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Today we start a new year.
May it be easier than the old one. May it be light and filled with optimism and resolve.
Once again, we have experienced a Christmas and a New Years Eve in the shadow of the corona virus. Increasing infection rates. Many people in self-isolation. It has been a difficult time. And it still is.
But tonight, I will not primarily talk about corona.
I will talk about our shared and wonderful Denmark. A country that is so small, geographically. But so very great in terms of abilities, values, and possibilities.
We have to deal with challenges, old ones as well as new ones. Our starting point is good.
We have the highest growth rate in 15 years. And the lowest unemployment rate in 12 years.
I am a child of the 1980’s myself. I remember family members and my father’s colleagues sitting with downcast looks in our kitchen, when mass unemployment hit the country.
Today, it is quite the opposite situation. Never before have so many been employed. The Danish economy is rock solid. Now, we must prolong the upturn.
And, first and foremost. We must deal with the biggest and most important challenge in our time: The climate crisis.
Collectively, we must be as impatient as the planet needs us to be.
2021 was a year, in which we – with broad agreements – took decisive steps on the road towards a green future.
Denmark is once again the green pioneering country we want to be. That should encourage us to do even more.
The rising temperatures are destroying our planet.
I know that many are worried. What is our future going to look like? And that of our children? And our grandchildren?
I can promise you one thing. The current political majority in Denmark. We will not fail. We will do what it takes. That is our promise. That is my promise.
This year, we will decide on a new and ambitious tax on CO2-emissions. It should ensure that businesses that harm the climate pay for their own emissions.
For many, the green transition is already underway. For others, it will take longer.
But the starting point is simple. The Danish principle that the broadest shoulders should carry the heaviest loads. That must also apply to the green transition. If you emit CO2, you have to pay.
That is the most fair.
When other countries in the world are too slow. Denmark must lead the way. And raise the bar even higher.
This applies to air traffic as well. To travel is to live, and thus, we fly. But at the same time, this is harmful to the climate.
Imagine, if Denmark could contribute to solving this problem.
We must make it green to fly.
Therefore, the government is going to set an ambitious goal:
By 2025 at the latest, it should be possible for Danes to fly green on a domestic flight route.
And by 2030 at the latest, we must be able to fly entirely green when flying domestic in Denmark.
Will it be difficult? Yes. Can it be done? Yes, I believe so. We are already on our way. Skilled scientists and businesses are working on the solutions.
If we succeed in doing this it will be a green breakthrough. Not just for Denmark. But for the entire world.
If there is anything, the recent years have taught us. In terms of dealing with large crises. Then it is that we must never hesitate.
* * *
If we are to reach our climate targets. Then we must also make sure that there are enough employees.
We have a scarcity of labour. And if we do nothing, we risk both slowing down prosperity and hindering the green transition.
Therefore, we have proposed a number of initiatives to get more people into the workforce.
For instance, we wish to abolish the rule stating that individual pensions must be deducted from the income of one’s employed partner.
We are going to tighten the rules for graduates. So that new graduates get onto the labour market faster.
Increasing employment. Faster. It is good for the businesses and for the Danish economy. And at the same time, it enables us to invest billions in improving education for the young generation.
In the debate on the government’s reform proposals, the business community has expressed a wish for it to be easier to recruit foreign manpower. We are willing to discuss that.
But we must do it wisely.
Many years ago, we decided against free immigration to Denmark. We wish to stick to that decision.
Therefore, we must only bring in the manpower which we lack. It must be for a limited time period only. And, obviously, it must be done in a proper manner.
Where we simultaneously strengthen the conditions for Danish employees and make a joint effort to get those who are still outside the labour market into employment.
That is the Danish social contract.
Denmark must build on rights and duties.
Many of you, who through the years have come here from abroad, have embraced these values. Often, you hold some of the toughest jobs. You work very hard.
Now, we have to get even more people on board.
Therefore, the government has proposed that we replace passive income with an unambiguous work logic for citizens who need to be integrated.
The best thing is to get a job. If you cannot do that, then you must be useful in some other capacity in order to claim your benefits.
And to you – especially women of a non-western background, who are unemployed, even though you have lived in Denmark for many years:
We need you.
We will target our proposal of a 37-hour work duty to those areas where the shortage of staff is significant. This is especially the case in the elder care facilities.
Now, I know that it is not possible to work on equal footing with trained and experienced colleagues from day one.
But then you can do other things. Make sandwiches. Do laundry. Extra cleaning.
You start out being useful at the nursing home, in return for your unemployment benefits. As soon as you are ready for an education or a job, you must earn your own income.
It is good for gender equality. For integration. And mom and dad having a job is the best defence against child poverty.
* * *
In elder care – as in large parts of our welfare system – there is a lack of time for that which is most important.
I do not believe we can gain better welfare by cutting spending. When the number of children and elderly increases, the financing must do so as well. It does so now. It does so under this government.
But I also do not believe we can solve all problems solely by spending more money.
It is thought-provoking that, 20 years ago, a midwife had almost twice as many births as she does today. But new tasks have been added. So that many experience that there is now less time for the individual birth.
As promised, funding have been assured for the employment of 1.000 more nurses. However, in many places, people do not feel it.
We see the same problem in many areas of the public sector.
Far too much time spent on process, bureaucracy, controlling and scheduling.
It wears down job satisfaction. It makes it difficult to recruit. And it leaves us with a welfare system which does not always live up to our expectations.
It is time to cut to the core. What is actually the most important aspect of our welfare?
Relations, presence, care, and professionalism.
A welfare society with more warmth than control. More common sense than regulations.
And yes, that means that things are going to be done in different ways.
It will require stronger leadership. Concrete problems must be dealt with locally. And not with even more legislation.
Of course, we succeed with a lot in our welfare society. Every day.
But truth be told, we do not yet have the elder care our elderly citizens deserve.
Therefore, tonight, I am going to propose something far-reaching.
That we abolish the extensive rules and legislation of the elder care sector and start all over.
A new, concise elder care legislation. With clear values. Dignity. Freedom of choice. Autonomy. And few documentation requirements.
Let the employees use their qualifications and their warm hearts. Let us relatives spend more time with our elderly. Let the elderly receive the love and care needed in the autumn of their lives.
I know the proposal is going to see resistance. I just have to state the fact that I am now the sixth Prime Minister to problematize the bureaucracy. Poul Schlüter was the first. The problems have only grown bigger.
Therefore, we have given seven municipalities the opportunity to be set free from nearly all state rules and regulations in several welfare areas.
In the new year, we will make the same offer to all municipalities in the country. So that locally you may create the public school system. The elder care system. The kindergarten you would like to have.
It is my hope that the newly elected mayors and city councils will take on the challenge.
And that the parties in the Parliament will join us.
I have no doubt that the outcome is better when we cooperate broadly on solutions. As we have done since the parliamentary elections.
* * *
Here and now, we first and foremost have to handle the corona virus.
I do know that these are tough times.
Once again, we have restrictions. Especially in places where many people gather. Unfortunately, this is a hard blow to Danish art and culture.
That is a great loss since we need the thoughtfulness, reflections, insights, and point of views. The experiences. Everything that you create.
We have to get through the winter. And we will. Not least thanks to the vaccines.
Thank you to those of you who have already been vaccinated. And to you, who have had the third jab, which is so essential.
And thank you to all of you who perform vaccinations, swabs, work in health care, take care of our vulnerable citizens – thank you to all of you who make the wheels go round and enable everyday life to continue. Once more under difficult circumstances.
It is impressive to see what we can do. Despite doubt and much bother, as we sing in Jens Rosendal’s fantastic song.
* * *
After nearly two years with the corona virus, our hospitals are under pressure. And many patients are waiting for treatments.
When we are in the middle of a pandemic, it is not the time for making big changes within the healthcare system.
But as soon as possible, we are going to present a proposal for healthcare reform. It shall ensure more continuity for the patient, all the way through the healthcare system.
We are also going to establish local hospitals, closer to the citizens. And more people shall have a dedicated general practitioner. Regardless of where you live in Denmark.
The patients must be at the centre. The time spent waiting must be brought down. And you, the employees, you must have the time to actually do your job.
* * *
We live in a time where the world is once again increasingly filled with unrest.
An aggressive Russia in the East. The collapse of Afghanistan. Migration pressure. Limitations to women’s right to free abortion. Terrorism. Our democratic values are being trampled on.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Danish decision to join the European Community.
The European Union started out as a coal and steel community. Now, we are fighting for it to become a climate union.
Denmark shall be at the heart of our own continent. Because the alternative does not exist. A weak Europe makes for a weak Western World. The world needs the opposite.
We must stand firm on our values. And we must strengthen our security. In cooperation with our most important ally the USA as well as our other NATO allies.
* * *
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of our Majesty becoming queen.
I am personally pleased by the Danes’ great support to the royal family.
We have a queen who – with her wit and her love for the entire Kingdom of Denmark – unites us across generations and geography. Reminds us of our history. Puts Denmark into perspective.
Congratulations to our Queen Margrethe.
* * *
Denmark is a unique country.
We have trust in each other. We will rather unite than let ourselves become divided.
We have something special between us because inequality is lower.
The distances are short. The community is stronger.
In the new year, we will go to work. With optimism and resolve.
Denmark can do more. Especially if we stand united.
Happy New Year.