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We must bring Denmark safely through the crisis.
This has been this Government’s most important task since we came into office one year ago. And it remains our most important task.
It requires action in areas that were previously neglected. It requires action instead of doing nothing. It requires cooperation. And it requires a new direction for Denmark.
This past year we have focused on three things:
Firstly, we have brought public spending under control. Before, the budgets were overrun year after year. Now we are ensuring that budgets balance.
We are safeguarding confidence in the Danish economy. Because high credibility is difficult to achieve, but easy to lose.
Secondly, we are stimulating economic activity in Denmark through a wide range of investments. Homes are having new roofs installed. New roads and rail tracks are being laid. Wind turbines are being erected.
We are one of the governments in Europe that have done the most to secure jobs.
Thirdly, we have helped the people who need help the most.
We have abolished poverty relief. A measure that has benefited almost 16,000 people. Children have been given opportunities that were previously not open to them. Families have been strengthened.
We will give pensioners with the least income an increase in their supplementary pension benefit. This will be paid out to 260,000 pensioners from 1 January.
And we have created more places for mentally ill people.
In the midst of an economic crisis, where money is tight, we have succeeded in bringing public spending under control, in securing jobs, and in improving the daily lives of some of the people who need it most.
I think that is quite unique in Europe.
It is a new direction. It is the path chosen by this Government. It is the path that will enable us to emerge successfully from the crisis together.
* * *
In Denmark we have a strong sense of community and solidarity.
Where the broadest shoulders bear the heaviest burdens.
Where those who are struck by illness have access to treatment.
Where those who lose their jobs are helped.
Where education is the most important way towards progress and development.
This is what is so special and fantastic about Denmark. It is this sense of community and solidarity that we have built up generation after generation. Community and solidarity that pervade Danish society.
But it could crack if the economic crisis is allowed to take its course unchecked.
It could crumble if we fail to invest in education and jobs.
It could disintegrate if we, each and everyone one of us, do not do what we can.
Our safe and secure Denmark cannot be taken for granted. It is our task to bring our community and solidarity safely through the crisis.
* * *
Times are hard for many families. Thousands of Danes have lost their jobs. Many are uncertain about the future.
We must help those who are out of work.
That is why we are implementing an emergency package for unemployed people who have less than six months left of their right to unemployment benefit. That is why we are giving thousands of young people new opportunities in the form of job rotation, bridging to education, or as adult apprentices.
But the best thing we can do for those who do not have a job is to create more jobs.
Many of the decisions that this Government has taken have had a double objective: To make tangible improvements in the daily lives of Danes. And to create more jobs.
We are renovating council housing. Installing new roofs and insulating windows as well as building playgrounds in the courtyards. For the benefit of the residents.
And more jobs are being created.
We have decided that Denmark is to be one of the most ambitious countries in the energy field. Out with coal in the power plants. And in with green biogas. And more revolving wind turbines.
We protect the climate. We get cleaner air. We get greener companies.
And we get more jobs.
We are reducing income tax for all those on ordinary salaries and wages.
We are lifting 275,000 Danes out of the top-rate tax bracket. These are metal workers, teachers, dental assistants and a great many others.
And when did a tax agreement last give a single mother almost 8,000 kroner more a year?
At the same time, companies are able to write off investments in machinery more substantially.
And this generates more jobs.
Altogether, this means that this year there will be more than 10,000 Danes in work who would otherwise have been out of work. Next year, the figure will be 21,000.
These are painters, plumbers, engineers and many others who are economically active as a direct consequence of this Government’s decisions.
It pays to take action.
* * *
I am convinced that the societies which emerge best from the crisis will be precisely the societies that take action.
The societies that succeed in taking the right decisions. And timely decisions.
But not necessarily popular decisions.
In many places in Europe, deep cuts have been made in welfare. This must not happen in Denmark.
We must not wake up one morning to discover that public debt has skyrocketed, that jobs are flying out of the country, and that our welfare is in jeopardy.
Therefore, we must have the courage to change our society in time. We cannot do things tomorrow in the same way as we do today.
I believe in our community and solidarity. I believe in our welfare society. I believe that by making reasonable demands on each other we can do what is best for Denmark.
In the new Parliamentary Session, we will change the rules for cash benefits. With the aim of ensuring that people do not become dependent on public welfare year after year after year.
We want to get young people to complete their education and training more quickly.
And we want to invest in education and training.
When we see that a record number of young people – over 60,000 – were admitted into programmes of higher education this summer, the Government will ensure that money is allocated.
When we say that more young people must take a vocational education and training qualification, we will follow up and find a solution to the problems of finding practical training placements.
When we say that our children must be the best educated generation in the history of Denmark, we will raise academic standards in primary and lower secondary school education.
We take the necessary decisions.
* * *
The ones who need our care and concern most of all are children who have experienced neglect and abuse.
But in recent years, we have seen examples of children who have far from received the help and support they should have.
These are tragic cases, and I am sure that they have affected us all.
How could this happen?
Why was action not taken to intervene?
Why have measures not been taken to remedy the situation; a situation that has had tragic consequences for the children concerned?
We must do better here.
Therefore, the Government will launch a totally new initiative to help vulnerable children.
We will make it a requirement that no cases regarding children are put in a pile of other cases. Any instance where concern is expressed for the safety of a child – for example as a result of violence or abuse – must be assessed within 24 hours.
We will make it a requirement that the municipality must speak with the child concerned when there is suspicion of abuse.
Let me be absolutely clear: Children placed in care must never be sent back alone to the person suspected of having abused them. Never. It should go without saying. Nevertheless, this still happens.
With this comprehensive initiative, we will improve the help provided to vulnerable children. In particular children who are subjected to abuse. This is the first step in the Government’s new policy.
The next step focuses on 24-hour care centres, refuge centres and foster families. On the places where children come when they cannot live with their family.
Places that should be safe, but which in tragic cases have added yet another breach of trust to the list of breaches that the children have experienced. In some places, it has apparently been possible to open a refuge centre simply on the basis of the appearance of a person who practises dubious pedagogical methods.
In this area, too, a completely new approach is needed.
Firstly, we will impose new requirements on refuge centres and institutions. They must be run by professional management.
Secondly, more than 5,000 24-hour-care institutions, refuge centres and foster families must undergo a completely new approval process. And they must be subject to at least one inspection a year.
We need to have abuse of trust brought to light. We must identify and remove poor social care provision. And we must keep a close watch to ensure that high-quality provision remains so.
Thirdly, we will transfer responsibility for both approval and supervision from 98 municipalities to five municipalities. They will be given the specific task of approving and supervising the social care provision offered in the neighbouring municipalities.
We will consolidate the expertise. This will enhance focus. This will enhance professionalism.
We must ensure that each child placed in care feels safe and secure. Children who have been subjected to abuse and harm have a greater need to feel safe and secure than any others.
* * *
In general, our welfare society must be for those who need it. Welfare should not be a battleground for ideological experiments.
For ten years, health has been too much about ideology. It was decided that private solutions should fill more in relation to public health care provision. And people with tax-free health insurance coverage were able to jump the queue.
We have put all that away.
What is important is that patients receive the proper treatment.
This Government will change the treatment guarantee, so that those who are most ill will be treated quickly, whilst those who are less ill will have to wait a little longer – but never longer than two months.
But a treatment guarantee only makes sense if there is a diagnosis.
Therefore, from 1 September next year we will introduce a completely new patient right. The aim is that every person must receive a diagnosis within 30 days.
If the doctors are unable to reach a diagnosis, the patient must instead be given a clear plan regarding the next steps to be taken.
What will the new patient right mean in specific terms?
Well, for example, general practitioners have quite a number of elderly patients with symptoms resembling Parkinson’s Disease.
Without the new right, an elderly person risks being bounced between hospital wards and doctors in a lengthy process of scans and blood tests and time spent constantly waiting for the results. In the meantime, the elderly person becomes increasingly ill and increasingly confused.
With the new right, the doctor at the hospital is required to plan a process which must be completed within 30 days. With the aim of ensuring that the patient quickly receives the right treatment.
We are imposing substantial demands on the hospitals. But they can fulfil these demands when they organise themselves in the right way.
In August, I visited Silkeborg Regional Hospital. They have set up a new centre where they gather diagnostics from all specialisations. This enhances cooperation between the doctors. Less waiting time for the patients. Faster diagnoses. And thus faster treatment.
All of which benefits patients in Mid-Jutland. And an example to follow for hospitals in the rest of the country.
We must all have access to fast and proper treatment if we become ill.
* * *
In the early hours of Tuesday 21 August, a gang of men entered the emergency room of Odense Hospital armed with clubs.
They threatened patients. They threatened staff. They smashed up furniture.
These are criminals whose actions I utterly condemn.
Attacking a hospital. This is in every sense an outrageous act, perpetrated by criminals who live in a completely different world than the rest of us – and by us I mean the vast majority of Danes, regardless of where our families come from.
I would like to emphasise that something more and different is needed than an immigration policy that was pulled further and further away from the middle.
Intricate points systems would not have made any difference to those criminals who attacked a hospital.
Border checkpoints would not have stopped them at the entrance to the emergency room.
Poverty relief would not have prevented them from threatening patients with clubs.
Other instruments are needed to combat this behaviour.
Firstly, very serious criminal acts were committed. We must find the guilty perpetrators and punish them. This is a task for the police. The Government will maintain a strengthened police presence in the deprived housing areas.
Secondly, we must take action to eliminate parallel societies. This is a difficult task. It will take time.
There are families who wish to decide who their children marry. Who send their children on re-education trips. What are they to be re-educated away from? Danish society? It makes no sense.
There are young New Danes who find themselves trapped between two societies.
We must show the young people that we are on their side.
The Government will raise the penalty in connection with forced religious weddings.
It must be easier to use restraining orders in cases concerning forced marriages.
Children and young people who fear being sent on a re-education trip must know where they can find help.
We must help those who return from re-education trips.
And at crisis centres, we will create safe and secure places to stay for both men and women fleeing from forced marriages.
We need a robust and fair immigration and integration policy that everyone can count on. Not just today, but also tomorrow and next year.
And I wish to say to all Danes who have roots in other countries. To the elderly who have toiled hard over many years. To the young people who are in the process of taking an education or training programme. To all of you who use the opportunities that we have in Denmark to secure a good life.
You are part of a Denmark where we all contribute what we can.
We are all Danes.
A bunch of criminals must not be allowed to destroy that.
* * *
Denmark is a fantastic country. Just think of an altogether everyday thing like drinking a glass of water. You turn on the tap. Water pours into the glass. It smells of... well, nothing in particular. It is just clean. And it tastes of water.
In many places in the world, tap water smells of buckets full of chemicals used to clean it. It tastes of chlorine. And people drag home heavy bottles of water from the supermarket.
In Denmark, we have taken such good care of our groundwater for hundreds of years that we can drink it the way it is. We also want to be able to do so the next many hundred years.
Denmark is one of the few Western countries where people can drink the groundwater throughout the country.
But there is a problem. Over the last ten years, the use of pesticides has gone up and up. Boreholes for water have been closed.
The former Government promised to do something about the problem. But they did far from enough.
That is what this Government is doing.
We have put together tax on pesticides in a new way. The pesticides that impact most negatively on the environment will become significantly more expensive. The pesticides that impact less negatively on the environment will become less expensive.
And our next step will be to impose higher fines on those who use unlawful pesticides. We will deduct money from their agricultural support. Indeed, we are prepared to take away their right to use pesticides.
Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren must also be able to drink fresh water from the tap.
* * *
We have much to offer in Denmark. Also for our businesses.
Investment in education and training. A sound economy. A good welfare society. These are important building blocks for the business community.
But we need to do more than this. We must also dismantle the barriers that prevent companies from achieving progress and creating jobs.
Denmark has many small companies. And they create a great many jobs.
Therefore, we will now open up for new loans targeted exactly at small companies – new loans that may run up to approx. 12 billion kroner. So that they can invest in new plants and machinery. So that they can create even more jobs.
And we must not be a stumbling block to technological development. Therefore, the Government has abolished the multimedia tax which the former Government introduced.
We must not dampen the spirit of enterprise. Therefore, we have abolished the entrepreneur tax which the former Government introduced.
Nor must we burden the competitiveness of businesses unnecessarily. Taxes pay for our welfare. But they can also be cost-consuming for businesses.
Naturally, there must be scope for sensible restructuring of direct and indirect taxes. But this Government is not planning to introduce any new general increases in indirect, business or income taxes.
It is also this Government’s goal to increase trade with and investments from the new emerging economies.
Our companies must have the best conditions for competing successfully in a world that is coming closer and closer together.
* * *
The world is also coming closer to the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
A month ago, I met with my colleagues from Greenland and the Faroe Islands for the annual council meeting under the auspices of the Danish Realm. The meeting took place in a hut in Igaliku in South Greenland.
It is a place where one feels far away from the madding world. But we were not.
There is increasing international interest in the Arctic. It may become of great importance to Greenland and the Faroe Islands and, consequently, to the Danish Realm.
That is why foreign policy was an important subject at the annual council meeting. We will cooperate more on foreign and security policy.
And that is why climate change was also an important subject at the meeting. We will launch joint research collaboration. It will include fish stocks research and research on how climate change impacts on the marine environment.
The Danish Realm is unique. It is vigorous and necessary. And it can respond to the challenges of today.
* * *
Also the European Community has proved able to respond to the challenges of today.
Today on 2 October it is 40 years ago that the Danes voted yes to joining the European Community.
At the time, the then Prime Minister, Jens Otto Krag, made the wise statement – and I quote – “It is not a question of whether to say yes or no to Europe. In all circumstances, we belong in Europe and we cannot renounce our part in the destiny of Europe.”
Our common destiny with Europe has been confirmed during the economic crisis.
In a situation where more than every tenth European is unemployed, Europe needs more than ever in our modern history to find common solutions to common problems.
We have made good progress this past year. During the Danish EU Presidency, a fiscal compact was adopted to strengthen the European economy. And a growth compact to create more jobs. The Compact for Growth and Jobs was a key Danish priority.
But the European crisis is not over. During the next few months, the EU needs to decide how to strengthen economic and monetary cooperation even further.
We will involve ourselves closely in the negotiations and in the discussions on the future of the euro. For it is in Denmark’s interest that the euro functions – that is so even if we stand outside the euro zone cooperation.
A specific proposal for a single bank supervisory system has been presented. Negotiations have only just started. Naturally, we will participate actively. But there are many questions that need clarification before we can make an assessment of what serves Denmark’s best interests.
When we have received the final proposals, we will, naturally, make the decision here in the Folketing.
We cannot and we must not renounce our part in the destiny of Europe. That was true 40 years ago. And it is true today.
* * *
Denmark is a wealthy society and a strong community. We can afford – and we also have an obligation – to help those for whom security, democracy and food on the table are not a matter of course.
Therefore, we have strengthened our commitment in the very poorest and most fragile states in the world.
This is particularly the case in Afghanistan. Significant challenges remain there, in spite of much progress. Therefore, over the forthcoming years, Afghanistan will be our most important international engagement. Also out of regard for our own security.
We are already discussing the framework for the Danish effort over the next two years. The outcome of the negotiations will be a new Afghanistan plan.
We are shifting our focus from combat to support and training in order to enable the Afghans themselves to assume full responsibility for security in their country in 2014. We are increasing our development assistance to Afghanistan so that education and training, work, and food become a reality for people in one of the world’s poorest countries.
A broad cross-section of political parties support the Danish effort in Afghanistan. This is good for Denmark.
It is my strong wish that we can also achieve a broad agreement on a leaner – but still strong and robust defence force. We are, right now, conducting negotiations with the political parties behind the defence agreement.
Competent and courageous Danish soldiers are contributing a tremendous effort to foster security and development in many places throughout the world.
To you soldiers, I wish to say: You make it possible for Denmark to translate into action our values of democracy, security and gender equality.
You translate democracy into democratic elections in Libya. You translate security into a safer passage off the Horn of Africa. You translate gender equality into schooling for girls in Afghanistan.
These weeks, we are seeing newexamples of violent attacks on the civilian population in Syria. Massive violations of human rights.
Denmark has consistently supported the international community’s countless endeavours to put an end to violence and initiate a democratic process. Unfortunately, without success. That is why Denmark is helping the Syrian opposition.
And in the same way as we help out in the world’s hotspots, we also wish to help out in terms of securing lasting peace and development once the fire has been extinguished.
And when a people want to build up their country, there is one building block that is more important than anything else.
When they want to reduce infant mortality. When they want to reduce poverty. When they want to increase equality between women and men, rich and poor. Then there is basically only one remedy: Education.
Education for both girls and boys.
That is why Denmark is ready to assist when the UN asks if we will help provide education in poor countries. Help train teachers. Help supply new schoolbooks. Help get children from the poorest families, and especially more girls, to attend school.
For it will boost development and it will boost prosperity when education is for the many and not just for the few.
* * *
Education for the many. That has also been the driving force throughout the last 200 years of Danish history.
Danish primary and lower secondary school has raised academic standards in Denmark generation after generation.
It has been altogether crucial to the progress we have achieved. From absolute monarchy to democracy. From an agricultural country to a modern welfare society.
Primary and lower secondary school has helped shape Denmark. And it has developed along the way.
From rote learning to modern teaching. With new subjects such as English and social science. From seven years’ compulsory education to nine years – and today ten years.
Many of us who are here today can remember when we sent our own children to school. When we saw our six-year-old standing in the school yard with red cheeks and expectant eyes. A new adventure was about to begin.
Primary and lower secondary school gives children knowledge and skills they can use as a compass to guide them through life. And many learn at school what it means to be a good friend and that everybody deserves a chance.
We can take pride in our primary and lower secondary school. It is good. But it can become even better.
A great many children do well at school. But they can do even better. And it is necessary. Because society, the labour market and the global world make increasingly large demands on all of us.
Far too many children have difficulties in coping at primary and lower secondary school. Today, there are three or four pupils in the senior forms who lack adequate reading skills. And whose maths skills are also inadequate. And who will, therefore, find it hard to cope after leaving school. It simply cannot go on.
And then we must not forget the pupils who find it easy to learn. Because many of our cleverest pupils are not sufficiently challenged. Of course it must not be like that.
My ambition is for our children to be the cleverest generation in Danish history.
My vision – and this Government’s vision – is a primary and lower secondary school where all children learn more. All children. A school where there is peace and quiet in the classroom. Where children thrive and are keen to learn. Where they develop their personalities and become committed participants in a vibrant democracy.
A primary and lower secondary school where teachers use their large knowledge of their subjects and apply the best teaching methods, and where they are shown trust and respect. And where the outcome of the education does not depend on where you live or who your parents are.
This is our vision. And the big question is, naturally, how to realise this vision.
Teachers are at the heart of primary and lower secondary school. It is the teachers who make the school come alive and make the children learn. They deserve respect for their work. Professionally strong and stimulating teachers are crucial to ensure that our children acquire the necessary skills and knowledge for life after leaving school.
Therefore, my response is also that children and teachers must spend more time together in school.
Quality time that strengthens education. Quality time that makes the school even more vibrant.
Our children must have a more coherent schoolday.
What will this mean in terms of a specific schoolday?
I would like to invite you into the school of the future as I envisage it might look.
Let us take a boy aged 13 in the 7th form. And let us call him Emil.
His schoolday could, for example, start with math. The class is taught angles, degrees and percentages. The math instruction is moved from the classroom to the school’s workshop. There, Emil is busy building a birdcage together with three others from his class.
The smell of wood, the sound of the saw, and the right angle of the birdcage roof – it makes it much easier to grasp Pythagoras’ theorem.
And then it is time for sport activities for several of the senior forms. Teachers and social educators work together on these activities.
Emil’s next lessons are in Danish. The classroom is quiet because everybody has been outside and busy in the course of the day. Now it is time for grammar and textual analysis. They work in groups where they prepare book reviews in the form of podcast.
Emil is looking forward to the next lesson, “media studies”, which is an optional course. He is going to make a website together with the twin class in Manchester.
Towards the end of the day, there is time scheduled to do the most difficult homework. And the grown-ups have time to help.
When Emil goes home in the afternoon, he has had a challenging and fun schoolday. He has received exciting instruction that makes him keen to learn more. He has been outside. He has had exercise. And he has done most of his homework.
All of it in one coherent schoolday.
The rest of the day he can spend learning to play the guitar, hanging out with his friends and being together with his family – and finishing off his homework.
We need a schoolday where children and teachers are more together. And where the children receive more education – especially in Danish and maths.
This will be the core of the proposal for a general boost to primary and lower secondary school which this Government will present at the end of the year.
We must develop primary and lower secondary school to make it even better.
It will make demands on us all. On pupils, parents, teachers, head teachers, municipalities and on us here in the Folketing.
I wish to urge that we – in the broad group of political parties behind the primary and lower secondary school agreement – stand together to give the school a boost. I am sure that is what the Danish people expect from us.
We must not fight over the school. We must fight for the school. And we must do it together.
* * *
In the new Parliamentary Session, our most important task is to invest in our children and young people. In our future. It is necessary if we want to emerge from the crisis with the society we love intact.
Education is the path both to bring everybody on board and to drive our society ahead. For us to keep jobs in Denmark. To improve everyday life for the Danes. To strengthen our community.
We must make decisions that are necessary in order to bring Denmark safely through the crisis and into the future. And we must make the decisions here in the Folketing.
I believe in broad decisions which the Danes can count on for many years.
It generates trust and confidence in the future. And we need that.
It is good for Denmark.
Let us commence the work of the new Parliamentary Session with three cheers for Denmark.
LONG LIVE DENMARK.
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!