Speech

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s Opening Address to the Folketing (The Danish Parliament) on Tuesday 3 October 2006

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On 11 September 2001, four planes in the USA were hijacked by 19 terrorists. Thousands of innocent people were killed. And since that day, the World has not been the same.

Over the past five years, it has become clear that we are in the middle of a global struggle of values. It is not a struggle of values between cultures or religions. It is a struggle of values between enlightened reason and the darkness of fundamentalism. Between democracy and dictatorship. Between freedom and tyranny.

In this struggle, there is no neutral position. We must make active efforts to support freedom and democracy.

We must guard our fundamental freedoms. Guard the right we have to make our own choice about the way we want to lead our lives. Guard the right to freedom of speech, the most important of all civil liberties.

It is important that we fully comprehend the nature of the forces of extremism that we are up against, that we do not compromise our values in a misguided attempt to placate or adapt.

When it comes to freedom and democracy, we cannot and must not accept any compromise.

Any human being, as well as any people, has the right to freedom. We do not accept the view that there should be nations or peoples that have no right to or are not suited for democracy. Therefore, the free societies of the World must take a common stand to defend and promote freedom and democracy. And do so without compromising the constitutional state and the rule of law.

The strongest power in this struggle is the wish and demand of millions of oppressed people to obtain freedom.

We saw this in Iraq when 12 million Iraqis defied the terrorists and went to the polling stations to cast their vote to elect a democratic parliament and a democratic government.

We saw this in Afghanistan, where the people has elected its leaders in free elections.

Also the Palestinian people has elected its leaders in a free election. We do not contest the election. However, we must demand that Hamas stop using terrorism, acknowledge the right of Israel to exist and honour agreements made. If they do, we can and will cooperate with the Palestinian Government on a lasting peace, involving two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

We have also seen elections in Egypt, Lebanon and Algeria. Even though these elections do not entirely measure up to our standards for free and fair elections, they are nonetheless indications of a rising popular demand for freedom and democracy.

We must facilitate this development. We must promote democracy and respect for the fundamental freedoms of the individual. We must promote the agenda of freedom.

We are doing so through the Wider Middle East Initiative - Partnership for Progress and Reform, the objective of which is to strengthen the organisations and movements in the Arab World that endeavour to introduce democratic reforms, women’s rights and improved education.

This is what we are doing through our commitments in Afghanistan and in Iraq. The goal is to help the populations of these countries to attain freedom and self-determination, and to promote reconstruction, economic development, peace and stability.

This is a difficult task. Because terrorists fear freedom. They know that when people are free to choose, they choose freedom and enlightenment over oppression and intellectual darkness.

This is why they endeavour to block the road to freedom with bombs and barbarity.

In the struggle for freedom and against tyranny, there is a price to pay, both in human and financial terms.

Our deepest gratitude extends to the Danish soldiers and others on missions abroad who make their contribution to freedom, peace and democracy in troubled parts of the World.

Also, our thoughts are with the families and relatives who have so tragically lost loved ones in service to Denmark.

We fight for freedom and democracy because it is our human obligation, and because history and experience show us that freedom and democracy provide the best way to securing peace and prosperity in the World.

The enemies of freedom are desperate, and they will employ any means. However, I am not in doubt: freedom and democracy will prevail. Because the strongest weapon is the fundamental and justified demand of human beings for freedom, self-determination and dignity.

We are looking forward to the day when the peoples of the Middle East and all other peoples cast off the yoke of oppression, when they will be able to reap the benefits of freedom and peace; the day when fathers and mothers will be able to see a future of hope and opportunities for their children; when enlightenment, education and development cause industry and enterprise to flourish, and growth and prosperity to spread.

When that day arrives, the risk of war will decrease. The temptation to resort to extremism will abate. The incentive to engage in peaceful trade and coexistence will grow. And we shall be able to hand over to our children a world that is better and more secure.

*

Just outside Europe’s door lies Africa, the large continent plagued by hunger and poverty, war and oppression.

The province of Darfur is the scene of appalling crimes. The international community must act swiftly and with resolve to put an end to the killings. Together with the USA, the European countries, as well as a number of African countries, Denmark is pushing hard for the UN to deploy a major international force to stop the atrocities.

While globalisation has generated increased prosperity in other parts of the World, hardship has been growing in Africa. Over the past few decades, approximately 400 million people have emerged out of poverty in other parts of the World. But in sub-Saharan Africa, poverty has doubled.

Here lies the other major global challenge in the coming years: helping Africa achieve growth and prosperity, so that the individual African will achieve a better life, more freedom and more opportunities in life.

It is our human obligation to help. But we also have a decisive interest in helping. First, in order to prevent massive flows of refugees, which often involve tragic human costs. And, second, in order to prevent extremism from taking root among people who are desperately seeking a way out of their misery.

For this reason, Danish development policy will focus on Africa in the coming years, and Denmark has a good basis for making a difference. International surveys have pointed repeatedly at the high quality of Danish development assistance.

We have guaranteed that the Danish development assistance will, in future, amount to not less that 0.8 per cent of the Danish gross national income.

In concrete terms, this means that development assistance will grow by DKK 800 million next year, and with the growth of the Danish economy, there are prospects of a considerable increase also in the years to come.

The additional funds must first and foremost be spent on Africa.

We intend to combat poverty and promote freedom and democracy, and we will endeavour to promote good governance, free media and the fight against corruption.

We will fight infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria. We will focus on education, and we will secure women’s rights.

In our general approach, we intend to assign women a key role in our development assistance. They are the pivotal point of the family and the local community in Africa. The entire Continent’s hope of progress rests on their shoulders.

We will develop the private sector in Africa, so as to make the African countries better able to participate in globalisation and international trade.

Development assistance is important. However, access to trading on the world market is even more important. Free trade is the most important lever for lifting the poor countries out of poverty.

Africa must have better access to our markets. However, the greatest gain for Africa would be for the African countries to introduce free trade among themselves. We must help them to do so.

Africa is a continent that possesses enormous resources. Unfortunately, unrest and oppression have far too long prevented the peoples of Africa from exploiting this potential. However, in the course of the past 10 to 15 years, several democracies have emerged in Africa. This gives us reason for hope.

Economic freedom and political freedom must go hand in hand. When people trade freely with each other, they also wish to live in peace with each other.

For this reason, we must help Africa. So that young Africans see a hope, a future and rich opportunities in their own country. So that they are not attracted to extremism. And so that they do not end up on the wrong side of the global struggle of values.

*

The global struggle of values is also taking place in Denmark. Unfortunately, we have also found here at home that some individuals and groups hold extremist views and refuse to recognise the principles on which our society is based.

This underlines the need for constantly defending the fundamental principles on which Danish society is based: freedom, broad-mindedness and democracy.

We do not demand that everybody should dress the same or share the same opinions. We want a society in which there is freedom for diversity.

However, we must demand respect for the fundamental rules of Danish society.

In Denmark, we have freedom of speech.
In Denmark, women and men have equal rights.
In Denmark, we distinguish between politics and religion.

Fortunately, the vast majority of Danes with an immigrant background acknowledge and respect these fundamental principles. They work hard and make a positive contribution to Danish society. They have also introduced exciting impulses and fruitful diversity in Denmark.

However, there are also a few extremists, who apparently despise the society that has secured political freedom and material prosperity for them.

Such people we must meet with steely resolve and clear positions. We must not, through naïve and gullible tolerance, show understanding of or acquiescence with their religious fanaticism and political extremism.

We can show no tolerance towards intolerance.

It is difficult to reach fanatical fundamentalists through improved integration. However, we can and we must prevent the medieval notions and attitudes of fundamentalism from taking root in Denmark.

It is therefore of crucial importance that young Danes with an immigrant background get an education, find employment and experience equal opportunities and fair treatment in Danish society.

We are all responsible for ensuring that this happens.

We politicians have a responsibility. The Government has introduced, and will introduce, a number of initiatives.

We have tightened the language requirements, because proper knowledge of the Danish language is a prerequisite for good integration.

We wish to encourage immigrants to integrate faster and better through a special integration exam. In future, it will be a condition for obtaining permanent residence that the applicant passes a language test and has been in employment for at least two and a half years.

We want to help the long-term unemployed to find jobs through an improved wage subsidy scheme.

We shall reward municipalities that make active efforts to promote integration. We shall reward municipalities that assist unemployed immigrants and their descendants in finding employment.

Employers and trade unions have a responsibility. The Government has invited the labour market parties to a discussion of approaches that will enable us to get more immigrants into jobs, among other things on special wage and employment terms.

Also the new Danes themselves have a responsibility. They have a responsibility for learning proper Danish; a responsibility for getting a good education; a responsibility for adapting to the rules and traditions that apply in the Danish workplaces.

I appeal to everybody to make an extraordinary effort now.

I appeal to employers also to offer a fair chance to those whose names have an unfamiliar ring.

I appeal to the trade unions and individual employees to give the new Danes a chance with temporary wage subsidies and special wage and employment terms, so that they can gain a foothold on the labour market.

I appeal to Danish immigrant families to ensure that their children and young people learn Danish and get a good education, and that women also get the chance of taking a job.

We need all the hands we can get.

Since 2001, over 20,000 more immigrants from non-Western countries have found employment. This is good. However, it is not good enough.

I appeal to all members of Danish society to unite in order to carry out what is probably the most important task we shall be facing in the years to come: securing education and jobs for our new Danish fellow citizens.

We want a society in which Danes with a different ethnic background feel every bit as Danish as everyone else. Feeling at home in Denmark must not depend on where you were born, on your ethnic background or your religious beliefs.

We will not accept a divided society, in which a generation of young new Danes grow up without an education or a job and harbour frustration, bitterness and hatred.

We want a society with strong cohesion; a society that offers equal opportunities, also for new Danes. An inclusive society.

*

There is a shortage of labour in Denmark. This offers a unique opportunity to bring everyone on board.

But it also entails a risk. For if there is not enough manpower to perform the tasks in both the private sector and the public sector, it will lead to a loss of both prosperity and welfare.

Therefore, it is an extremely urgent task to get more people into paid employment.

Unemployed people receiving unemployment benefits or cash benefits must be fully available for work.

And let me say it directly: this implies also the obligation to take a newspaper round if that is the kind of job being offered.

Within the past year, around 235,000 people have been out of work for a period of three months or more. At the same time, there is a shortage of labour. And over 120,000 unemployed people have the qualifications to take a job within areas where there is a shortage of labour.

Now they have the chance to find paid employment.

The Government will therefore take specific steps to ensure that unemployed people are in actual fact available for work.

We have a good social security system in Denmark. A system which, for example, provides unemployment benefits and cash benefits if a person becomes unemployed. It is a good system. But it is based on a contract; a solidarity contract where the person receiving benefits is ready in return to take a vacant job.

Those who go to work each day and pay high taxes – partly in order to finance the payment of unemployment benefits and cash benefits – are entitled to demand that unemployed people accept a job when it is offered to them.

This is the welfare contract. This is solidarity.

Solidarity also means finding jobs for weak groups on the periphery of the labour market. There are some who need a helping hand.

Since 2001, over DKK 6 billion has been allocated to the most vulnerable groups in our society. And we will now allocate almost DKK 600 million to efforts targeted at helping as many socially vulnerable people as possible to find gainful employment.

But there is such a severe shortage of labour that we also need to bring more people from abroad to Denmark; people with the qualifications needed on the Danish labour market.

Therefore, we have made it easier for citizens from the new EU Member States to enter the Danish labour market – on the condition that they work on Danish terms.

Therefore, the Government will launch a series of initiatives to make it easier for Danish companies to attract and recruit staff from abroad.

Therefore, we will widen the opportunities for companies and institutions to bring foreign experts to Denmark – by improving the so-called Job Card Scheme.

And therefore, we will introduce a special Green Card Scheme, which will make it easier for foreigners with special skills and expertise to seek work in Denmark.

Since 2001, we have doubled the number of residence permits issued to foreigners wishing to work or study in Denmark.

We will continue this line. It shows that Denmark is an open society that welcomes all who are able and willing to work.

*

Recently, there has been a heated debate about the municipal budgets. Some mayors are complaining that they have to make cuts.

And at the same time, a positive-minded Minister of Finance has stated that never before has there been so much money in the municipal coffers.

Many people are unable to reconcile the two claims. Who is right?

Indeed, the truth is that both parties are right. The Minister of Finance is right that never before have the municipalities had so much money at their disposal as they will have next year. Next year, public expenditure will be DKK 31 billion up on 2001. The increased funds have primarily gone to hospitals, the elderly, childcare, schools and other welfare benefits.

This is not cutbacks. This is growth.

With this increased overall budget, how come that there are municipalities where some institutions may have to save?

There are two explanations for this. The first explanation is that some wealthy municipalities are required to hand over slightly more money to some poor municipalities. This is due to the so-called Financing and Equalisation Reform.

The other explanation is that within each of the new large-scale municipalities, a common level of service has to be found. Take two municipalities that are being merged into one new large-scale municipality. In one of the municipalities, there is an average of, for example, three children per staff member in the nursery. In the other municipality, there are, for example, four. The newly created large-scale municipality calculates on the basis of an average of the two levels, namely 31⁄2 children per staff member.

This naturally implies that the institutions in the municipality with the high level of service will experience a deterioration. At the same time, however, the institutions in the municipality with the low level of service will experience an improvement.

This explains why, on the one hand, the municipalities have never had so much money at their disposal nationwide and, on the other, certain municipalities that provide a high level of service will have to make cutbacks.

Is it fair that it works this way?

Yes, because fundamentally it is a question of solidarity and economic responsibility.

Solidarity because municipalities that have considerable funds and that offer a high level of service contribute to ensuring that citizens who have previously been forced to live with a lower level of service can experience an improvement.

Economic responsibility because it would lead Denmark directly into economic disaster if every municipality were to adopt a common level of service corresponding to that of the highest-spending municipalities.

We have actually seen this happen before. In connection with the Municipal Reform in 1970, the then new large-scale municipalities adopted the most expensive level of service. And the old municipalities emptied the municipal coffers before they were due to merge with other municipalities.

This led to an explosion in public expenditure. It was the first step towards the edge of the economic abyss that Denmark teetered on at the end of the 1970s.

Then again there are many who fail to understand why we cannot dip into the Government’s large surplus and give the municipalities even more money.

One reason we cannot do this is that we have a shortage of labour. If every municipality were to raise its service level to the most expensive level, the municipalities would have to seek more staff on a labour market already suffering from a shortage of labour.

This would be the direct path to economic problems. It would be a repeat of the irresponsible economic policy that was pursued in the 1970s.

And let me say it loud and clear: this Government will not repeat the economic scandal of the 1970s.

There has never been so much funding allocated to public expenditure as next year. To demand even more money reflects an irresponsible policy of ever-escalating bids.

*

In general, the greatest challenge facing us in the years ahead is the shortage of labour. First and foremost, because only a small influx of people will be stepping into the labour market while a large number of people will be retiring. For example, around 200,000 public sector employees will retire over the next 10 years. This corresponds to almost one in every four employees.

The greatest challenge in the coming years will therefore be to recruit an adequate number of nurses, nursery childcare staff, kindergarten teachers, schoolteachers, social and healthcare assistants, etc.

Those who think that the solution is simply to demand more money and more staff – more of the same – have completely failed to understand the real challenge.

The real challenge is to ensure a high level of public service in a society where it may be difficult to recruit sufficient staff. Not because the politicians cut back, but simply because there is not enough manpower in the labour market.

The real challenge is to provide more value for money.

This is why the Government has launched a so-called Quality Improvement Reform; a reform that puts the individual citizen at the centre; that puts human beings before systems.

We will ensure free choice, so that users of welfare services can choose other options if they are not satisfied with what they already receive.

We will set clear goals for what we should be able to expect from public service. And we will ensure that we can measure the results of the efforts, partly by measuring user satisfaction.

We will reinforce the efforts to disseminate the best results, so that public institutions everywhere are afforded better opportunities to learn from the best.

And we will incorporate the individual employee and local managers in the efforts to develop and renew the public sector, partly through pay systems that reward good performance.

The Quality Improvement Reform will be the grand project in the next few years. We will incorporate broad stakeholder groups in the work, including users, relatives, employees, managers, experts and central organisations.

The starting point is good. Let me remind you that eight out of ten users are satisfied with the level of public service provided.

Public sector employees are motivated and competent.

There is much to build on.

Together we must now set new benchmarks as well as new goals and visions for a modern, dynamic and high-quality public sector.

*

We have set ambitious goals for the whole of Danish society. The aim is to ensure that Denmark becomes the most competitive economy in the world by 2015; so that we also ensure employment in the future.

Therefore, we will invest heavily in education, research, innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as adult education and continuing training.

The investments will be increased gradually, so that by 2012 they reach DKK 10 billion extra per year. This was agreed by a wide circle of political parties before the summer recess.

It is the most extensive investment in Denmark’s future that has ever been undertaken.

The next major challenge concerns energy supply.

At the moment, Denmark is in a favourable position, because we pump up large quantities of oil and natural gas from the North Sea. But one day this adventure will be over.

It is now that we must begin to prepare ourselves for that day. Furthermore, we do not wish to leave ourselves dependent on having to purchase oil and natural gas from countries and regions that are politically unstable. Energy is also about security policy.

The Government will set ambitious goals to ensure Denmark future self-sufficiency with environmentally sound energy.

This is a very long-term goal. But the supply of energy requires long-term planning and long-term investments.

Therefore, we must take the necessary decisions already at this stage. Later this year, the Government will present a long-term energy plan.

We will focus on substantially increasing use of renewable energy.

We will set ambitious goals for utilising energy more efficiently and effectively.

We will substantially enhance efforts to foster research, development and experiments within the energy field in order to develop both existing and new renewable energy sources.

We will focus strongly on developing bio-fuel for cars.

We will combine political regulation and market mechanisms, in order to ensure that investments are made in areas where we get maximum energy and environmental value for money.

We will pursue an energy policy characterised by common sense and foresight. Today, Denmark is the leading country in the world within the field of wind energy. We must capitalise on this head start. But it is unrealistic to think that Denmark’s future energy needs can be supplied by wind power alone. We must develop new energy sources.

And we must ensure that the new energy sources are efficient and cost-effective. We will strive to ensure an energy and environment policy that goes hand in hand with growth and strong competitive power; an energy and environment policy that boosts rather than stifles job creation.

We have a good starting point. Today, sustainable energy accounts for 15 per cent of our energy consumption. And today we are second to none in the world in terms of utilising energy efficiently and effectively. Over the past 25 years, our economy has grown by more than 50 per cent, without our energy consumption having increased. There are many who envy us and are keen to learn from us.

We are now setting new goals. New goals which ensure that Denmark will remain at the forefront in the energy and environmental field in Europe and the rest of the world. New goals which ensure that Danish policy will be both environmentally and economically sustainable.

*

A long-term energy policy also requires cooperation internationally. The Government wants the EU to develop a more common energy policy. And it is the Government’s wish that Denmark should present a proposal for such a common energy policy.

All in all, Denmark must continue to play an active role in the EU. Denmark has much to contribute. At the same time, we have a keen interest in well functioning EU cooperation.

The EU must deliver results for its citizens. We must place focus on research and education. On enhanced cooperation to fight terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration. And especially on specific areas such as the environment and energy.

And we must deal with the issue of the size and borders of the EU.

Bulgaria and Romania will become members of the EU next year. Croatia is making a great effort to achieve membership within a short number of years.

It is my hope that Croatia can show the way for the other countries in the Western Balkans. It is of great importance that the other countries in the Balkans develop into stable societies that are able to measure up to our common European standards and values. Therefore, it is important that they have a long-term EU membership perspective.

However, it is also important that we do not relax the conditions. There are no short-cuts to EU membership. That applies also to Turkey, which must fully live up to her commitments in relation to the EU.

At the same time, we must support the neighbouring countries that have no immediate prospects of becoming members of the EU. Denmark has therefore proposed that the EU should strengthen its Neighbourhood Policy and cooperation with these countries in the years ahead.

Lastly, in the coming year, Denmark will continue to work for clarification regarding the fate of the Constitutional Treaty. The present unresolved situation is not tenable. The Constitutional Treaty is the point of departure. However, we must respect the outcome of the referenda in France and the Netherlands. The challenge facing us in the year ahead will therefore be to reach agreement on ways in which we can bring forward the enlarged EU.

*

Cooperation within the Unity of the Realm between the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Denmark is making very positive and successful progress.

We have developed a modern and inclusive Unity of the Realm. With room for diversity and independent policies. And with cooperation as the central element. That is very gratifying.

The peoples’ right to self-determination is the altogether fundamental principle. And I am very pleased that both the Faroese and the Greenland peoples, through their respective home rule governments, have chosen self-government arrangements that lie within the continued Unity of the Realm between our three countries.

The new Faroese self-government arrangement was implemented last year. With regard to Greenland, we look forward to the findings of the work carried out by the Greenland-Danish Self-Government Commission next year.

There is a need for modernising the Greenland legal system. In cooperation with the Greenland Home Rule Government, the Danish Government will draw up proposals for such a reform.

The Greenland Home Rule Government has negotiated new agreements with the EU. This has been done in cooperation with the Danish Government.

The Faroese Home Rule Government wants the Faroe Islands to become a member of EFTA and to participate in the Single European Sky initiative of the EU. The Danish Government supports these wishes.

The Government finds it both natural and encouraging that the Faroe Islands and Greenland wish to participate in the international markets. And I see it as a reflection of the strength of the Unity of the Realm that we can cooperate on fulfilling these wishes.

*

I know one should be a bit cautious about saying how well we are doing in Denmark. However, it is difficult to keep it a secret that we are actually doing rather well.

To put it briefly: we have the highest employment rate ever, and the lowest unemployment rate for 30 years. Our record is, quite simply, unprecedented.

In barely three years, unemployment has been reduced by more than 60,000 persons. This has been achieved with the assistance of the Government’s Spring Package, and with support from the Government’s tax freeze.

Public sector budgets and the balance of payments are solidly in the black. We have paid off our foreign debt. And we are rapidly repaying public sector debt. However, we are still burdened with public sector debt of almost DKK 500 billion on account of heavy borrowing in the past.

The investment rate is increasing sharply, exports are increasing, and we are doing well in international competition. All thanks to a flexible labour market, creative enterprises, and well-trained and highly skilled labour.

We have reason to take pleasure from this – as we stand here at the threshold of a new Parliamentary Session.

But now it is a matter of sustaining the positive development. We must not frivolously and irresponsibly squander the positive results. If we do, progress may swiftly turn into decline.

We have a responsibility for ensuring good times not only today, but also for our children and grandchildren.

We concluded the previous Parliamentary Session with a broad and historic welfare agreement. It is my hope that the constructive and positive spirit of the negotiations on a long-term welfare reform will characterise the forthcoming Parliamentary Session.

That, at any rate, is what the Government aims for.

We invite all the parties of the Folketing to participate in broad cooperation.

Allow me to propose that we commence the work of the Folketing with three cheers for Denmark.

Long live Denmark !