Check against delivery
On a Thursday in December I sat on the floor in a living room in Valby. I held six-month-old Holger on my lap. I was paying a visit to a mother and toddler group.
And is there anything more positive and exhilarating than having a curious baby playing with one’s nose?
Children are wonderful. They are the most important we have. If we are asked about what mean most to us in life, most people will answer: our children.
That will surely be my answer.
But children are not only important to their parents and grandparents. They are our common future.
Therefore, our children and young people must learn more. They now have more lessons at school. And they are to receive even better teaching at vocational education and training colleges and upper secondary schools.
The time has now come for the very young.
It is the early years that shape Holger and other small children. They need a childhood based on safety and attention. With joy and play.
We have decided to set money aside for more social educators at nurseries and kindergartens.
But we are not finished yet.
We need better childcare facilities and daycare than we have today. Children must thrive, learn and develop.
We must invest in our future.
We can do this because the economy is picking up in Denmark.
I have been Prime Minister since 2011. And I know very well that not all that this Government has done is equally popular.
Believe it or not: I have noticed.
But it is my task to do what is best for Denmark. Not only best for today, but also best for tomorrow.
And I stand by the decisions I have made. The responsibility is mine. I will continue working.
Whether it is good enough will, ultimately, be your decision.
What is most important for me is that Denmark today is in better shape.
The economy is under control. Foreign countries have confidence in us. Interest rates are low in Denmark.
The housing market is recovering. And companies’ order books are looking healthier.
Many families experience that they have got a little more money to spend. This is good. And the elderly who have the least have received a slightly larger supplementary pension benefit.
And what gives me most pleasure is that more people have got into work. And fewer people are without jobs today.
The economy is picking up in Denmark.
We would like things to speed up. That is what we all want. But in the world at large, growth is unfortunately sluggish.
I am pleased that the Government’s policy is effective. The direction is clear.
In 2015, more Danes will experience that things are picking up. We have reduced companies’ taxes and boosted competitiveness. Because it benefits us all when Danish companies are successful.
And we will continue.
The Government will present new proposals. Proposals meant to create more growth.
We take action. And we take care of each other.
A few months ago I met a young woman who made a great impression on me. Her name is Laura and she is 21 years old.
Her father drank throughout her childhood. And even though her mother was there for her, it left its imprint on the family.
It was difficult to talk to friends at school about what kind of life she had at home.
But Laura decided to take responsibility for her own life. She sought help and she got it.
Today, it is Laura who helps others. She supports children and young people in the same situation she once experienced.
I greatly respect that.
There are many volunteers like Laura. And I wish to thank all of you.
Without you, we would live in a cold world. We don’t. We live in the best country in the world.
I know that there are some who think we pay too much in taxes. But consider the value we get for our money. Children and young people can take a good education. If you are sick, you will get help. And in Denmark you do not sink into poverty because you grow old.
This has not come about by itself.
We have made the joint decision that Denmark must be a strong community. This has taken many years to build.
And our grandmothers and grandfathers laid the foundations.
One of them has put it like this:
“Society can become cold and inhuman if we don’t understand how to use our prosperity in the right way.”
Former Prime Minister Anker Jørgensen said so in a New Year Address almost 40 years ago.
One of the strongest aspects of Denmark is that we make demands on each other. We provide safety for the individual. But we must also, each and every one of us, make our contribution.
If you are without work, you must take the work that is on offer. Naturally. It is only fair.
But we must also bear in mind that everybody may be in need of help. Perhaps your workplace closed down. Perhaps you have had problems since you lost your job.
There must be safety.
That is why we need a new unemployment benefit system.
Far too many have exhausted their right to unemployment benefits. And many more fear that next time it will be their turn. First, to lose the job. And then, to lose the the support. This gives rise to a feeling of unsafety in many families.
Last time the rules were changed, they were not given enough thought. I want to do it right.
I want an unemployment benefit system where fewer people lose the benefit. This will provide safety for more people.
My hope is, therefore, that the Folketing (Danish Parliament) after general elections this year will be composed in such a way that we can develop a new and better unemployment benefit system.
Common solutions are the best solutions.
This also applies when we are to receive refugees.
I am in no doubt whatsoever that we help more people and more effectively by rendering assistance in the world at large. This is what Denmark does. And it is of great importance to children fleeing from war and horror, to sick people in hospitals and to families in refugee camps.
Refugees are also arriving in Denmark. We must treat them decently. And this is what Danes do. By launching a local appeal to help refugees. By organising a football match. Or by offering a course in Danish. There is much hospitality.
But we must also be able to keep pace.
That is the reason why we introduce restrictions on the possibility of family reunification. And that is why we tighten the rules for asylum. It is the first time in 12 years that this is done.
Right here and now we have a new group of refugees. And this time we must succeed.
What is the track record like if we look at the refugees already living in Denmark? Has the integration of refugees been successful? No. It is a fact that far too many have ended up living on cash benefits.
We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Here tonight, I want to say loud and clear: refugees must not become social welfare clients.
If you come to Denmark, you must of course work. You must use the skills you have. You must learn the Danish language, and you must meet and mix with Danish colleagues. You must see how we do things in this country.
As many as possible must start working at a proper workplace. And others can contribute by performing some of the tasks we also need to have carried out. There are beaches that need cleaning. There are childcare centres where the sandbox or the swing needs to be repaired.
The new refugees must work, irrespective of how long they are to stay in Denmark. And why stop there?
What about the refugees and immigrants who have been here for five or ten years – or perhaps even longer? But who still do not provide for themselves.
Perhaps they lacked the will. Perhaps they have not been presented with the right demands. Perhaps they have not been given the chance. They will have it now.
I grew up in the western suburbs of Copenhagen. At that time, in the 1970s, many immigrants arrived in Denmark. And I have seen the significance of having a job in contrast to not having one.
We need to make an extra effort.
Therefore I will change the conditions for refugees and immigrants on cash benefits. They must work more for the benefit and preferably at a workplace. The goal is to get a real job. In the first instance, the new conditions are to be effective for a two-year period.
I want a community in which all contribute what they can. I believe this leads to greater happiness for the individual. And it leads to a better society for all.
The many refugees remind us that the world is coming closer together.
We are a small country. But we have a proud history of rendering assistance in countries stricken by war and misery. We assume responsibility. And we can only do so because there are Danes who, each and every one, make a difference.
I am thinking of the soldiers we still have posted in Afghanistan. Our fighter pilots in the airspace over Iraq. The Danish experts who are training Kurdish and Iraqi forces.
And I am thinking of the Danish nurses, doctors and emergency response teams who have gone to Port Loko in Sierra Leone.
They have left a safe everyday life in order to help people suffering from the infectious and deadly disease Ebola. It is a dangerous mission.
That is true heroism.
We here in Denmark wish to express our thanks to all of you.
That we ourselves and our family are in good health. That means very much to all of us. Good health is a source of happiness in life.
By contrast, it is hard when sickness becomes an obstacle to living life fully.
When you are sick, you are vulnerable. There are places in the world where people in addition to suffering from a disease also have to struggle with financial worries:
Will I be able to pay the hospital bill? Can I afford the medication? It is not like that here in Denmark. And it must never become like that.
In Denmark, we are not left on our own if we are sick.
We have good and free healthcare. I want to keep it that way.
Cancer is a terrible disease which many of us have experienced at close quarters.
But if cancer is diagnosed at an earlier stage, more people will be able to recover. This requires resources. We have set them aside.
Diseases like diabetes, arthritis or KOL affect especially many elderly people.
But if we find out more swiftly what people are suffering from. And if we become better at treating people during the course of the disease, many will then live longer. And many elderly people will live better lives.
Do you know what chair-based exercise is? I do. Because I have visited a group of wonderful ladies at the nursing home, Egecentret at Sorø. The oldest resident was Else aged 93.
Sitting on a chair, the ladies – and the two men who also participated – started out by stretching their legs. Next, they raised their arms in the air. They put a lot of energy into it.
After the exercise session, the chairs were put back round the tables and we enjoyed time together with coffee and cake.
It was a lovely afternoon. After a long life, you deserve this kind of old age. And you can have it, health permitting. We must take care of our senior citizens.
The Government has earmarked more money for health than ever before.
And we have the money. That is not the case if you believe in zero growth in the public sector.
I find it very important that the economy is in order. You have probably noticed.
But the money issue is only important because something else is even more important. That we have a job. That our children are safe. That the elderly are well cared for. That we ourselves and our closest relatives are in good health.
In Denmark, we do things in our own way. We share prosperity. We help each other.
I know it is matter of concern to many: will we be able to maintain our welfare model in the future? Will we have the money for good hospitals? Will it be possible to get a job? Will our children experience a safe future?
These are concerns we must take seriously. But we must not allow ourselves to be paralysed by them. We must take action.
It is our – and only our – decision which Denmark we have. It is we ourselves who decide.
I want a common future where we continue making demands on each other. Otherwise we can’t make ends meet. And that will harm our children, the old and the sick.
I want to do things in a new way if the old way is not good enough. Even if it means that some will be displeased during the process.
And over the next years I will spend a little more money on our common welfare. If not, cracks will appear in the fabric of our community.
The economy is picking up. We are leaving the crisis behind us. And that is good.
But the best thing is that we have maintained our solidarity. We have decided to do so. And not many countries can match that.
We have set the right course. Now we must stay the course. There is no room for experiments.
We must protect and take care of the Denmark we know.
Happy New Year.