for the regional transport infrastructure (bus, train, etc.), for managing the natural resources and nature in general, and for European cooperation.
Denmark is divided into five regions (regioner). You can find the name of your region on your yellow CPR card. At the national level, the interest of the five regional governments is represented by the association Danske Regioner (Danish Regions). The most important task of the organisation is to act as spokesman on behalf of the regions vis-à-vis the national government, the EU, other interest organisations and the media, and to negotiate the annual financial frames of the regions with the national government.
How can you influence the regional council?
You can speak with your regional representatives – check your region website under the section "Politik" – there you will find their contact information.
You can go to the regional council meetings or watch them online.
You can put a question directly to the Regional Council. Before a Regional Council meeting, 30 minutes are allocated for dialogue with the citizens.
You can participate in a committee meeting and present your case for 10 minutes.
You can vote and ensure your group (by that, I mean people that share a similar interest) has a representative in the regional council.