Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s Opening Address at the Opening of the Folketing (the Danish Parliament)

The spoken word applies


The pram, standing outside Brugsen. With the child in it.

The strawberry booth on the roadside. Where the box for money is standing unguarded.

The children. Riding their bicycles to school.

I ́m feeling a bit like Dan Turèll: Jeg holder af hverdagen (I ́m fond of everyday life).

Because it ́s the little things. That make up the sum of our grand history.

Everyday life.

Past and present.

In a single word: trust.

When you ask Danes if we trust other people. A record amount of people answer yes.

In Denmark, we don ́t have gold mines. But we have something even more valuable.

We have trust in each other.

We have built a society based on trust. With duties. And rights. In that order.

I pay my taxes. Trusting that you pay yours.

I pay towards your medical appointment. Trusting that you pay towards mine.

We have that solidarity.

And when we meet in our neighbourhood. In the workplace. At the parent ́s meeting. Human to human. We are being met with trust.

It is not just cozy. It is a huge strength.

Just one example: If the engineer in a Danish company has made a drawing from which the smith can deduct that it does not completely align with the actual conditions. Then the smith approaches the engineer and says: Listen, there ́s just that one detail there. Don ́t you think it ought to be a little different?

Because they know each other. They attended school together. They play oldboys soccer each Sunday.

Denmark is connected.

There is that trust. Closeness. Mutual respect.

It provides stability. Creativity.

Jobs. Progress.

Trust does not only make us safe. But also rich.

Denmark is a fantastic country!

Do you recognize the picture of Denmark I ́ve just painted?

I believe so.

Or maybe you can remember it.

But there might someone who thinks: Is everything really as rosy as that?

I wish I could answer YES.

But NO. I cannot.

Because even though the frame around the picture is stable. The painting has faded somewhat.

The strawberry booth now has video surveillance.

And it is a paradox, that even though the overall wealth has improved. Many are sensing a greater insecurity.

When you ask the Danes today: Do you think that your children will have a better future than the one you had? Many are in doubt.

Those who have toiled for a long time, in physically demanding jobs, are worried about the near future.

They experience that the welfare society, they ́ve paid towards their entire working life. Is not there, when they need it.

I will do everything I can, to carry through a new right to early retirement for the most worn out in the workforce.

We must keep fighting for justice.

History does not only move forward. It can regress as well.

In the wider world, battles we thought were won, are being lost. Free trade.

Freedoms. Women’s free right to abortion.

And at home in Denmark, I know many people who see that things are on the move. Only, they ́re not themselves part of the development.

Running faster. But never fast enough. New demands.

There are cracks in the trust.

Centralization.

The scandal in Skat.

An American capital fund buying our homes.

A bonus of several hundred million kroners to a CEO. Does greed know of no boundaries?

Apparently not.

Large banks, who failed their responsibilities towards the society. Even though we helped them.

The climate crisis. A worry for our globe and our existence.

Denmark is a strong country. The Danes are skilful. Our businesses take on responsibility for the society of which they are a part. And for the jobs and the welfare upon which our society is based.

There is unrest in the world. Countries close to us are heading for weaker growth. And both Brexit and trade wars can affect us as well.

But within Denmark there is still progress. Employment is high. Unemployment numbers are low.

A lot is going really well. Actually, most things are going well.

But if it shall continue to go well. Then we must do something about the things which are not going well.

The differences have become too big. The society contract has become weaker. The trust has decreased.

If the feeling of powerlessness grabs hold of us, we risk losing our faith in democracy. The will to find unity. Hope for change.

We must never lose that. Because then we ́ll also lose faith in our ability to create a future together.

Therefore, we must strengthen that which makes Denmark into Denmark.

The trust. The unity. The solidarity.

Those are the values I ́ve been aiming for since I was young. And even though I ́ve grown older. And, in some aspects, wiser. Hopefully, this happens throughout one’s life. I will stick to what I came from.

I will lead the country with a clear ambition for Denmark.

Therefore, my speech today is not a litany of all the many things which the government plans to carry through over the course of the working year of the Folketing. These things are written down in the legislative program.

Instead I will point out a direction:

Greater justice. Welfare first. A greener Denmark.

* * *

Today, I would like to say thank you for the trust that is being put in the new government.
That is being shown me as the new Prime Minister.

By the voters.
And by our parliamentary support. Enhedslisten (The Red-Green Alliance). SF (The Socialist Peoples Party). De Radikale (The Social Liberal Party).

We have written a paper of common understanding. Which we can be proud of. I am proud of it.

I look forward to the cooperation with you all.

I look forward to the cooperation with everyone here at the Folketing.

The government does not have all the necessary mandates ourselves, for everything that we wish to achieve.

I believe, that broad agreements can provide better results.

On other occasions, there is a price to pay for a compromise. We will be honest about that.

Today, I am holding my first opening address as Prime Minister. Many of you here in the Parliament - 60 of you to be precise - are about to start your first working year at the Folketing.
Also, we have a new party with us.

From colleague to colleague, I say welcome.

Shouldn ́t we - new as well as old MPs- steer towards the common ambition to be the best version of the Folketing in the new working year?

Because even though the trust in us politicians has improved a bit. It is still quite low. And I see the lack of trust as a wake-up call.

I think it may have to do with the fact that we sometimes - how shall I put it - tend to inflate our results somewhat.

That we ́re not always being completely honest. Pretending, that something which is difficult or hard, is actually easy. Or the other way around.

I will try to steer clear of that.

* * *

The general population has far more trust in other groups in our society:

Midwives. Police. Nurses. Doctors. Everyone working with caretaking of other people.
I understand that.

Today I will say to all of you:

You create the safety and the opportunities which make Denmark into Denmark. Every day, you work little miracles. It cannot get more important.

And yet, you are being put under pressure. Year after year.

But it shouldn ́t be so, that even though the society grows richer. The welfare is decreasing.

The government will put welfare first.

Let us get rid of the reprioritization contributions on education. All the way from AMU courses (labour market courses - further education) over vocational training to universities.

And in the agreements we have made with the regions and the municipalities, we put “a floor under the welfare”.

So that more social and healthcare-assistants and social and healthcare-helpers can be hired.
When there are more elderly.

So that more children means more adults as well. So that the money follows the demographics.

The welfare has been worn too thin in some places. And in some places it takes too much of a toll on the employees.

Therefore, we will set aside money for an additional 1000 nurses.

In other words: we begin to expand the welfare.

I could go on like that, speaking of what the government is doing.

I could adorn my speaking with words of praise for our politics. I believe you can almost finish my sentences for me. We all know the lingo. The many billions. For ten years, municipalities and regions have not had that much money for children, sick people and for the elderly.

I could say that. Actually, I have just said it.

But I want to say something else as well.

I want to say it like it is.
Some of you, sitting on the benches here in the hall or watching this at home - you will not notice the changes right away.

Everyday life in the hospitals, the nursing homes and in day care will not be noticeably more safe or better. Not to begin with, anyway.

Even though we spend several billions. Even though we roll back unevenly distributed tax cuts.
Even though we start spending the money on education, children and health - the challenges are still so big. That many will not even notice.

In other words, I will give you the honest version.

We ́ve only just taken the first step. And the road is long.

But the first step means that we are on our way.

Step by step. Agreement by agreement. Budget by budget.

Year by year we will put welfare first, when distributing the money.

But it is also clear as day that money does not solve all the problems.

We must also engage in a more fundamental debate about the welfare society.

Why did we create it? Why did we build this unique, fantastic society?

The welfare society was built by people. For people.

That ́s how it was. It is that simple, and that fine.

But today it can sometimes feel as though the welfare has been forced back into the background.

And something else has taken over.

New Public Management. Budget cuts. Streamlining.

As long as I can remember, Danish politics have ultimately been about a welfare society, which was, again and again, to accomplish more with less.

Also, a strange development has emerged. Which we may laugh at. But which I actually think, might be a part of the problem.

When I looked at my daughter’s new timetable in August, I didn ́t understand the acronyms.

A teachers training collage (lærerseminarium) has now become a University College.

And do you know, for example, what PLC stands for?

No, right?

It stands for Pedagogical Learning Center. It used to be called a school library. Why did we stop calling things by their actual name?

It is a completely unnecessary alienation.

Of course, we have to improve things, wherever necessary. And it may be necessary to conduct meetings. Even to lay out strategies.

But welfare is not a project.

Welfare is warmth. Well-being. Love and care. Possibilities.

We are many who can thank the welfare society for giving us the opportunity to rise through the ranks of society.

But the social mobility is no longer improving. And in many places, the everyday welfare has become worse.

We now have more project-type welfare. Less of the plain care-welfare.

Let me give you an example: the police.

More and more citizens experience that the police does not respond. Or that their cases are prolonged.

We should be able to put our trust in the police and the judicial system. Anything else is frightening.

What has happened?

New tasks have been added. Banditry. Terrorism. Bombings. Border control.

But is that the whole explanation?

Or has pseudo-work been allowed to take time from real work as well?

Today, the Danish National Police has over 1900 employees. That is twice the amount of the employees in the police force of Funen.

Many are employed in the central administration units. Instead of close to the citizens.

Can’t we find a better balance?

The police is one example.

Here ́s another example: caring for the elderly.

I ́ve been through an internship as a home carer. We were handed a timetable with precise minutes. Every visit to an elderly citizen was measured out to a certain number of minutes.

But you cannot just say to a citizen who is sad; “You can only be sad for 8 minutes today”. It makes no sense.

Someone spent time figuring out those timetables. Somebody spends time controlling them. I would not even be surprised if people spend time controlling the work of the person controlling them.

Meanwhile, an old man lies in bed, waiting for help to get out of bed.

Employees in the care sector for the elderly spend half their time at work with the elderly.
The other half is spent on documentation, meetings, preparation of medicine, transport from one citizen to another, etc.

Of course, the medication need to be prepared. And the day shift needs to be informed of what happened during the night shift. But are there other task we can do without? And which ones?

Here is where we enter into a territory filled with dilemmas.

Here is where it becomes really difficult.

Take, for instance, the “right to free choice” paradigm. An excellent idea.

But when the citizen shall have the opportunity to choose cleaning services, for instance, from a private company. The task "cleaning" must be clearly specified. A certain number of minutes to vacuum.
The question is if a part of the minute tyranny in the elderly care has emerged because of the inclusion of private companies and the right to freely choose your supplier of services?

And now, don ́t be fooled into thinking that I ́m only going after the "holy cows" of the centre-right.

Here comes the next dilemma:

What is more important: time for care and attention? Or documentation and rights?

I think that most of us here in the Folketing at some point have demanded new rights for the citizen.
Perhaps mostly those of us on the left wing.

We ́re all touched by the story of the elderly lady with nobody to help her with the cleaning tasks.

But is it not the plain truth that we are tempted to legislate and regulate to such an extent that the judgement - which lies with the proud care taker, the proud local politician - is no longer being taken into consideration?

Is it gradually beginning to be only in festive speeches that we praise the local democracy?

Do we actually want to let the municipal autonomy decide? And are the most important issues always focused upon in the municipalities? Welfare for the citizen - not timetables and strategies?

The Social Democrats used to have it as a part of our policy to campaign for elderly citizen’s right to have a daily shower. We did not succeed in carrying that through.

Luckily!

Just think of what it would have brought along. The amounts of controlling and the amounts of timetables.

Besides, some of the elderly citizens said that they really didn ́t want to have a shower every single day. This produced some headlines. Do you remember? Commentaries from nursing homes where residents stated that it was completely unnecessary to take all these showers.

We had forgotten to ask the elderly citizens what they would like the most.

And equally important: We forgot what politics is actually about.

Legislation should be about direction. That is the way to lead a country. That is the political responsibility.

If there is an actual problem in a nursing home. Then the head of the nursing home must solve the problem. And the employee must be held accountable.

Instead, we are now in the process of draining the best society model in the world of the most important elements. The trust in knowing that other people do their jobs. The trust in the fact that problems can be solved on a local level. And that mistakes can be corrected.

If we are to turn that development around. It will demand something from all of us.

And - hang on tight. It will become difficult. Because we will not only have to legislate all over again. We are going to have to let go.

We must all ask ourselves the tough questions.

In the municipalities - how can we go about making fewer timetables and strategies?

In the labour unions - how can we make ourselves stop demanding firm rules for our members all the time?

In the patient associations - how do we keep ourselves from demanding new rights?

In the parent’s councils - they must try to control themselves and not add a sugar policy onto the existing ecology policy.

And here in the Folketing we must become better at not sticking our noses in everything.
Even if mistakes have been made. We must abstain from legislating based on a case-by case approach.

Because - you know what?

The employees are drowning in all the good intentions as to how they do their job in the best possible way. I can understand those who let the bureaucracy enter the one ear and disappear out of the other. And spend their energy on being with the citizens.

We need a closeness reform.

Where we reduce the micro-managing from above. And power up the professionalism and the leadership in the municipal institutions.

We will not compromise on the results. Cancer treatment must continue to improve. The children must still learn more in school.

The point is, quite to the contrary, that the governance and leadership we have today, does not provide the best results. We can and must do better.

Today, I would like to invite all of you to join me on a journey. There are no free passes. The journey will demand something from all of us.

It will not be easy. But it can be good.

Very good. If we dare.

Trust in that the welfare is there for those who need it.

Time for care. Human to human.

* * *

We must put efforts into all the areas where mistrust has replaced trust.

Our tax authorities.

It is not only an IT-system, which has failed. It is not only some crooks who have stolen money out of the common treasury. It is the completely fundamental trust in the fact that the community works.

Many years of rebuilding lie ahead. It has been said before.

It will become difficult. That has also been said before.

But the task is there. We must take it on together. Tax evasion must be uncovered. And punished. This demands that the controlling is sufficient.

Tomorrow, we will publish the government’s budget proposal.

In it, we intend to add more money to the tax authorities. For IT-solutions, among other things. I wonder if some of you watching today are sporting a slightly blank stare when people start speaking of the tax authorities and IT? I can recognise the feeling myself.

The employees in the tax authorities do what they can. They do it as well as they can. They deserve new colleagues.

Therefore, we will employ more people. Like in the good old days. Real humans. Who can make sure, that everyone pays the taxes they are supposed to pay.

* * *

There is one place in our society where the “crisis of trust” has been bigger than anywhere else.

Immigration policy.

For decades, it was as if the politicians at Christiansborg and the population were living in separate worlds. I know. Because I myself was far too late in understanding how bad it was.

Failed integration has left traces in schools, in residential areas, in workplaces.

And perhaps most evidently in the crime statistics.

In prisons, four out of ten do not have a Danish background. Far too many of those who have come here, commit crimes. Or their sons do.

Crimes of violence are more than three times as often carried out by male descendants of immigrants with a non-western background than by other men.

Crime is an evil in itself. There are places where I too feel unsafe at night.

On top of that, a few do a lot of damage for the many.

For all those with a foreign background, who live a law-abiding life. Contribute to the society. And yet, they risk being held accountable for the atrocities of others.

And regardless of who commits violence and crime - Danes or foreigners - the Danish society is at risk of becoming more brutalized.

I can sense that we are beginning to get used to it. Reckless driving. Threats. Stabbings. Shootings. Gang showdowns. Explosions.

That, slowly, we accept having to find a different route when walking home at night.

That it just becomes a trivial part of the news stream. That we just scroll on. Shrugging our shoulders.

It cannot come to that. That is not the Denmark, I want.

We cannot fight for cohesion and equal opportunities. Without taking integration very seriously.
And we cannot take integration seriously without saying: The number of immigrants has a significance.

I do know that things are not simple. That life is complicated. That behind the statistics there are real people and their stories.

But I will also say: When you come to Denmark. You are given the chance to live in a country with access to free education. You get free healthcare. You get a chhance for a job. And you live in peace.

Then it comes with the responsibility to make use of these possibilities.

If you do not do that. Then it is a breach of trust.

The government is prepared to go to great lengths with regards to those who do not want to join the community and who do not wish Denmark well.

I will say quite clearly to the population: You can trust that I will lead the restrictive immigration policy backed by the majority.

And we need to go even further. The government wants to take a look at how we can create a tighter legislation with regards to reckless driving. Syria warriors. Banditry.

And those who have been rejected for asylum must go home.

Immigration policy must be restrictive. But - don ́t get me wrong - the tightenings must target the right individuals.

It is not a loosening of immigration policies, when Mint is given a second chance. Or that the children at Sjælsmark can take their food to their family rooms.

It does not go against firm demands towards integration to recognize those who have done well. On the contrary.

Thousands of people have come here from other countries. They have learned Danish, gone to school, educated themselves. They go to work and share our values.

I want to say to all of you: You are a part of our society. You contribute to the community.

And, of course, you should be able to trust that Denmark is your country, too.

* * *

I am Prime Minister for all of Denmark.

I will hold on to what unites us. Trust. Responsibility. Justice.

Strengthen the most precious assets we have. Our welfare. Our fellowship.

And I will remember the world history of which we are a part.

Next, year, we commemorate two important anniversaries. They will be celebrated. We must learn from history.

On the 5th of May 2020 it will have been 75 years since Denmark was liberated.

Many of the witnesses from World War ll are no longer with us. Fewer are left to tell us about what it was like.

A Europe which lifted itself up from the ground, following war, despair and genocide.

Built peace upon international rules. Cooperation. Trust between countries.

We must carry forward that torch.

Next year we will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the reunification of South Jutland with Denmark.

Not by the means of war and violence. But via a peaceful referendum. Through trust.

The same trust, which is also the source of great cooperation in the border region. An international role model.

The same trust which is the foundation upon which we have built the good and solid relations we have with Germany.

And also the trust upon which the European cooperation is built.

If we had any doubts. Then just look at Great Britain.

I want to make political changes in a Europe which provide solutions to the problems of our time.

A mobility, which is in some places better for the market than for the workers.

Tax evasions in the scale of billions. Because the speculators are always one step ahead of the common rules.

The climate-crisis. Which can only be solved together with other countries.

And the concern, as to whether or not Europe has its borders under control.

Europe does not.

Traffickers make their living from the misery of others. Refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea.

Our government wishes to help people who are fleeing war and violence. Help in the regions of origin. This is where we can help the most.

I wish to lead the work on a new asylum system. More just. More humane.

I will bring that message with me to Brussels.

And refugees who come to Denmark and are granted asylum, must return to their home country and help rebuilding it, as soon as it is possible. This provides space, so that we can help the refugees of the future.

The government wants to take the Danish European policy into a new and progressive direction.

Because if we do not succeed in doing so. We risk that the trust in international cooperation disappears. The cooperation built in order to prevent a repetition of the horrors of the world war.

And which is equally important today. As it was then.

There are so many looking to spread dissent.

In a world which is torn, we shall unify.

* * *

The climate changes and the interest in the Arctic draw Greenland and the Faroe Islands closer to the centre of the global stage. I understand the wish of the Faroe Islands and Greenland to be more involved in the foreign and security policy.

I do agree that we should strengthen the cooperation. Share knowledge and information.

We are three countries. Three peoples. Three cultures. But we also have a strong community.

I would like to extend an open invitation to cooperate in areas where it can be of mutual benefit.

As well as I would like to say to the North Atlantic MPs here in the Folketing that the government will prioritize the cooperation with - and the involvement of - you.

The Faroe Islands have held a parliamentary election. A new government has been formed.

The Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands Bárður á Steig Nielsen and I have agreed that I will be visiting the Faroe Islands soon in order for us to get our cooperation initiated. I look forward to that.

One of the first things I did when I became Prime Minister was to visit Greenland in August.

The Premier of Naalakkersuisut, Kim Kielsen, and I have already begun our cooperation regarding a topic which deeply affects both of us.

The children of Greenland.

I see a new willingness to talk about the problems. Also the difficult problems. Suicide. Abuse. Violations.

Greenland has asked Denmark to enter into a closer cooperation regarding the children.
I have said yes to that. Of course I have said yes!

Vulnerable Greenlandic children and adolescents must have a better everyday life.
And a hope for the future.

Never before has the youth of Greenland been that much needed. As representatives of a beautiful and lovely country. A country which can show the entire world what it is like to live on the frontline of the climate crisis.

* * *

We must show our children that we take the climate crisis and the challenges of the green transition seriously.

If we cannot solve the problems which the young generation has asked us to solve. Then we will not only be letting down the young people.

Then we will betray the faith in the future.

If we, those of us who have the opportunity, step away from our responsibility - then we will be feeding powerlessness. Instead, we need to take upon us the responsibility of hope and the will to act.

The challenge is enormous. The ice is melting. Storms. Hurricanes. It can seem insurmountable.
And distant.

But - you know what?

Not only are the climate changes progressing quickly. We are also beginning to see a will to do something about them moving at a greater pace.

In all parts of the world there is a massive interest in Denmark ́s ambitions.

The climate battle can become a common, Danish battle.

Children and adolescents demand change. Now we must deliver.

The corporations. Denmark has the worlds ́ best green corporations. And now we need the rest of the business world to follow. Agriculture. Industry. Transportation. Maritime businesses. All the big business areas.

Committing partnerships. The business world has agreed to that already.

Retirement funds. Who manage the money we will be living off in the future. It makes sense that they invest the money, so that we may actually have a future.

And they do. The retirement funds secure breath taking sums, billions, for green investments.

The politicians. We, here in this hall.

For decades, the green transition has been driven forward by legislation from Christiansborg. Wind turbines. Ecology. Energy efficiency. Now others - the young people, the businesses - are way ahead of us.

We need to get back in front.

The government has – together with De Radikale, SF and Enhedslisten – set a historic goal: By 2030, we want to reduce the emission of greenhouse gas by 70 percent.

Alternativet (The Alternative) was the first. Now more and more parties are getting behind that goal. The Conservatives. Dansk Folkeparti (the Danish Peoples Party). The Liberal Alliance. It looks promising in terms of the green cooperation.

We must have the climate legislation ready before Christmas. And then - a climate action plan.

The Danish economy is based on good workplaces and important export activities.

It is a result of visionary businesses and competent employees. But it is also a result of active political decisions, where we have had the courage to bet on Danish positions of strength.

Today, we export billions worth of environmental- water- energy- and climate technology. And the Danish pharmaceutical industry is in a leading position worldwide.

But for a number of years, we have seen budget cuts within education and research. This has not been economically responsible. We need to refocus the economic policies. The government will be spending an additional billion Kroners on green research.

And to me, this is not only about the environment - but also about our nature and environment.

We need a clean environment. An air quality, which allows us to breathe freely. Clean drinking water. Forests and oceans. That is quality of life.

Just think of today. October 1st. Going for a walk in the woods with family and friends. Is there anything better?

We have to plant more trees. Take care of our wildlife. Stop plastic pollution. This summer, a deer was found in Himmerland with four kilos of plastic in its stomach. Four kilos!

And it is not only deer, who eat plastic waste. So do birds. So do fish.

What kind of a world is this?

Let us enter into the only right contract between generations. That we leave a nature for the next generation to take over, which is in a better shape than the one we were given ourselves.

We need to live up to the trust that our children are placing in us.
In terms of the climate. And all of the green agenda.

Have great ambitions. With an eye on jobs and economic growth. In respect of our society model, without inequality increases.

* * *

That is what we can do with a new government. A new majority. We can make changes.

A greener future.

Put welfare first. A new trust in the fact that the community works.

That the police will come when we need them.

That the home care has the time, when we need his or her help.

That parents can bring their child into daycare. Without having to worry all the way through the working day: Is it good enough? Is it safe enough?

The tax authorities must work.

And those who have been worn out must have better retirement possibilities.

A tight immigration policy. But without the symbolics that are actually more about politicians than about solutions.

We did not build Denmark on dissent, inequality or greed.

We built Denmark on the opposite.

Caregiving. Trust. Community. Solidarity.

Enthusiasm and cooperation.

We must strengthen that which makes Denmark into Denmark.

I look forward to the cooperation with everyone here at the Folketing.

We must honour the promise we have created. A more safe. A more just. A greener Denmark.

LONG LIVE DENMARK. Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!

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