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In the general election on 13 November, the Danish people voted to support the stable and dynamic development of society that we have experienced during the past six years. The Danes want to ensure that the many positive results, which have created progress, innovation and security everywhere in Danish society, will continue into the future.
Therefore the Liberal-Conservative Government received a mandate for a third term.
This shows great trust. And it is a great responsibility, which we commit ourselves to living up to.
Before the election, we made it clear that we want broad cooperation in the Folketing on the great challenges that lie ahead of us.
Therefore we invite all the parties of the Folketing to share in the responsibility.
Denmark is best served when important and far-reaching reforms rest upon solid political foundations in the Folketing.
Denmark is a society of opportunities. Because Denmark is a well-functioning and prosperous society in which the individual has considerable freedom to realise his or her dreams, goals and ambitions.
The Government wants a society with even better opportunities for the individual and for the community.
We want a society in which we have the freedom to be different. A society with freedom to choose lifestyle and faith, as well as school, child care, hospital and home help.
A society in which freedom for private initiative goes hand in hand with social security, a society in which we take care of those who need help.
A society with good cohesion, without too large gaps between the population groups. A society with equal opportunities for all.
The Government has presented a comprehensive programme that aims to create a Denmark with even better opportunities for all.
We are doing really well in Denmark. We all sense the dynamism.
However, we can do even better, and we will do even better.
We wish to create the welfare model of the 21st century. A welfare model that places the needs of the users at the centre. A welfare model in which employees and management at the individual institutions are given extensive freedom to find local solutions that are best suited to meeting the needs and wishes of the users. A welfare model that makes a positive contribution to innovation, development and dynamism throughout Danish society.
Therefore, the Government has presented an ambitious quality improvement reform. And therefore we have established a Ministry of Welfare.
We intend to allocate a total of DKK 60 billion for investments in and development of our hospitals, schools, homes for the elderly and day-care facilities.
We want to ensure better management. A better working environment for the employees. And modernisation of public institutions.
We want to thin out the jungle of regulations. All control regulations and rules must be exposed to open and critical debate. If a regulation is redundant, it must go.
The Government has made a broad agreement with the trade unions on reforms of training and management. We have concluded agreements with the municipalities and the regions. It is the Government’s wish that these agreements should be followed by a broad political agreement in the Folketing.
We owe this to the many people who do a good and important job in our nursing homes, at our day-care facilities and at our hospitals.
There is a need for a special effort in the health care sector. Danes have the right to efficient and well-functioning health care services without unnecessary delays.
Suspicion of life-threatening cancer must trigger acute response. And cancer patients have the right to receive clear information on the possibilities of treatment. The same is to apply to critically ill heart patients.
The Government will modernise the hospitals. We have allocated DKK 25 billion for the improvement of the hospitals.
At the same time, we must strengthen the general health of the population through better preventive initiatives. Healthy food and good exercise are of key importance. Especially to our children. Improved health extends life expectancy by many good years. And saves society costs in terms of treatment and care.
The Government will launch a national disease prevention plan in 2009. The goal is to have extended the life expectancy of Danes by three years in ten years’ time.
In order to secure welfare progress, it is necessary for the Danish business community to have a good framework for growth, progress and dynamism. Because it is through production and exports that we are able to generate the earnings that are necessary to finance our welfare society.
Denmark must, also in the future, be one of the most competitive societies in the world. We will prepare Danish society for the increasingly intense international competition by reinforcing the efforts within research, education, innovation and entrepreneurship.
It is, of course, also necessary that there are enough people to perform the tasks required.
This is a huge challenge, because growth and dynamism in the Danish economy have reduced unemployment to the lowest level for 33 years.
We are standing right in the middle of a historically unique situation. Never before have a higher number of Danes been employed. People pass from passive dependence on public benefits into jobs with responsibilities and opportunities.
This is good for the individual. It is good for the public finances. And it is good for the forward momentum of society.
However, this also means that we are now in a situation in which we are short of labour. Both in the private sector and in the public sector.
For this reason, the Government has presented a large-scale job plan, which is to secure hands and heads for the tasks of the future.
Both young people and old people must gain more from making that extra effort. We want to move even more people from transfer income to employment. And we want to give foreigners who possess special qualifications easier access to the Danish labour market. On Danish pay and working conditions.
The high rate of employment and the low rate of unemployment constitute the greatest step forward in terms of social policy for decades. Many of the most vulnerable citizens have received the chance to get a job, after having been outside the labour market for years.
However, Denmark faces a new challenge. There are people who are stuck in a type of inequality that is not caused by a lack of financial resources, but rather a lack of opportunities determined by social, educational and cultural reasons.
The Government will initiate a comprehensive effort to combat this inequality. We will give equal opportunities to all to do well in Danish society.
Denmark is a country of opportunities, and all Danes must have the opportunity to apply their abilities and skills. Regardless of whether the family has its roots in Damascus or Dybboel.
Since 2001, employment among immigrants from non-Western countries has increased by 30,000 people. This is a fine result. We have made good progress with the integration process.
However, it is still only one in two immigrants from non-Western countries that has a job. For the population as a whole, three out of four are employed. So there is still some way to go.
It is a special challenge that many women with an immigrant background are not on the labour market.
It is the Government’s long-term goal that Danes with an immigrant background find employment and education to the same extent as other Danes.
However, work and education are not enough. Unfortunately, we have experienced that small isolated groups of young people with an immigrant background hold extremist views. Acts of terrorism have been planned. Arrests have been made. Persons have been convicted. And often the young people involved have both education and a job.
Therefore, we must put focus on the value-related aspect of integration, on the consciousness of the fundamental values of Danish society: freedom, open-mindedness and democracy.
The Government will strengthen the democratic integration. We will place focus on the respect for the democratic view of human nature, and on equality between men and women.
But remember: terrorist cases must never be allowed to give rise to xenophobia or demonisation. The small minority of extremists must not be allowed to destroy the lives of the vast majority of well-integrated fellow citizens.
The Government will continue its firm and fair immigration policy.
And we will find a solution to the problem of asylum seekers whose request for asylum has been turned down, but who cannot just be repatriated. Some have been living here for many years. This can cause considerable problems, especially to families with children.
The Government will invite the circle of political parties behind the immigration legislation to find a solution. We will especially focus on the conditions of the children.
The Government wants the broadest possible circle of political parties to participate in such a solution.
We will set up a committee of experts to present an overview of the asylum rules of other countries, and differences in the conditions with which asylum seekers are received.
I hope that there will be broad political support for the fundamental principles underlying a fair and firm asylum policy. A policy that offers a refuge in Denmark for people who are really persecuted. And a policy that maintains that asylum seekers whose application has been rejected must return to their home country as soon as possible.
In the course of the past six years, we have implemented extensive reforms: the local government structural reform; the welfare reform; the globalisation reform; reforms of the education programmes; and we are preparing a quality improvement reform that will innovate and develop the quality of the public sector.
The ambitious reform programme must secure all parts of Danish society for the future.
The time has now come for a reform of the tax system. A tax reform that reduces the tax on earned income significantly, including the tax paid on the last earned krone.
A reform that preserves security. Which encourages people to work. Which stimulates environmentally conscious behaviour. Which is socially balanced: And which is economically responsible.
The tax freeze stands firm. And the tax freeze will be maintained before and after the tax reform. Through the tax freeze, we have ensured security for the individual family and companies for six years. The tax freeze is an enormous success.
At the same time, we lowered the tax on earned income in 2004 and we will do so again from 2008. Because it must pay to work.
The government intends to maintain this security. We will continue and secure for the future the tax freeze as the core of the tax policy in the years to come.
However, in connection with the tax reform we will open a window for restructuring, in which a direct or indirect tax may be raised, provided that the entire proceeds are targeted specifically to achieve a corresponding reduction of the tax on earned income.
And let me make it clear: we will keep the property value tax unchanged.
The Government will set up a tax commission, which is to draw up models for a total tax reform. The commission must have completed its work by the beginning of 2009.
In this way, we ensure that the entire area is examined and considered in the best way possible. And when the new rules have taken effect, the tax freeze will continue as we know it today.
By securing the tax freeze for the future, we will finally put an end to the constant increases in direct and indirect taxes of former days.
The tax freeze provides a secure framework for families and companies, so that they dare make financial commitments. In this way, the tax freeze makes an altogether crucial contribution to economic progress in Denmark.
The Government wants to promote a green and sustainable society. A tax reform will contribute to achieving this objective. However, we must do more. In order to protect our climate. And in order to ensure that we can continue to be self-sufficient in terms of energy.
The Government will at least double the share of renewable energy up to 2025. We will ensure more efficient energy exploitation. And we will strengthen research into energy technology.
The Government will endeavour to find the broadest parliamentary majority possible for an ambitious climate and energy policy.
As host country for the UN Climate Change Conference in 2009, Denmark will play a key role in the work for a new global agreement on climate change. It is a task on which the Government places maximum priority. That is why we have set up a Climate Ministry.
We want to assume a global responsibility. It is the poorest people in the poorest countries that are most severely affected by climate change impacts. Therefore, the Government will establish a climate change fund to help the poorest countries to adjust to and limit the man-made climate change.
An active foreign policy is required in order to promote Danish interests in a globalised world.
As a prosperous country with a solid democracy, Denmark has a special obligation to promote freedom, democracy, human rights and development in the world. We have a responsibility to contribute to establishing better opportunities for development in poor countries throughout the world.
The Government will continue the strong Danish commitment to peace support operations. We have strengthened Denmark’s involvement in southern Afghanistan, where the challenges are the greatest. And we want Denmark’s participation in military operations to be based on a broad majority in the Folketing, as is the case today.
Afghanistan is an example of the necessity to secure coherence between military action and reconstruction efforts. In recent years, Denmark has taken a lead in coordinating civilian and military action. We must translate our experience into even more effective efforts.
Therefore, the Government will request the Danish Institute for International Studies to draw up an analysis of the Danish experience of a comprehensive approach in Iraq and Afghanistan. And what we can learn from that experience with a view to future operations.
The Government will maintain Denmark’s position as one of the countries that provide most and best development assistance. Over a number of years, we will raise Danish development assistance from the current level of 0.8 per cent of GNI.
The increase in development assistance is first and foremost to benefit Africa. The Government will set up an Africa Commission whose task will be to present recommendations as to how Denmark can best contribute to progress and development in Africa.
Denmark must be placed at the heart of Europe. With close ties across the Atlantic. We have a long history and a cultural bond with the other countries in Europe. And it is in our interests that we respond to the common challenges in a strong and democratic Europe with the same rules for everybody.
Therefore, there is a need for a new EU Treaty. The Treaty marks the end of the process that has reunited Europe after the Cold War. It is historic that the EU cooperation now includes 27 countries that share common values regarding freedom and human rights.
The Treaty means that we will have a calmer atmosphere about the common ground rules for the cooperation. This means that we can put all our energies into achieving results. We need to do that.
We need a vigorous and dynamic EU to champion the environment and strengthen the fight against climate change.
We need effective EU cooperation in order to fight terrorism and organised crime.
We need to strengthen transparency and democracy in the EU.
And we need the EU to assume greater global responsibility.
Therefore, the Government will work for swift ratification of the new EU Treaty.
We consider it of great importance, also in the future, to have broad support for a positive line regarding Denmark’s EU policy. The Government, therefore, will endeavour to enter into a new political agreement on the basis for Danish EU policy. A strong political platform for Denmark’s work in the EU.
The Government wants Denmark to influence developments in Europe. The Government wants Denmark to strengthen its influence in the EU. And the Government wants Denmark to be a fully integrated player in the EU.
The Danish opt-outs from the EU cooperation imply that Denmark today stands outside important elements of EU cooperation. And, more importantly, outside the elements of the EU cooperation that will develop most significantly in the years ahead.
The Danish EU opt-outs are harmful to Danish interests. They are more than 14 years old and date back to a time when both Europe and Denmark were different from what they are today.
Therefore, the Government is of the opinion that the population should have the opportunity to decide on the Danish EU opt-outs through a referendum in the course of this election term.
The Government places high priority on continued innovation and development of the Unity of the Realm with the Faroe Islands and Greenland. In the coming years, the Faroe Islands and Greenland will assume responsibility for an increasing number of areas.
Within the transfer of competence legislation, responsibility will be delegated to the Faroe Islands for matters that the Faroe Islands themselves wish to take over. And we will continue to support the efforts of the Faroe Islands regarding membership of EFTA.
The Greenland-Danish Self-Government Commission will soon present its recommendations. These recommendations will provide the Danish Government and the Greenland Home Rule Government with a good basis for discussing the development of self-government in Greenland.
The Government intends to create the best possible opportunities for enabling the Faroese and Greenland peoples to assume increasing responsibility for their own conditions.
Indeed, Denmark is a society of opportunities. And we can exploit the opportunities best if we join forces in finding the right solutions to the challenges of the future.
Therefore, the Government invites all the parties of the Folketing to participate in broad cooperation on achieving the many and ambitious goals.
Two parties have indicated a wish to see the Liberal-Conservative Government continue in office: the Danish People’s Party and New Alliance.
We have had fine and stable cooperation with the Danish People’s Party during the last six years. And I expect the good cooperation to continue. We also look forward to good cooperation with New Alliance.
However, the Government’s invitation to broad cooperation applies to all the parties of the Folketing. During the preparation of the Government’s political manifesto, we had meetings with all the parties of the Folketing. We listened to the good advice we were offered. And in the manifesto, there are elements contributed by all the parties of the Folketing.
That is the way we wish to work.
Denmark is a society of opportunities. And the Government asks for broad support for a Denmark with even better opportunities for all.