Speech

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's Address at the Opening of the Session of the Folketing On Tuesday 1 October 2002

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On 20 November last year, the electorate sent a clear message that it was time for change. Time for innovation. Time to break away from the solutions of the past. Time to loosen the many restrictive ties.

People before the system, respect for the individual and the individual’s right to self-determination. This has been the guiding principle of the Government from the start, and will remain so in future.

The new Government immediately set to work. Within the first 100 days, the Government presented 54 initiatives. In the course of only six months, the Folketing passed a large number of laws designed to improve the central welfare services, to give each individual Dane more freedom of choice, and to put the individual before the system.

The Government is now ready to take the next step in a reform of the Danish welfare state.

For us, it is not of decisive importance if it is the public or the private sector that provides the individual citizen with the necessary help and service. Nor is it important whether it is the Government, the counties or the municipalities that perform the tasks or hold the responsibility. It is not important who performs the task. What is important is the service which we as citizens get in return for our taxes, and that we get the best value for money.

The established systems and structures must never stand in the way of the development of the welfare state. They must not prevent us from achieving maximum value for money. They must not stand in the way of providing a decent service to people.

The current local government structure in Denmark is by now more than thirty years old. It is the Government’s view that the time has come for a critical review of the existing system.

This week, therefore, the Government will set up a structure commission to examine whether the existing system fulfils the requirements of a modern welfare state.

The commission will take its starting point in the citizens and in the tasks that need to be carried out. The structures and systems must then conform to these needs.

Quite honestly, I do not think there are many outside the narrow circle of politicians who care whether a task is performed by the Government, the county or the municipality. People are more interested in whether the job is well done. It is with this in mind that the commission should approach its work.

Everything must be subjected to scrutiny. There is no checklist of correct answers. Nothing can be taken for granted, nothing may be exempted.

The Government will continue to follow up on the reforms that have already been initiated.

Before the election, we promised to invest more money in hospitals and to introduce freedom of choice for patients. An additional DKK 1.5 billion has since been appropriated for the hospitals, and freedom of choice was introduced from 1 July.

The Government has the clear goal of reducing waiting lists and, at the same time, of improving the quality of treatment.

I would like to make it clear that this Government gives this matter top priority. In 2002, an additional DKK 3.7 billion has been allocated to the health sector compared to 2001. With the agreements concluded with local governments, the counties received an additional DKK 2.2 billion, and, on top of that, the new Government has appropriated DKK 1.5 billion for hospitals.

Such an extra injection of money must absolutely produce positive results. Otherwise, there is something wrong with the system.

The Government will monitor the development very closely, and the Government will not hesitate to implement any necessary initiative to ensure that the money produces shorter waiting lists and improved treatment.

Patients before the system. If the system stands in the way of shorter waiting lists and improved treatment, then the system must be changed.

Before the election, we promised to give DKK 500 million towards municipal elderly care and to introduce freedom of choice for the elderly. This DKK 500 million has now been granted, and the appropriation will continue. Freedom of choice regarding nursing homes and sheltered accommodation for the elderly was introduced on 1 July this year, and freedom of choice regarding home help services will be introduced on 1 January 2003.

We wish to provide care and nursing for the elderly that is characterised by genuine human involvement. The elderly should not be imposed upon. On the contrary, they should be afforded more freedom of choice and self-determination. We have now introduced this freedom of choice, and we shall monitor closely to make sure it works in the way intended. If not, we are ready to take the necessary steps to correct the shortcomings.

Before the election, we promised to introduce one year’s flexible maternity leave. This has now been implemented.

The next step will be to extend the freedom of choice regarding day-care centres. Parents should have the freedom to choose a day-care centre outside the municipality where the family lives. The Government will introduce a Bill guaranteeing this freedom of choice.

Before the election, we promised to intensify efforts with respect to vulnerable groups. These efforts have been initiated. We have established “The Council for Socially Excluded Groups”, and DKK 670 million has been set aside over the next four years for particularly vulnerable groups.

The Government has made it clear to counties and municipalities that efforts benefiting vulnerable groups must be given high priority. We have a clear expectation that such priority will be reflected in the budgets.

I would like to make it absolutely clear that no local politician may justify cuts in this area on the grounds of a budget agreement or the tax freeze. There is simply no evidence to support this.

The next step will be to go on the offensive to combat the problem of negative social heritage. We must not accept that the poor social conditions of parents are automatically passed on to their children. That these children are not afforded the same opportunities as others to get an education, a job or to lead the life they want. We must not accept anyone being given up as a lost cause.

In connection with the Budget negotiations in the autumn, the Government will present specific initiatives to help break the cycle of negative social heritage.

However, the Government also wants to address the more fundamental aspects of hereditary social status and present an overall plan of action regarding ways in which we can offer the most vulnerable children and young people a brighter future.

We wish to implement initiatives over a broad front to help improve the likelihood of children from disadvantaged environments breaking away from these environments and creating a better life and future for themselves.

The Government wishes to break the vicious circle of negative social heritage which still prevails in Danish society. It is vital for the dynamism and development of a society that the individual does not become trapped in adverse social patterns.

We must develop a society where everyone has a fair opportunity to exploit his or her abilities. A society where each person retains the hope of being able to improve his or her situation. A society where it is possible to move from being a welfare client to becoming a bank manager.

Before the election, we promised to tighten the Aliens Act. This has now been achieved.

The next step will be to help unemployed immigrants find work. Far too many immigrants live their lives passively on welfare benefit. If immigrants achieved the same level of employment as other Danes, 50,000 to 60,000 extra jobs alone would be created.

In addition, the Government will expand the opportunities for asylum seekers to work in Denmark. The goal is to fight the clientisation of asylum seekers that leads to passivity.

Asylum seekers must not be allowed to lose their skills. Whether they remain in Denmark or they return home. If they are to remain, it will be an advantage for them and Danish society that they immediately learn how society functions here. If they return home, it will be an advantage for them and their home country that they return with increased strength.

The Government has made it easier for foreigners to obtain work and more difficult to obtain cash benefit. This is what foreigners themselves want, and it is what Danish society needs.

Fewer asylum seekers are now coming to Denmark. The number of asylum seekers entering the country has halved during the first half of 2002. The proportion of asylum seekers having their applications approved has dropped from 53 per cent to 31 per cent during the first half of this year compared with last year.

There are some who believe that the number of asylum seekers and reunited persons in Denmark is not important. To this I would bluntly state: it is a theoretical view completely out of step with practical reality.

It is necessary to reduce the number of asylum seekers arriving so that we can do more to help immigrants already in the country to obtain work.

Before the election, we promised to raise the maximum penalties for rape and assault. This has now been achieved.

The next step will be to strengthen the individual citizen’s legal rights. Far too often, the individual is helpless in the face of systems and bureaucracies. In addition, the Government wants law enforcement that is in accordance with people’s sense of justice today.

There is a need for shorter waiting times for court procedures, greater efficiency and better utilisation of resources.

And there is a need for more visible policing. People must feel safe to walk wherever they like. The sight of police in the streets, and particularly in the most troubled local areas, contributes to preventing crime and increasing the individual’s sense of security.

The Government will introduce initiatives to ensure more visible police and faster processing of criminal proceedings. The recommendations from the police commission and the structural commission of the courts will be included in the Government’s deliberations. However, changing the structures is not a goal in itself. The goal is to free up resources for more police officers in the streets and to shorten delays in the courts. The systems and structures must conform to the needs.

Before the election, we promised to introduce a tax freeze. The tax freeze has come into force.

We introduced this on the very first day of the new Government. We have now had a tax freeze in Denmark for 309 days.

The next step will be to reduce the tax on income from work. The Government is working to create room for manoeuvre so that in this parliamentary session Bills can be put forward and passed to lower the tax on income from work as of 1 January 2004. This might take the form of a gradual lowering of tax on income from work over a period of some years.

We need a society where it pays to work. A society where it pays to save. A society where it is possible for the individual and the individual’s family to change and improve their situation through ordinary work.

Far too many people today feel that it is hardly worth putting an extra effort into their work. The cause of this is the high tax on income from work.

Therefore, the Government wishes to introduce a gradual lowering of tax on income from work. But this must be a genuine lowering of tax. Not just a transfer of tax and duties from one pocket to another.

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We are facing a great challenge in the coming years. There will be more elderly people, and there will be fewer people in active employment. This situation needs to be financed in a way that preserves and develops our welfare state.

The Government’s strategy is to promote growth in Danish society. We need to increase employment by at least 8,000 to 9,000 people per year up to 2010.

To create these extra jobs, we need to implement a number of fundamental reforms in Danish society.

We must make it attractive to create growth and jobs in Denmark.

It must be more attractive to work and to put in an extra effort. This is why the tax on income from work must be reduced.

We need to remove people from passive benefits and get them into jobs. Therefore, any barrier preventing this from happening must be removed.

We need to develop Denmark into a learning society at the cutting edge.

We must pursue a firm economic policy. We need to pay off our public debt. This will enable us to use the interest saved to finance the future costs of caring for the elderly and a gradual lowering of tax on income from work.

The Government now plans to make a strengthened effort to get more people into work. Today, one in every four people of working age is out of work. This is a disheartening figure.

Both companies and trade unions must assume their share of responsibility. Companies must become better at giving the weak unemployed a chance. Trade unions must become better at showing solidarity with those out of work.

The Government will do its part to simplify rules and make the systems clearer and more flexible. Thinking in terms of systems must not be allowed to stand in the way of people finding work.

For the weak unemployed, the public sector must contribute by providing supplementary benefits during the period when the unemployed person is undergoing job induction or training. When they have demonstrated their ability to carry out ordinary work and participate at the workplace on the same level as their colleagues, they must, of course, be employed on general terms.

The underlying principle is that employers should get what they pay for. And the unemployed should get paid for their performance.

And it must pay to work.

Far too many of those on welfare have either limited or no financial incentive to look for work. This applies to many young people, to the unskilled and to many immigrants from less developed countries.

The Government will therefore impose a ceiling on the amount a couple may receive in cash benefit. At the same time, we will allow cash benefit recipients to retain a larger part of what they earn before setting it off against the benefits received by the spouse. All this to ensure that it pays to work.

The Government will also make it more attractive for the elderly to remain longer in active employment. In the spring, the Government will put forward a number of proposals designed to make it more attractive for the elderly to remain longer on the labour market.

If the elderly are healthy and energetic, they may wish to remain on the labour market, possibly on a part-time basis. A more flexible retirement from the labour market has many advantages. From a human perspective, it is good for the elderly person who wishes to continue working. And from an economic perspective, it is good for society. We shall need all available resources in the coming years.

It must not only pay to work. It must also pay to create work. It must pay for private companies to create jobs.

In May, the Government presented its strategy for growth, “The Danish Growth Strategy”. With the strategy, we have laid the foundations for a long-term effort to create a conducive environment for continued innovation and growth in the business world. As part of this strategy, the Government will present a growth package at the beginning of 2003 designed to strengthen its dynamic growth policy.

We shall strive to improve the competitiveness of Danish companies. We shall simplify the rules in order to ease the burdens on companies and strengthen the interplay between the public and private sectors. We shall liberalise the energy market and strengthen competition for the benefit of consumers and companies. We shall strengthen growth and innovation on the housing market.

We will develop Denmark into an entrepreneurial society. We will reward those who wish to innovate, and we will make it easier to start new ventures. We will create better conditions for private enterprises to make new inventions as well as to conduct research and development.

We will look more closely at agricultural legislation and the possibility of simplifying the intricate and comprehensive system of regulation – not least in the light of the development of the EU common agricultural policy.

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We will transform Denmark into a leading knowledge and learning society. It is a sad fact that the previous Government left behind budgets with sharply reduced allocations to research and education. We do not hear too much about this. Yet it is the truth. The Liberal-Conservative Government will now take measures to rectify this situation.

Over the next three years, this Government will channel over DKK 3 billion more into research than the previous Government had set aside. In addition, over the next three years, the Government will set aside over DKK 600 million more for education and training than set aside by the previous Government.

We shall strengthen quality and raise the academic level throughout the education system, right from primary schools to universities. The prerequisite for securing welfare in future is that we Danes become among the best educated and trained in the world. For knowledge and education are the way to growth.

However, our academic results are not impressive in comparison with a number of other countries. And this despite the fact that Denmark is among the countries that invest most heavily in their education system.

To put it bluntly: I believe that children and young people go to school to learn something. That might sound old-fashioned. Yet the truth is that this is what the future demands.

We have built an education system that loses far too many pupils and students. The weak are lost because they do not learn enough. The strong are lost because they are not offered adequate academic challenges.

We should challenge the equalising school of thought that says, “What everybody cannot learn, no-one should learn.”

Instead, we must develop the challenging school of thought that says, “Everybody must learn, no-one should be lost.”

Let us offer challenges to all our pupils and students. It should be exciting and challenging to go to school – both for the more academically-minded and also for the practically-minded.

We need every man and woman, and we must not be afraid to have children and young people stand on tiptoe to reach for their goals – each using the talents and skills they have at their disposal.

The Government has put forward proposals for a reform of the public school system and will also put forward proposals for a reform of the upper-secondary schools, higher preparatory courses and the vocational colleges.

In addition, the Government will put forward proposals for a reform of the universities. The goal is to improve the university degree programmes by giving universities greater freedom and by allowing people from outside to join the university management.

We need young people to pursue good education and training programmes. However, these people must also have a place to live. There is a disastrous shortage of accommodation for young people, especially in cities with large education centres.

We will now take action to address this problem. Over the next five years, the Government will set aside DKK 1 billion for the building of accommodation units for young people in education and training. The extra money will primarily go towards building halls of residence, where, as swiftly as possible, we can provide good accommodation for students at affordable rents. It is our overall intention to build around 6,000 accommodation units for young people.

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The Government is planning to implement reform and innovation measures across a broad front. The Government bases its strategy on growth, not cuts.

From 2002 to 2003, government spending will increase by 0.7 per cent. This corresponds to a growth of DKK 2.5 billion.

Nevertheless, we are hearing a lot at the moment about cutbacks, strikes and protests.

It is quite thought-provoking. Government spending is growing. The number of people in public sector employment is rising. Yet, the depiction of the situation conveys the impression of cutbacks.

I am obliged to make it clear to all: any dynamic society must move funding and resources from some areas to other areas. If it were not so, society would cease to be dynamic. Old structures are dismantled so that new structures may be built.

It is like this now. It will remain true in future.

The fact is that total government spending is higher this year than last year. However, let us be open to the possibility of discovering new approaches, and the possibility that old approaches should not always be continued unchanged.

The aim must be for us to achieve the greatest value for money.

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This autumn, we are managing the greatest foreign policy task Denmark has ever had: the EU Presidency.

We are off to a good start. We have achieved the first concrete results. However, we still have the long, hard haul ahead of us.

The Presidency has an extensive and demanding agenda. The absolute top priority, though, is the enlargement of the EU.

The enlargement is a magnificent, historic opportunity, and a crucial historic obligation. The core issue is the reunification of the Europe that Communism split after the Second World War. By enlarging the EU, we want to secure for the future the freedom, peace and stability which now prevail on our continent. We want to create the basis for sustained growth of welfare and prosperity in our part of the world.

The Government's goal is ambitious: the completion of the accession negotiations with up to ten new Member States by December. This requires that the Danish EU Presidency maintains a steady course. It also requires that the other EU Member States and the candidate countries live up to their responsibility. Otherwise, the time schedule will slip.

It is, therefore, important that already at the Summit in Brussels later this month, we announce which countries will be ready for completing the accession negotiations in Copenhagen, and that the EU Member States at the same time agree on a common proposal regarding budget and agriculture. In this way we may initiate the concluding round of negotiations with the candidate countries in early November.

Some Member States seem to think that the enlargement will be excessively costly. However, what are we talking about here? In the years immediately following the enlargement, the amount will be approximately 0.1 per cent of the total production of the EU. This is a small price to pay for a united Europe. Dispute over such an amount must not obstruct this historic decision.

There are also other significant challenges on the road ahead towards an agreement at the Copenhagen Summit. Allow me to emphasise three of them:
- The question of Cyprus: there are still negotiations with the parties under the auspices of the UN. I am optimistic. I hope that we shall welcome a united Cyprus into the EU in December.
- The EU relations with Turkey: we must welcome the Turkish willingness to reform, and it is obvious that it is in Europe's interest to strengthen the forces in Turkey that are orientated towards the West.
- The Irish referendum: we are awaiting the decision of the Irish people on 19 October. The Irish referendum is important. Not just for Ireland, but for the entire EU, and not least for the enlargement.

So, there is plenty of work to attend to.

A couple of weeks ago, an Austrian newspaper wrote that the Copenhagen Summit will be one of the most difficult in the history of the EU. This is probably a realistic assessment. However, we shall not waver. We are and remain optimistic. The enlargement is a task of such importance that we must succeed.

We are facing the most important political decision of our generation. I believe that responsible European leaders will understand, and seize this historic opportunity to lay the foundations for a new, free, strong and rich Europe.

At the same time, we are making a focused effort to achieve an enlargement of NATO with up to seven new countries from Eastern and Central Europe.

With enlargements of both the EU and NATO, we take an historic step. We shall finally close one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of Europe.

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Denmark must contribute to developing the co-operation in the EU, also after 1 January 2003. It is in Denmark's interest to pursue a more proactive policy than has been the case in recent years. We must assume a more active role. The experience we reap and the contacts we make during the Danish EU Presidency provide good foundations for continued work. The Government intends to pursue this advantage.

We shall leave our imprint on the work done by the European Convention on the future of the EU, and we shall take active part in the Intergovernmental Conference to be initiated when the Convention has completed its work.

The Government favours a more efficient EU. An EU which solves the problems we all face, but which does not spend resources in areas best handled at national or local level. We want an improved description of the distribution of work between the EU and the Member States.

The Government wishes to strengthen the influence of national parliaments in the EU, and the EU must be transparent and under democratic control. Open doors and access to information create security and popular support.

It is imperative that we improve the way in which the EU functions in its daily work. We must ensure that the EU can function with a far larger number of Member States.

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The fight against international terrorism will remain the most significant challenge on the foreign and security policy stage.

We must maintain solidarity and international cohesion. This applies in relation to the efforts in Afghanistan, and it applies in relation to efforts elsewhere.

Denmark has contributed actively to the fight against terrorism. We may be proud of our efforts. Our reputation, and with it our influence, has been strengthened. We must maintain this line.

The fight against international terrorism will also be a key issue at the NATO Summit in Prague in November. We must adjust the Alliance to the new times we are facing, to the threats from international terrorism and the danger of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The new threats pose new demands. We must secure increased flexibility and strengthen our capacity for rapid response. Furthermore, we must respond to the future missile threat and the need for missile defence. These are the demands of the new times in which we live. Our response must be one of firmness and realism.

We must adapt NATO to the new times and the new threats. It is a matter of our security. It is a matter of maintaining the American commitment in Europe. We all have a clear interest in strong and unbreakable transatlantic ties.

The USA and Europe remain united by fundamental values and principles: democracy, freedom, the rule of law, human rights and the right of the individual to pursue his or her opportunities. We must maintain this. We have differences of opinion. However, the things that unite are far stronger than those that divide.

Europe and the USA must join forces in the endeavour to prevent tyrannical and rogue regimes from gaining command of weapons of mass destruction. Regimes that might deploy them or use them for blackmail.

Iraq is ruled by such a regime. For years, Saddam Hussein has turned a deaf ear to the binding resolutions from the UN to dispose of these terrible weapons.

The endeavours of the international community to enforce these resolutions through the Security Council have the full support of Denmark and the EU. After more than ten years' efforts vis-à-vis Iraq, the UN ought to live up to its obligations and put an end to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

It will be too late once the poison gas has spread over one of our large cities.

Europe and the USA must also work together to solve the tragic conflict in the Middle East. This is a shared challenge. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is tragic and causes deep concern.

In the international community, we are agreed on the goal: the establishing of a Palestinian state before June 2005. This is what we are endeavouring to achieve. This goal requires democratic reforms of the Palestinian Authority, and it requires Israeli withdrawal. However, we must not forget Israel's legitimate right to security. The insanity of suicide bombings must stop, and the Arab countries must officially recognise Israel's right to exist.

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An active and visible foreign policy also presupposes an active effort for the benefit of the world's poorest countries.

We have changed our development assistance and made it more efficient. We have focused on combating poverty, promoting democracy, human rights and the fight against terrorism. Development assistance has, to a higher extent, become a foreign policy instrument. We must demand that the countries that receive our assistance respect fundamental democratic values and principles.

The Johannesburg Summit set the agenda for sustainable development in the coming decade. We must secure increased free trade and market access, increased development assistance, good governance and improvement of the environment. We managed to set a number of specific targets, and we emphasised that the time for action and creating tangible results has come.

The Government will continue the work on adjusting the Danish development assistance. We shall follow up on the recommendations of the UN by giving high priority to relieving the altogether basic problems in developing countries, among other things by securing clean water, better sanitation and effective sewerage, as well as stepping up the fight against deadly diseases and epidemics, such as AIDS and malaria.

Denmark must take part in changing the global community in which we live. However, we are a small country with limited resources. Therefore, we must prioritise our resources and put them to highly specific use. It is important to forge many alliances, both within the EU and with the rest of the world. Not least the work in international organisations like NATO, the WTO and the UN is of great importance in this respect.

If we understand and use these rules, we can make our voice heard. Then we may take part in setting the international agenda. We saw this most recently in our committed effort in the Middle East peace process.

This is the direction in which we must take Danish foreign policy. We must represent Denmark's interests by showing initiative, realism and solidarity. This is being noticed, and this produces results.

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I should like to make some special comments on Greenland, the Faeroe Islands and the Unity of the Realm.

It has been a great pleasure for me to visit the Faeroe Islands and Greenland twice this year. A good relationship has been established with the two home rule authorities, and we are agreed on the key lines of our co-operation.

Extensive debate is going on these years both in the Faeroe Islands and in Greenland on self-government and increased independence.

I fully understand this debate. It is altogether natural for any people to consider how to strengthen its identity and take responsibility for its own development.

It is fundamentally healthy for decisions to be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect. The Government, therefore, supports a development that implies that the Faeroe Islands and Greenland assume responsibility for as many tasks as possible.

The Greenland Home Rule Commission will soon present its final report. If, against this background, the Greenland Home Rule Government expresses a wish for changes in our relations, the Government will consider specific proposals in a constructive light.

However, there are also some realities we all have to recognise. A prerequisite of real self-government is that the society of Greenland should be able, to a greater extent, to earn its own money. Greenland must have a larger and stronger private business sector. We ought to consider jointly how to establish the economic preconditions for more self-government. The Government’s plan is that we should set up a joint committee to present proposals for ways in which we may strengthen and develop Greenland's business sector. The result of this work may enter into the negotiations on future block grants.

The Government and the Faeroe Home Rule Government have agreed that the Faeroe Islands will gradually assume responsibility for a number of matters. This will be undertaken in accordance with an agreement concluded in January this year. On this basis, we are currently co-operating for the purpose of transferring responsibility to the Faeroe Islands in areas such as policing and the legal system, family law, the established church, immigration and commercial law.

The Faeroe Islands Lagmand (Chief Minister) has informed the Government of the wish that the Faeroe Islands should be involved, to a greater extent, in foreign and security policy issues. The Government welcomes the Home Rule Government’s new position. We regard involvement in these issues as a significant step forward in the co-operation between Denmark and the Faeroe Islands.

Both Greenland and the Faeroe Islands have expressed a wish to be more closely involved in foreign policy decisions which have a direct impact on Greenland and the Faeroe Islands. The Government is of the opinion that it will be natural to develop the co-operation in this area.

In this respect, I wish to state that the Government is prepared to discuss an arrangement under which the Faeroe Home Rule Government and the Greenland Home Rule Government will be authorised to act on behalf of the Realm in international matters that exclusively concern the Faeroe Islands and Greenland, respectively.

Authority of this nature lies outside the scope of the present Home Rule Acts. The Government is prepared to implement legislation that will provide the Faeroe Home Rule Government and the Greenland Home Rule Government with this authority.

We are facing a new epoch of home rule in the Faeroe Islands and in Greenland. Home rule in the Faeroe Islands has worked for more than half a century and in Greenland for almost a quarter of a century. The time has come for change. The time has come for modernisation of the home rule arrangements.

The Government is of the opinion that it will be an advantage for the development in the direction of increased self-government to take place within the framework of the Unity of the Realm. I believe that the historical, cultural and family ties are so strong between Greenland, the Faeroe Islands and Denmark that it is natural for us to stand together and help each other.

However, at the end of the day, it is a matter for the Faeroe and Greenland peoples themselves to decide on the future of the Faeroe Islands and Greenland, and their relations with Denmark.

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The Government and the Folketing have experienced ten busy months. The parliamentary session we embark on today will not be any less busy.

There is much work to be done if we, as we have promised, are to ensure more freedom and greater security for the Danish population. It is a promise we intend to keep.

The Government will issue invitations to co-operation to all parties in the Folketing. The Government will endeavour to make sure that the necessary reforms should be implemented on the basis of the broadest possible majority.

This depends, naturally, on whether there is a will to enter into dialogue and compromise, and on whether there is a real wish to gain influence.

There is work to be done, so let us get down to it and get off to a good start.

Allow me to propose that we begin the work of the Folketing with a “long live Denmark”.

LONG LIVE DENMARK