Svend Gunnarsen Auken (Danish pronunciation: [svɛn ˈau̯ˀkŋ̍]; 24 May 1943 – 4 August 2009) was a Danish politician. He represented the Social Democrats as a member of the Danish parliament (Folketinget) from 1971 until his death.

Svend Auken
Svend Auken, 1998
Leader of the Social Democrats
In office
Preceded byAnker Jørgensen
Succeeded byPoul Nyrup Rasmussen
Member of Parliament
In office
Minister of Employment
In office
1 October 1977 – 10 September 1982
Preceded byErling Jensen
Succeeded byGrethe Fenger Møller
Minister for the Environment
In office
25 January 1993 – 27 November 2001
Preceded byPer Stig Møller
Succeeded byHans Christian Schmidt
Energy Minister
In office
27 September 1994 – 27 November 2001
Preceded byJann Sjursen
Succeeded byOffice Abolished
Personal details
Born24 May 1943
Aarhus, Denmark
Died4 August 2009
(aged 66)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Resting placeCemetery of Holmen
Political partySocial Democratic Party

Auken held a degree in political science from the University of Aarhus and also taught there for a period in the very early 1970s. He was Minister of Employment from 1 October 1977 to 10 September 1982 in the Cabinet of Anker Jørgensen II, III, IV, and V.

In 1987 Svend Auken succeeded Jørgensen as leader of the Danish Social Democrats, at that time an opposition party to the government of Prime Minister Poul Schlüter. After making big gains in the 1990 general election, he was subsequently unable to put together a workable coalition, partly because of bad personal relations with prominent politicians in the traditional coalition party of the Social Democrats, Det Radikale Venstre (The Social Liberal Party of Denmark).

His position as leader of the Social Democrats was challenged in 1992 by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, who went on to win the internal election. That gave Auken the dubious distinction of being the first Social Democratic leader since 1910 to not become prime minister. (Subsequently, this has happened to Mogens Lykketoft, leader from 2002 to 2005, as well.)

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen went on to become Prime Minister of Denmark in 1993, and Auken served as Minister for the Environment from 25 January 1993 to 27 September 1994 in the Cabinet of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen I and was Minister for the Environment and Energy from 27 September 1994 to 27 November 2001 in the Cabinet of Poul Nyrup Rasmussen II, III and IV.

After the defeat of Rasmussen's government in the general election of 2001, Svend Auken continued to serve as a member of the Danish parliament. He was the EU-affairs spokesman of his party until his death, and he maintained a high profile on environmental issues.

Svend Auken was generally acknowledged to be one of the most naturally gifted and charismatic Danish politicians of his generation, and he is sometimes referred to as "the best Prime Minister Denmark never had".[1] He is one of the few Danish politicians to be honoured in the United States House of Representatives.[2]

He was married to journalist and editor Bettina Heltberg from 1966 to 1993. At his death he was married to film director Anne Wivel. He had four children. Margrete Auken is his sister.

He died of prostate cancer on 4 August 2009.


Political offices
Preceded by
Erling Jensen
Minister of Employment
1 October 1977 – 10 September 1982
Succeeded by
Grethe Fenger Møller
Preceded by
Per Stig Møller
Minister for the Environment
25 January 1993 – 27 November 2001
Succeeded by
Hans Christian Schmidt
Preceded by
Jann Sjursen
Energy Minister
27 September 1994 – 27 November 2001
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Party political offices
Preceded by
Anker Jørgensen
Leader of the Danish Social Democrats
Succeeded by
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen