Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s Opening Address to the Folketing (The Danish Parliament) on Tuesday 4 October 2011

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Denmark has a new Government.

A Government which will use the exceptional qualities of Denmark to lift up our nation. Our welfare, our education, our solidarity. We must think about the entire country, not about special interests.

We will implement a modern holistic solution. Where we all contribute in solidarity. So that we can afford welfare.

We will once again put Denmark in the position where we belong: In first place with regard to green technology.

We will assume a responsibility in the world. For peace and democracy. From Africa to Afghanistan.

We will assume a responsibility in Europe. For growth and a strong European voice in the world.

We will assume a responsibility at home. For those who are poorest. For those who are most vulnerable.

Our way of working is to involve many people. And to build bridges between differences. For decisions taken together are the strongest decisions.

I will reintroduce broad cooperation. We are all of Denmark’s Government.

* * *

Let me be frank: It is not going to be easy. We are going to have to work hard. We are going to have to make difficult choices.

The Government is taking office at a difficult point in time.

Danish companies have lost tens of thousands of jobs. It is extremely hard for those people who are without work. It is hard for the families. And it is expensive for society.

Throughout the country, houses are staying on the market for months. Families are hesitant to spend money because they feel insecure about the future. Young people are finding it difficult to find jobs. There are not enough practical training placements.

We must stop this negative development. We must restore faith in the future. We can do it when we stand together.

No one must doubt that the necessary and difficult decisions will be made. After stagnation, the time has come for progress and change.

* * *

Our first major task is to lead Denmark responsibly out of the crisis. The economic problems in Europe do not make this task any easier.

As its first major initiative, the Government will kick-start the Danish economy. In an effective and targeted way.

We will push forward investments totalling DKK 10 billion. Those projects which were scheduled to get underway in one, two or three years, we will now set in motion as quickly as possible.

This will provide many new jobs right now.

And through the same process, a number of jobs that need to get done will get done.

We will get new roads. We will be quicker at starting to lay down new rails.

Schools will be able to have modern class rooms. And run-down residential areas will be able to have new facades or new roofs.

The kick-start will create new jobs in the private sector. And we must also use it in a determined way to effect change.

When public works projects are undertaken, one condition must, therefore, be that the contractors take on trainees. Enterprises must shoulder their share of the responsibility for educating the young.

We will provide subsidies so that private homes can receive a boost in energy efficiency. It could, for example, be new windows that conserve heat. It could be geothermal heating or improved insulation. Things which will reduce the home owner’s heating bill. And which will improve our shared environment. And which will create jobs.

The Government will kick-start the Danish economy. So that we generate new growth and new jobs.

* * *

The challenges are enormous. We are facing a huge task – even after we manage to work our way out of the crisis.

The Government is taking over an extremely large deficit in the public finances. It looks like it will be DKK 85 billion next year. That is equal to our expenditures for hospitals and general practitioners put together. That is how big the overdraft is.

And it must be covered at a time when more and more people must be taken care of. There are fewer and fewer people to work. And revenues from the North Sea are falling.

The pressure on the public finances is great.

The Government will count the till and see how bad things are. On the basis of our “till check”, we will present a new and responsible plan for the Danish economy up to 2020.

Our goal is that, at a minimum, the public finances must balance in 2020. It is an ambitious goal. But it is necessary. The economy must not spin out of control again.

It is, therefore, also absolutely crucial that we live up to the EU’s recommendation regarding the public balance in 2013.

Balanced public finances are the foundation for a Denmark in growth. And for a Denmark without great social divisions. Therefore, a responsible economic policy is absolutely crucial for the Government.

We must reduce the great deficit. It is necessary to move forward.

The Government will develop and modernise Denmark. We will deliver secure welfare to Danes. We will spend more money on health care. We will improve education. We will prioritise research. We will invest in a green restructuring.

This requires that we aim high. The Government aims to increase the labour supply by around 135,000 people up to 2020.

Let us just remember why we need to increase the labour force. Why it is so important. It is not to make the economics professors and economic advisers happy. It is to ensure welfare and security for the ordinary citizen.

That is why we need a modern holistic solution for Denmark. A holistic solution in which we take responsibility. In which we work more. And which means that we can afford a good society.

It is a solidary solution in which we take care of the weakest people in society.

It is a shared solution in which everyone contributes. We must all pay the price. Not just particular groups.

The Government’s modern holistic solution consists of four points:
1. First, we will increase the state’s revenues.
2. Second, we will implement a tax reform that lowers the tax on earned income.
3. Third, we will implement a series of reforms of, among other things, the state education grant and loan scheme, cash benefits and disability pensions.
4. Fourth, we will enter into a tripartite agreement on increasing the labour supply.

Allow me briefly to review the four points in the holistic solution.

Point 1: The Government will generate DKK 7 billion over the next two years: By increasing taxes and duties – specifically on unhealthy goods. By eliminating the tax credit for private health insurance. And by restructuring a long range of aid schemes in the corporate sector.

We will start by restoring the areas that need it the most: social welfare, education and the green sector.

And we will delay the expiration of the unemployment benefit period for up to six months for those benefit recipients whose current benefit period was shortened due to the Recovery Package. The extension applies to the second half of 2012.

Point 2: The Government will implement a tax reform which lowers the tax on earned income. So that more people will work more. The tax reform must be completely financed. And socially balanced.

Point 3: The Government will present a series of reforms with the common purpose of ensuring a greater workforce.

We want, therefore, for young people to complete their education and training programmes at a faster pace. So that both the young people themselves and all the rest of us may reap the benefits of their education and training for many years.

We want, therefore, for more immigrants to have jobs in our nursing homes, in our schools and in our businesses. For we need each and every one.

We will, therefore, reform the disability pension and flexi-job scheme. So that everyone has a chance to contribute what they are able to.

We will, therefore, reform the cash benefits scheme and the activation programme. We must train the unemployed for jobs, not to find their inner owl.

Finally, the fourth point:

We have a shared task. The Government will enter into a tripartite agreement with the employers and wage-earners. A tripartite agreement on increasing the labour supply.

We have previously shown that we can assume a shared responsibility when we have to.

Without the tripartite agreements in the 1980s, we would not have had one of the most robust and broad pension systems in the world.

We need to do it again.

The Government’s holistic solution means that more people will work. Thus, expenditures for social benefits will decrease, and we will generate more money in taxes. This will ensure a solid economy. It will ensure that we can afford to invest in continuing education and training; in the primary and lower secondary school, and in health care.

And we will not spend one crown before we are absolutely certain that we can raise the money.

Because, after a number of years of weak management of public expenditure, the Government has adopted a precautionary principle: We cannot create any new expenditures without decisions being made on concrete initiatives that can generate at least an equal amount of money through new revenues or savings .

It is not about numbers on a spreadsheet. It is about opportunities for people. We will not put the security and safety of coming generations at risk.

* * *

A proactive kick-start that helps us out of the crisis.

A modern holistic solution that generates money for welfare.

The next major task is to modernise our nation so that we can generate growth for many years to come. We must create new growth together.

Our children and young people must have an education, a practical training placement and a path into working life. We will focus heavily on the coming generations. What else should we focus on?

The Government has set ambitious goals:

• 95 per cent of all young people must complete an upper secondary education programme.
• 6 out of 10 must complete a programme of higher education.
• And 1 out of 4 must complete a long-cycle programme of higher education.

We are setting the bar higher than the previous Government. We will build an alliance with young people. You must be quicker at finishing your education, getting a job and contributing to society. In return, we will work hard to make the Danish education programmes some of the best in the world.

I will say to all the young people in Denmark:

You are the future. Now is the time for you to take responsibility for it.

The Government has great ambitions for the primary and lower secondary school. We must have an academically strong primary and lower secondary school. A primary and lower secondary school with room for all children. The primary and lower secondary school must be the school for all of Denmark.

We must, therefore, develop the future primary and lower secondary school in a real partnership. Teachers and school principals, parents and pupils, municipalities and the Government – they all must commit each other to ambitious requirements and to the way we can live up to them. The Government will call for broad and real cooperation on a new start for the primary and lower secondary school. Here in the Folketing as well.

Far too many young people do not have a practical training placement. And do not manage to complete their training. It does not make sense. The Government will strengthen the education guarantee and ensure practical training placements so that everyone can complete their vocational education and training.

We will strengthen education across the board, from day-care facility and primary school to lower and upper secondary education. The Government has, therefore, established a new Ministry for Children and Education. Because old systems must not stand in the way of new solutions.

This past summer thousands of qualified young people were not offered a place in programmes of higher education. Despite the fact that we very much need for them to get an education. It does not make sense. The Government will establish more places in these programmes.

It is not only children and young people who need education and training. We must ensure more training for those people who have the least amount of education, the many unskilled adults.

Knowledge is the foundation for growth. It has been said before. The Government will translate these words into action.

* * *

Denmark is still one of the richest countries in the world. Because of successful enterprises and skilled employees.

But the emerging economies like China, India and Brazil are putting pressure on Danish businesses. And our neighbours Germany and Sweden are more competitive than us.

Denmark neither can nor should compete on low wages. We must compete on knowledge, flexibility and cooperation. We will never be the cheapest. We must always strive to be the best.

However, the fact that Danish wages have grown faster than in other countries in recent years is a problem. It costs Danish jobs.

Exports to our neighbour countries are important. But we must focus more on the emerging economies in Asia and Latin America. That is where the markets are really growing.

When the world changes, Danish exports must change with it. Otherwise we lose prosperity in Denmark. We have, therefore, appointed a new Minister for Trade and Investment. We will translate our words into action. We need to gain a stronger foothold in those places where the opportunities are greatest.

We must also target research and innovation. In areas such as energy and welfare technology, the Government will enter into partnerships with businesses and organisations.

And we must stimulate growth through prudent public procurements and intelligent regulation.

If, for example, we require that the windows in public buildings be energy efficient. And at the same time we design our legislation so that it is expensive to consume too much energy. And at the same time provide research funds for energy technology. Then it will give impetus to the development of new and better windows.

The key to growth lies in cooperation and innovative thinking.

* * *

In the 1990s we made Denmark a leader in the climate and energy field. The Government will put Denmark back in the lead. We must be ambitious again. We must dare to reach high. We must set long-term and clear goals. So that we have a clear path to follow.

The Government will set the ambitious goal that our entire electricity and heat supply must come from renewable energy in 2035.

We must speed up the pace of the green restructuring. We need to have more wind turbines in the seas around Denmark. More biomass from our agriculture. And we must be even better at saving energy.

It has been heard before.

The difference is that this Government will translate green words into green action.

The green restructuring must occur through close public-private cooperation. Like the test centre for wind turbines in Østerild. This is a case where the state, in cooperation with the wind turbine industry and the research community, created one of the best test centres in the world.

We will focus on stable green conditions for Danish energy companies. These companies will have a home market where they can test out new solutions before going out into the world.

However, Denmark also has companies where energy is first and foremost something that costs money. We will take them into consideration. Industry and other export enterprises must have time to adjust to the new green times.

Energy consciousness is also about our daily lives. It must pay to be energy conscious. It must, therefore, be cheaper to buy an environmentally-friendly car, and more people need to use the buses and trains.

In order for it to work, we need to use new solutions.

The queues of cars on the roads into Copenhagen are getting longer and longer. Green promises about more public transport will not do it alone. The words must be translated into action. Action that reduces the congestion and the pollution.

The Government will, therefore, put forward a concrete proposal for a toll ring. It is an important part of the overall solution for how Denmark’s capital is to get a modern and competitive system of transport.

And we will present a comprehensive energy initiative. We will negotiate with all the parties in the Folketing for a broad and long-term energy agreement. Danish enterprises, for example the wind turbine industry, must have a clear signal as to which direction we intend to go.

The Government will once again place Denmark in the position we belong: In first place with regard to green technology. As a country that provides solutions to important global problems.

* * *

I am proud that Denmark assumes a responsibility that stretches far beyond our borders. The Government seeks a Denmark that has a global outlook. A Denmark that is open to the world on which we are so deeply dependent.

We must actively influence the surrounding world. We must dare to voice our opinion and make our positions clear. We must promote a peaceful and just world in alignment with our positions and national interests.

But the world is rapidly changing. We must become even better at safeguarding and promoting our interests in relation to the countries and regions that are increasingly setting the international political and economic agenda.

These are difficult and uncertain times for Europe. There is need for action. In this regard, the EU is a particularly important framework for Denmark. We must pursue a policy that strengthens Europe’s role in the world. And Denmark’s role in Europe.

In less than three months, Denmark will assume the Presidency of the EU.

The primary task for the Danish EU Presidency will be to ensure that we in Europe take joint action to put the economic crisis behind us. We must strengthen the basis for responsible growth and employment. Economic growth must go hand in hand with social considerations and environmental considerations.

The Danish Presidency will set a proactive agenda in the field of green and sustainable growth. The Single Market must be further developed. We must improve our capacity for innovation and research. And a strong European voice must be heard in the international climate talks and the summit in Brazil next summer on sustainable development.

The Government will strive to ensure that the EU’s budget for the period 2014-2020 prioritises these areas. This is where our future lies.

The Government will conduct the Presidency with the utmost vigour. We will make our contribution to strengthening the EU. An EU that effectively addresses the problems that concern citizens in their daily lives.

In general, we will enhance Denmark’s involvement in the EU. I am certain that we will get more out of cooperating with our neighbours on, for example, cross-border crime than by building new inspection facilities at the Danish border.

The Government also wishes to abolish the Danish opt-outs: the opt-out on defence and the opt-out on Justice and Home Affairs.

The opt-out on defence prevents Denmark from participating in the important contributions made by the EU to promote peace and security in the world’s hotspots. The Government will therefore strive to abolish the opt-out on defence through a referendum.

The opt-out on Justice and Home Affairs prevents Denmark from participating in EU cooperation in the fight against organised crime, terrorism, child pornography and human trafficking. This is about protecting our society. And about protecting the weakest in our society against gross exploitation. Denmark must assume responsibility in this area together with the rest of Europe.

By means of a referendum, the Government will seek to replace the opt-out on Justice and Home Affairs with an opt-in arrangement. An arrangement that enables Denmark to decide for itself which elements of the cooperation on Justice and Home Affairs we wish to participate in.

The Government will consult the parties of the Folketing . The goal is to secure a broad majority for abolishing the opt-out on defence and replacing the opt-out on Justice and Home Affairs with an opt-in arrangement.

The broad collaboration must break the deadlock on EU policy of the last ten years.

The Government wishes for the EU to strengthen its role as a global actor working for a fairer and more peaceful world. But Denmark is also ready to make our contribution.

Globalisation has lifted millions of people out of poverty, but unfortunately also left many people behind. Denmark must assume a special responsibility for helping the world’s poorest. As a nation, we have a moral obligation to help. We have a Danish tradition for helping. And we also have a clear interest in promoting sustainable development and democratic societies.

Therefore, the Government will strengthen Danish development policy. We must become even better at fighting poverty. We will strengthen development assistance, so that over a period of years it returns to one per cent of Denmark’s income.

The world’s poorest countries are hit particularly hard by climate change. We wish to strengthen the efforts to secure a global climate agreement that also takes into account the needs of poor countries.

I belong to the generation that was young in the 1980s, when the fall of the Berlin Wall gave new hope of democracy and freedom. This happened in the autumn. But it felt like spring. Now we are experiencing a new spring in the Arab countries , where democracy is blossoming. We have a shared responsibility to ensure that this democracy is able to flourish.

The Government will increase the political and economic support to the countries in the region that choose the path of democracy. This also applies to Libya, where Denmark has already made a special contribution.

But lasting peace and stability in the Middle East requires a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. We will cooperate with the other EU Member States regarding recognition and establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state. Similarly, we will defend Israel’s right to live in peace and security. And through the EU, we will press hard for the re-opening of peace talks.

Denmark must always be ready to make a contribution to promoting peace and security in the world. We can only protect ourselves by actively involving ourselves in the international cooperation. The UN is a key framework for this involvement. It is the UN which must take action if a state cannot or will not protect its citizens.

Denmark must continue to deliver a substantial contribution to international missions. But we must not only contribute to the ‘hard’ military operations. We must also assume responsibility for ensuring the ‘soft’ security. In this area, Denmark has considerable expertise to offer. Therefore, the Government will earmark resources to pursue a new security policy that enables us to respond quickly and flexibly in situations where there is a need to bring stability to fragile societies.

And it must be a clear principle that Danish troops may only be deployed in international military operations with the support of at least two-thirds of the Folketing. When we ask Danish men and women to fight in battle, to put their lives at stake, they are entitled to the support of a united Denmark.

This has been the case in Afghanistan. We must have broad-based collaboration regarding foreign policy. I am therefore very pleased with the broad support here in the Folketing for the Helmand Plan 2011-2012. We are in agreement on the necessary transition from combat to training and capacity building.

I would also take this opportunity to say to all of you who are deployed abroad on behalf of Denmark – and particularly to our men and women in Afghanistan:

Your contribution is outstanding and has impressed me deeply. You represent what is best about Denmark.

* * *

Denmark assumes a responsibility in the world. This also applies to the future cooperation regarding the Arctic region. Here, Denmark works closely together with the other Nordic countries. And naturally also closely together with Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Together we must enhance the efforts in the Arctic region in a way that is mindful of the environment and mindful of the indigenous people of the region.

The Government seeks a strong Danish Realm. But, of course, it is the Faroese people and the Greenlandic people who determine the future relations with Denmark.

The Faroe Islands and Greenland have an understandable need to build their own democratic foundation for their society. The Government fully respects the discussions taking place in the Faroe Islands and Greenland regarding a wish to have their own constitution.

But we must also stress that as long as the Faroe Islands and Greenland are a part of our community, a Faroese and a Greenland constitution must be able to fit within the framework of the Danish Realm.

* * *

We must build our future on strong community and solidarity. This applies in the world around us. This applies here in Denmark.

A well-run public sector is a cornerstone of Danish community and solidarity, of our welfare society.

I am proud of the small miracles that take place each day at our hospitals, nursing homes, day-care facilities and social assistance centres.

In the coming years, we must invest more in our welfare. In education and training. In health.

But the Danish economy is not in a situation where we can afford to fulfil all wishes. It is no use longing for the good old days. The 2010s are new times compared with the 1990s and 2000s. And we must use these new times as a springboard for new opportunities. We must have the courage to prioritise. We must have the courage to follow new paths.

We cannot afford to allow the public sector to overrun its budgets. Exceeded budgets have been the norm year after year. Now it is important they are kept within the framework set. Therefore, the Government will introduce an expenditure ceiling for the state, municipalities and regions.

And we cannot afford to allow the public sector to come to a standstill. On the contrary, we must develop. We must weed out bureaucracy. We must modernise.

I therefore say to all public sector employees – to employees and managers in municipalities, regions and the state: We need you. We need you for your professional knowledge and expertise. We need you for your creativity. You must continue with your excellent work. You must keep using new technology, getting new ideas and finding new and more effective ways of performing your tasks.

So that we can free up resources for the primary task: delivering better welfare to ordinary citizens.

* * *

Free and equal access to health care is the crown jewel of the welfare society. Everyone must have equal access to a good health system. Regardless of the size of their wallet. This ensures fundamental security and well-being for all of us together.

Progress has been made in the health care field. Particularly thanks to the fantastic efforts of social and health care workers, nurses and doctors.

But our health service is also under severe pressure.

We Danes are not as healthy as citizens in other affluent countries. The life expectancy of a Dane is two and a half years shorter than that of a Swede.

And inequality in terms of our health is far too great. A bus driver can expect to live four years less than a lawyer.

That is why prevention is so important. We must have the courage to influence the lifestyle of Danes. To say to young people that they should not smoke. To help improve the health of those who are vulnerable. To make it more expensive to choose to do what is unhealthy.

The Government will pursue a fair health policy in which everyone is ensured free and equal access to health care. Today, patients with private health insurance are able to jump the queue. The Government will abolish the tax credit on health insurance.

At the same time, I say to you openly: We cannot have all our wishes fulfilled. We must choose what is the most important.

Life-threatening heart diseases must be treated as quickly as possible. But less serious disorders, such as a drooping eye-lid, can wait.

We must focus primary attention on those who are seriously ill. The faster their treatment can begin, the better the prospect of being cured and returning to a normal life.

This applies in particular to cancer patients. Almost all of us have experienced cancer near at hand, among family or friends. And experienced how it can change your life in a single blow. Cancer is a national disease.

Fortunately, progress is being made. More patients are surviving. That is good. But progress is moving too slowly. We continue to lag behind our Nordic neighbours. That is not good enough.

We must become better at preventing cancer. And we must improve our cancer treatment.


A group of people are often overlooked because their disorders are less visible. Because their disease may seem less tangible. Because they unfortunately continue to encounter prejudice. But where the struggle to hold things together on a normal daily basis is such an overwhelming burden that the spark of life is in danger of being extinguished.

This Government will take mental disease as seriously as physical disease.

We will improve psychiatry. And our very first act will be to provide help to children and young people afflicted by mental disorders. A boy who suffers from compulsive behaviour or a girl who struggles against depression must receive help as quickly as possible.

Sick children must not be deprived of important years of their childhood. Sick children must not be kept outside the community. They must maintain contact with school, friends and family.

* * *

We are all of Denmark’s Government. All Danes must have the opportunity to participate in society’s development. No one must be kept outside.


In Denmark, the number of poor people is relatively few. We do not have deep social divisions. This is a picture of Denmark of which I am proud.

Therefore, I cannot accept the former Government’s poverty relief. This relief represents a break with half a century of social welfare policy. Where we precisely did away with poor relief and social divisions between people. And introduced security and dignity.

We must treat all people decently. And especially those who find life hardest of all. We need to bring back dignity.

Families must be able to lead a normal family life. Where children can celebrate their birthday. And play football. And go on picnics. It is not difficult to imagine what it must be like for the child who always gets a no when everyone else in the class gets a yes.

Away with poverty relief. Away with the cash benefit threshold. Away with start assistance.

Start assistance does not promote integration. It promotes poverty and isolation.

Children often inherit social problems from their parents. That should not happen. We have a particular responsibility to protect children’s rights. No child or young person must be let down. We must intervene in families where children experience neglect. And we must improve supervision of children placed in care, so that we can be sure they are doing fine.

We must treat the most vulnerable people in society in a decent way.

* * *

We are a Government for the whole of Denmark and for all Danes. Regardless of whether your family has roots in the plateaus of Anatolia or the heaths of Jutland.

In Denmark, we must have a robust and fair immigration policy. But we must also have a new balance in immigration policy.

We must meet foreigners without prejudice. With decency. With respect.

We must integrate, not exclude. People with different social and ethnic backgrounds must be able to live next door to each other.

We must have a policy that works. Not symbolic politics.

Therefore, we must get rid of point systems.

But we must also dare to make demands. Demands that motivate people to make an effort to do something for Denmark – by educating themselves, by working, by learning the language. Reasonable demands, not unreasonable barriers.

An immigration policy in balance also means that we treat those who need protection with care and respect. This applies in particular to children.

Living for years in an asylum centre destroys a person. This is no way to treat people who are already emotionally scarred by nightmares that the fewest of us can comprehend. That is simply not good enough. Denmark can do better than that.

The Government will give asylum-seekers the opportunity to live and work outside the centres if their case drags on. We must build up people. Not break them down. This applies regardless of whether they are to stay in Denmark or return to their home country.

We wish to adopt a new approach to foreigners and immigration. And we wish to see a broad group of parties in the Folketing stand behind a new balance in immigration policy.

* * *


Denmark has a new Government. A Government that will establish a new form of cooperation for Denmark.

For only through cooperation can we lead Denmark through the difficult period that lies ahead.

Only by moving towards each other can we ensure welfare for our children and grandchildren.

Only through cooperation can we achieve what others thought was unachievable.

We have done it before.

And that is why Denmark is a fantastic country.

With free and equal access to health care. With good education and training for our children. With respect for people regardless of background. Where we treat the weak in a decent way. And where diversity flourishes. A country for the many, not only for the few.

I am proud of this country that generation after generation have built up. Because they understood that the more people there are to build, the stronger the house.

We have a come a long way together. We must again come a long way together. I invite the whole of Denmark to engage in a new form of cooperation.

We need a Denmark that stands together. That is the cornerstone of the Government Programme we have presented. The most proactive and thorough Government Programme ever formulated.

We are all of Denmark’s Government. And therefore we will approach our tasks in a humble way.

Today, I extend a hand to the parties here in the Folketing who are not part of the new majority.

Denmark needs us to stand together.

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

LONG LIVE DENMARK

Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

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