Speech

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s Opening Address to the Folketing (Danish Parliament) on 6 October 2015

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Denmark is a lovely country. One of the best in the world. This is something that we Danes can quickly agree on.

Through generations we have created a quite unique spot on the planet. With freedom. Prosperity. Harmony.

We are proud of who we are. We have reason to be so.

But we must also be honest and accept that we have not solved all problems.

There are things we can do better. Things that we must do better. Even in one of the best countries in the world.

We have built our society on equality. On trust in each other. On respect for the individual.

This is what makes Denmark Denmark. A cohesive society. And a country we care about.
But when growth is concentrated in the major cities, Denmark risks being split in two.

Then we risk a Denmark without geographical cohesion.

When children grow up in parallel societies, where equality and freedom are disregarded.

Then we risk a Denmark without value-based cohesion.

When the reward derived from working is too little, and too many are on public support.

Then we risk a Denmark without economic cohesion.

And when insufficient jobs are created in the private sector, the economy also loses its cohesion. As the money for welfare can only come from one place:

Our companies.


Denmark is a small country in a large world. We are dependent on what happens beyond our borders. But we must decide for ourselves what kind of country we are.

I want a Denmark that is cohesive. Geographically. In terms of values. Economically. In human terms.

* * *

Denmark and Europe are currently in an extraordinary situation.

Our borders are under a double pressure.

Partly from migrants who are seeking to escape poverty.

Partly from people who are fleeing from war and destruction.

Often under conditions that are so harsh that we have difficulty imagining them.

Families in unseaworthy boats. People crammed together in lorries. Children and adults at the mercy of cynical people smugglers.
It is deeply tragic.

Denmark has a responsibility to help people who are fleeing.

But we also have a responsibility to ensure our country is cohesive.

We must say openly that there is a difference between being a refugee and an economic migrant. We can never cope with mass migration that is borne by the desire for a better life. No matter how understandable that desire is.

We must keep our hearts warm and our heads cool.

There are no easy solutions. But I believe we have realistic opportunities if we see the world as it is.

Firstly, it is clear that Europe must bring the influx under control. It makes no sense to leave Europe’s borders open and only talk about how to distribute the people who enter.

We must tackle the root of the problem. And Denmark is doing its part.

The Government will earmark DKK 750 million for, among other things, assistance in regions of origin. When we help refugees close to their home country, we can help more people. And fewer will be forced to embark on a hazardous journey towards Europe.

Secondly, the EU shall not determine how many asylum-seekers that Denmark accepts.

We stand outside – and will remain outside – the EU’s common asylum and immigration policy. Also after the referendum on 3 December.

Thirdly, the Government will pursue a tough immigration policy.

We have already introduced a new integration benefit. It makes it less attractive to come to Denmark. We will tighten the requirements regarding family reunification. And tighten the rules on acquiring permanent residence.

We do all this because we think it is fair. And because the conditions that apply in Denmark have an influence on how many people seek asylum. Recognition of this is gradually spreading.

And I am convinced that the number has a bearing on whether integration can succeed. This is a point of view which I share with an increasing number of people.

Fourthly, we must be honest and say that the new refugees present a challenge to integration.

Regardless of whether one feels there are too many or too few refugees coming to this country – the Government thinks that too many are coming – there are refugees in Denmark. And refugees are coming to Denmark.

Up to now, integration efforts have failed.

After being in Denmark a year, only one in ten refugees is working or under education. It is disheartening.

After four years, the figure is only a third. It is sad.

And of all immigrants from non-Western countries, not even half are working. Despite the fact that many have been here for 10, 20 or 30 years. It is deeply worrying.

This is something we need to do better. Much better.
I have been pleased to see the considerable goodwill that has manifested itself in recent weeks. In companies. In clubs and associations. Among the thousands of Danes who have volunteered to help.

Now we must seize this goodwill. We must go further than fine rhetoric, warm feelings and the many likes on Facebook. We must commit each other to action. Also further down the line.

Around the end of the year, the Government will present a new integration program. Its objective will be to ensure that refugees who have been granted asylum are introduced to a workplace as soon as possible. And they must learn Danish at the same time. We must cut down on the paperwork and devote our energy to ensuring successful integration.

Denmark must be cohesive – economically, socially and culturally.

* * *


The heavy pressure on Europe’s borders is rooted in complex conflicts and poor living conditions. The world has drawn closer. And Denmark will continue to engage itself in areas where we can make the greatest difference.

Fortunately, we are not alone. We are working together with other countries. We are a part of the EU’s response.

Therefore, we do not need to be present everywhere. We must focus our development assistance where it serves our interests. Where we promote the values we believe in. And where we fight the causes of poverty and migration.

Both the EU and Denmark must demand that the countries from where the migrants come take their own citizens back when these migrants are not eligible to obtain legal residence here in Denmark.

Denmark participates in the international efforts to combat the terror organization ISIL in Iraq. We do not watch passively when ISIL brutally attacks the local population and wages a war on terror against us.

Danish pilots, mechanics and other air crew personnel have performed their task superbly. Now they will take a well-earned rest back home in Denmark.

But when we deploy the fighter aircraft again, the Government is open to considering a wider mandate for the Danish engagement. I hope that the Folketing is ready to give its support. So that we can contribute in areas where we deliver the greatest value. Also with our fighter aircraft.

Terror is an evil which we must continue to fight. The goal is peace and progress. So that families are not forced to flee. But can live in their own country.

I am proud of Denmark. A country which takes responsibility in the world. That helps people in need. And that protects the values that unite us.

* * *

My Government has been charged with the task of, and thus responsibility for, running Denmark. And each and every government is given responsibility for running the country from the state in which the country finds itself.

Therefore, we have carried out a review of the public finances. And the result is clear. Before the election, a particular picture was painted. Unfortunately, this picture has now changed. There is less money than we hoped and believed. There is less money for new policy.

The economy was pushed to the limit of the Budget Act. The review showed that public finances had been overstretched.

There should be a safety margin. There was none before. There is one now.

As a new Government, it is our task to put Denmark back on a safe footing.

This means that we have DKK 5 billion less to spend next year. We must stringently prioritise. It is absolutely necessary.

The Government has chosen to spend less money on development assistance – but still meet the UN target. To spend less money on research – but still meet the EU target. To streamline education programs – but still rank among the countries that invest most in education.

Why do we do this?

Because we wish to deliver on the promises we were elected on.


More money for the health sector. A strong police force. Opportunities for growth throughout Denmark. A tax deduction scheme for domestic and home-improvement services.

We promised these things before the election. We will implement these things after the election.

We must not overspend. Denmark must be economically cohesive.

* * *

The Danish economy is steadily moving forward after the crisis.

But the progress made is not equally distributed throughout the country. It is strongest in the Capital and large parts of East Jutland.

Earlier, young people moved from Copenhagen when they started a family. Today, many stay where they are.

In the Triangle Region and Aarhus, jobs can be found. In smaller towns, companies are closing down.
Families are moving. Shops are closing down.

I think it would be sad if Denmark is divided into development and dismantlement.

Not only sad for the parts of the country where progress is difficult to spot. But also for the whole of Denmark. I am convinced that we need each other.

We cannot and must not create obstacles in places where things are improving. But we must and can ensure that all of Denmark also has opportunity to develop.

It is not simple. The reality is complex.

We must do many different things.

State sector jobs. We have decided to implement the largest ever comprehensive relocation of jobs.

We will move around 3,900 state sector jobs.

It is a matter of fairness. The Government serves the entire country. Therefore, the Government must be present throughout the country.

And it is a matter of creating activity in places where this is needed. In total, 38 towns will have new state sector jobs.

And I wonder if one’s view of the Government’s decision does not depend on where one is standing.

I am fully aware that moving thousands of jobs may cause problems.

It affects many employees and their families. And there is also the practical work ahead. Of establishing jobs in new places. Of ensuring normal day-to-day operations.

But I am also fully aware that relocation of jobs will mean a great deal to the places that get new jobs.

On Thursday, I received a mail from Brigitte from Næstved. She writes: “My heartfelt thanks!!!! It means the world to our city.”

It is the Danish Immigration Service that will move to Næstved with 375 jobs.

For me, it is an inherent responsibility to ensure that state sector jobs are distributed more equally around the country.

Private sector jobs. The Government will also improve the conditions of private companies for creating jobs and growth in the whole of Denmark.

We earn our living from producing goods. Delivering services. We stand strong within, for example, the pharmaceutical industry. And the green tech sector. We are energy-efficient. Innovative. And creative. We must build on these strengths. Whilst keeping a sense of realism.

We must not place stricter requirements on our own companies than the Germans or Swedes place on theirs. Therefore, we will call a halt to the over-implementation of EU regulations.

We will launch efforts to improve the conditions for the transition of ownership from one generation to the next.. We will remove the advertisement tax. We will remove the NOx tax.

We will make life easier for companies. As a general rule, therefore, corporate legislation must only take effect twice a year – on 1 January and 1 July.

And we will do something particular for the many companies operating in the food sector.

Denmark’s farms, dairies, abattoirs – the entire Danish food sector – produce some of the world’s safest foods. They are leaders on the export markets. They create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the country.

Denmark needs an even stronger food sector.

It cannot be the case that Danish agriculture is to have lower yields or poorer quality grain than our neighboring countries because the sector is prevented from using sufficient fertilizer.

It is paramount that Danish agriculture is a competitive business sector.

This will be the primary objective in the agriculture and food plan that we will publish before Christmas.

A more liberal Danish Planning Act. This is also an important part of the Government’s strategy to promote growth throughout Denmark.

Today, there are many examples where the Danish Planning Act blocks development.

Several towns are unable to expand simply by virtue of their geographical location. By the coast. This is true for very many Danish towns.

Abandoned buildings stand empty. They need to be revitalized. Including buildings in areas designated for agriculture, forestry or fisheries.

And it is illogical that the Planning Act obstructs people wishing to live in a village. At a time when the exodus from villages is a widely recognized problem.

In Mariagerfjord Municipality two years ago, some citizens wished to buy plots and build new properties on the outskirts of the village of Rold.

It is not possible according to existing regulations. Because it would involve “urban development in open countryside”. And it is deemed to be “in conflict with Government interests”.

As I see it, it is the Planning Act which conflicts with the interests of the citizens, the village, the municipality and Denmark.

We wish to give municipalities a greater degree of freedom.

This is a great wish in many municipalities.

At the same time, we must put an end to incomprehensible rules and regulations. Garden owners along the coast should not have to ask for permission to set up a raised flowerbed or a children’s swing set. And why should anyone not be allowed to build a shed for their sea kayak?

I believe in the principle that laws must be comprehensible. Anything else is a lack of respect for the citizens.

In the near future, the Government will present a proposal for a more liberal and more fair Planning Act. In which municipalities, companies and citizens will be given better opportunity to foster the development and growth that is so urgently needed outside the major towns and cities.


I want a Denmark where we choose for ourselves how we wish to live our lives. Many people like living with the open sky above their heads, fresh air in their lungs and close neighborhoods. We must give people the freedom to have these things.

I want a Denmark with geographical cohesion.

* * *

Without jobs. No prosperity.

Without prosperity. No welfare.

Without welfare, there is no social cohesion in Denmark.

We have a community where we help those who need it. And one of the cornerstones of our welfare society is the right to free and equal health care.

We have a good health service. But we need to make it even better.


When we look at a map of Denmark, the chances of good and swift treatment are greater in some parts of the country than in others. We must do away with these differences.

All of Denmark’s five regions must show that they can provide high-quality treatment to the citizens. The treatment you receive must not depend on where in the country you live.

And it must not depend on your financial circumstances either.

If you fall ill, it is of great importance to find out quickly what is wrong. In order for you to get treatment. And hopefully get well again. This must be a right enjoyed by everybody – irrespective of income.

Today, Danes have a right to a diagnosis within 30 days. But in practice, it is far from all patients who enjoy this right.

What to do then? Well, if you can afford it, you can go to a private hospital for help.

If you can afford it. This inequality in health, I will not accept. We do not want an “A” team and a “B” team.

Therefore, we will give all Danes, irrespective of whether they suffer from a physical disease or a mental disease, the right to go elsewhere if the public health service cannot diagnose a patient within 30 days after referral to hospital – and at no charge to the patient.

And when you have learnt what is wrong with you and you are to have treatment, we will apply the same principle: If the waiting time at public hospitals exceeds 30 days, you will be entitled to private treatment.

What is important is the human being. Not the system. What is important is the quality we get. Not where the doctor is employed.

Good and safe health care is of particular importance to one group of citizens: the elderly.

Last month, I talked with Olaf Sørensen aged 83. He had a hip operation in May and spent 40 days in intensive care due to complications. That takes it out of you.

But when I met Olaf, he was cheerful and optimistic. In merely eight days he had learnt to get out of his wheelchair and was able to walk without holding on to the railing.

Olaf and I met at Rehabilitation Centre Aalborg (RCA). Staff there are making a huge effort to help people to help themselves.

And according to Aalborg Municipality, rehabilitation does not only benefit the individual. It is also good business. The citizen needs much less help from the municipality once he or she has returned home.

This example we need to bring along when addressing the problems relating to the medical wards. Unnecessary admissions to hospital. Too many re-admissions. Patients who are not discharged even after being fully treated.

Elderly people placed in hospital corridors. It is humiliating.

None of us wants this for our parents or grandparents.

The Government wants to reduce the number of unnecessary hospital admissions of elderly medical patients.

We will allocate more money towards quality and prevention in general practice and in the municipalities. To reduce the number of admissions.


This comes in addition to the DKK 1 billion extra for health care which we have already agreed with the regions. Money that is to be spent on rising hospital medication costs. On new forms of treatment. And on more elderly and chronically ill patients.

We will give a massive boost to health care and the elderly already next year. To be quite exact, it is a boost of the amount of DKK 2.4 billion.

That is what we promised before the election.

* * *

Denmark is a safe and secure country. And there is one group of people who are of particular importance to our safety and security.

It warms my heart when Danish police officers reassure desperate families. When they use words instead of physical force. And when they bring out a smile on the faces of children who have seen things they ought not to.

I wish to thank the police.

You act with decency and respect when you receive refugees and migrants at Denmark’s borders. And I am grateful for the professional effort you made during and after the terrorist attack in Copenhagen.

Everybody knows that the police are under pressure. A broad majority in the Folketing has ensured an extra appropriation this year. And we have set aside funds to eliminate the large backlog of overtime in the Danish police.

In autumn, we are to conclude a political agreement on the economy of the police for the years ahead. The Government wants a strong and visible police force throughout the country. The police must have the tools and resources they need.

We will also ensure that the police can cooperate effectively with colleagues in other countries.

This is the reason why, on 3 December, the Danes are to vote in a referendum on converting the justice and home affairs opt-out into an opt-in arrangement.


An opt-in arrangement will enable Denmark to decide for itself which parts of the EU cooperation on justice and home affairs we wish to participate in.

It means more – not less – self-determination for Denmark.

With an opt-in arrangement, we ensure that Denmark can remain a full member of the European police cooperation, Europol.

This is crucial in order to catch and punish human traffickers, drug dealers, gangs of burglars and other criminals operating across borders.

The police cooperation is proving its worth right now in the current situation with many refugees and migrants.

Europol provides information and intelligence on the pressure at the borders of Denmark and Europe. The agency makes an effort to fight people smugglers, and it plays a significant role in the efforts to bring the influx of people under control.

A “Yes” on 3 December is a “Yes” to Denmark remaining a member of the European police cooperation.

A “Yes” on 3 December is not a slippery slope for Danish participation in the EU cooperation on asylum and immigration.

It is crystal clear from the broad Agreement on Denmark in Europol that the Danish immigration policy will continue to be determined in Denmark. This is also the case after a “Yes” to the opt-in arrangement.

Therefore, in connection with this autumn’s debate I wish to urge all parties to discuss what the referendum on 3 December is all about. And not to discuss what it is not about.

It is not about common immigration or asylum policy. Denmark stands outside the common asylum and immigration policy. We will continue to do so. We decide our immigration policy ourselves.

It ought to be quite simple. The “Yes” parties behind the Agreement on Denmark in Europol have given each other a mutual right of veto in this respect t.

Nevertheless, it looks as if some are trying to present a misleading picture: That we are headed down a slippery slope. We are not.


In order to put any doubt to rest, let me underline here today: If at any point in time a majority of the Folketing might wish that Denmark should participate in the common European asylum policy, my position is quite clear: We will not give up our veto without asking the Danes in a new referendum. I wish to guarantee this here today.

* * *

Within the unity of the Realm, we have a solid tradition of discussing problems openly and finding solutions together. I look forward to cooperating with the new Government in the Faroe Islands and with the Government in Greenland.

The Faroe Islands and Greenland wish to work on their own constitutions. The Danish Government understands that. We are prepared to discuss issues with the Governments of the Faroe Islands and Greenland that arise in connection with the constitution-drafting work to ensure that the unity of the Realm can accommodate new constitutions.


There are differences between the economic situation of the Faroe Islands and Greenland. However, both countries face huge economic challenges in the slightly longer term. Denmark is prepared to offer advice and administrative assistance, should the Faroe Islands and Greenland so wish.

We must remove the obstacles to citizens’ and companies’ mobility between Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. In so doing, we will strengthen the unity of the Realm. It is an important matter which we are working on together.

The matter of the Thule Air Base maintenance contract is of great importance to both Greenland and Denmark. And the Government gives it high priority. We are working towards that the Thule Air Base benefits Greenland to greatest possible extent. And we are working closely together with the Greenland Government on this matter.

I also wish close cooperation within the unity of the Realm and among the Nordic countries on developments in the Arctic – and regarding our common efforts in, for example, the Arctic Council. There is much international focus on the new opportunities and challenges in the Arctic region.

* * *

Denmark is a country of opportunities. It must continue to be so also for the next generations.

And the main road to good opportunities is via good education programmes for all young people.

Based on a broad majority in the Folketing, we have introduced a good Folkeskole (primary and lower secondary school) reform. A reform that is to ensure that all children reach their full potential.

Together, we have reformed the vocational education and training programmes. A reform that is meant to restore the prestige of skilled workers. We will need them.

And it is the Government’s ambition that next year we will strengthen upper secondary schools through a reform which will raise academic standards. And will direct upper secondary schools towards achieving their purpose: to provide solid preparation for higher education.

But it is not enough that we look at the youth education programmes one by one.

We must also look at them as a whole.

Today, there are far too many young people who drop out or choose the wrong programme. For some, it is back to square one. Others continue on a programme which they perhaps neither can nor intend to use.

We must come to grips with all the detours and impasses of the education programmes.

I also find that it is high time we place a stronger focus on the young who drop out. Those who never obtain a youth education programme.

It is fantastic to see the light in the eyes of a boy who has suffered one defeat after another. And then to suddenly discover that he too can make an effort to reach up as far as he can and achieve success.

It is sad that many young people do not get this opportunity.


Today, there is not sufficiently good education for those in need of an academic boost and better preparation.

It could, for example, be a boy who has completed the 10th grade at a continuation school. And who subsequently enrols at a production school in order to do something practical and get a better idea of what he wants to do.

But far from all programmes are good enough. There are examples of preparatory education that hardly makes an impact on the young. It is not acceptable.

Therefore, the Government will set up an expert group to bring together lessons learned and to consider how we can improve the path from the Folkeskole to the right youth education programme. Both for the academically weak. And for all the others who make a detour before arriving at the education that is right for them.

* * *

We must be able to afford investment in health. We must invest in education. It is only feasible if our country is based on economic cohesion.
Therefore, it is a problem when many live on social assistance or unemployment benefits.

I find it concerning that many have not got a job. I believe we all get a better life when we have something to get up to in the morning. Our country must also be cohesive in human terms.

I have set the course: More people must provide for themselves. Fewer must be on public support.

I think it is only fair that people should get something extra for making an effort.

Take a couple on social assistance. They are above the age of 30. They have three children. If one of them gets a job paying about DKK 220,000 a year, it will only mean approx. DKK 1,400 extra a month for the family.

There may be those thinking to themselves: Is it worth it?

That is a concern to me.


The Government wants to introduce a social assistance ceiling. We want to put a cap on how much a recipient of social assistance can receive in public support.

We will ensure that social assistance recipients experience a significant rise in income by taking a full-time job.

We will also let the new integration benefit cover all who have only lived in Denmark for a limited number of years.

This is the first phase of the Government’s job reform.

When we spend less money on those who do not work, we release money to reduce taxes. Especially for those with the lowest income. It is fair.

It must pay to work. Also for people with low income.

In addition, the Government’s ambition is to reduce taxes on the last earned krone.

This will be the direction of the second phase of our job reform.

But before we get there, we need to discuss unemployment benefits.

Without the unemployment benefit reform and the other reforms we implemented or took the initiative to when we were last in office, public funds would be short of DKK 47 billion a year.

I find that the unemployment benefit reform of 2010 is basically right.

But that does not mean that the system is perfect.

The Unemployment Benefit Commission will present its recommendations on October 19th. .We will initiate negotiations with the parties of the Folketing on the basis of these recommendations.
.

I want an agreement that respects the framework established by the previous Government. It is my ambition to rally support for a broad solution. To ensure stability regarding the rules.

And once that has been achieved, we will invite the social partners to tripartite negotiations in the new year.
How can we create more private jobs? How can our young people get a practical training placement? And how can the companies get the employees they need? These are some of the issues we will discuss.

In Denmark, we have had a tradition that employees, employers and politicians conclude tripartite agreements on essential societal issues.

It is a good tradition. We will revive it.

* * *

Our ability to take joint responsibility. Our trust in each other. Our harmonious society.

This is the Denmark we are proud of. And which we must stand guard over.

I want a Denmark based on geographical cohesion. Where the individual has the freedom to live and work throughout the country.

I want a society with a strong health service for all. Irrespective of where you live and how much money you have.
I am in favour of a country that is open to those who are able and willing. Where the main road to Denmark is via education and work – not via asylum and family reunification. And where we are realistic about how many foreigners we are able to integrate.

I want to see a Denmark where we reward those who go to work and make their contribution to society. And where companies have the freedom to make progress and create jobs.

Today – on 6 October – we have been in office for 100 days.

I am very pleased that we, both before the summer holiday and as recent as yesterday, have concluded good agreements with all the parties of the Folketing, with the exception of one. We have taken the first steps.

Today, I have announced the next steps that we will take in the new parliamentary session.

But first and foremost: We have set the course for Denmark for many years to come. A course towards a more free, more affluent and more fair society.

I am looking forward to collaborating with you here in the Folketing. And with many other committed Danes. The social partners. The volunteers. All those who are prepared to take responsibility.

Let us commence the work of the new parliamentary session with three cheers for our country.

LONG LIVE DANMARK.

Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!