DENMARK - A group of 11 Danish pensioners are considering an appeal to the supreme court after their claim for more than 20 billion euros in pension contributions was rejected last week.

The case centres on the return of 153 billion crowns (20.6 billion euros) of pension contributions made to the state between 1970 and 1981 – which was rejected by a lower court last week.

The three-judge Oestre Landsret court ruled that the Social Pension Fund could not be regarded as an independent object of law or as a judicial person independent from the state.

And it said that the fund was not established in such a way that allowed the 11 plaintiffs – who bought the case on behalf of all pensioners affected - to have a right to part of its assets.

The Social Pension Fund was established as an additional pension by a Liberal-led coalition government in 1970 in an attempt to curb consumer spending at a time when raising taxes would have been politically difficult.

It required those in work to pay one percent of income to the fund, and this was later raised to two percent. The Liberal-led coalition promised that the money would be paid in addition to the state pension and the money collected placed in a special fund, called the Social Pension Fund.

However, the money was never paid out and in 1981 a Social Democratic administration reformed the system, halting contributions and earmarking the money for heating and housing assistance to pensioners in difficulty. In addition, the local press has reported that interest from the fund has been disbursed to other funds. However, there have been increasing calls for a freeze of the sum still sitting in the fund.

“The judgment is very disappointing,” says Leif Larsen from the group co-ordinating the case against the government, quoted in Danish media. “We have worked on the matter for some eight to 10 years and we were very sure that we had a case that could not be ignored. But now we have been told that the state is blameless.”

However, Søren Kjær Jensen, a lawyer acting for the pensioners, was quoted as saying that he was not surprised by the Oestre Landsret decision. He added that the pensioners’ view was that, having made the contributions they could reasonably expect to get something back. But to get a ruling in their favour, recourse would have to be made to the supreme court, the Hoejesteret.

Larsen said that a decision on whether to pursue the matter to the supreme court depended on the 11 plaintiffs being granted further legal aid.