Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen's New Year Address 1 January 2020

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Good evening.

This year it will be one hundred years since South Jutland was reunited with the rest of Denmark. The Nation was healed. The South Jutlanders came home. We will celebrate this.

At the time - in the aftermath of World War I - our ancestors faced a momentous choice. Should the people follow the country? Or should the country follow the people?

Denmark opted for the latter. A referendum was called. Denmark was reunited. In a peaceful and democratic way. Today, there is respect and space in our hearts for both the German and the Danish Minority on both sides of the border.

The Reunification of 1920 says a lot about us Danes.

Important decisions about our society - and future - are made wisely. The results are durable. And decisions are made together.

* * *

Today, we are starting a new year. We are also heading into a new decade.

Now we have to get started on taking the next big steps. And create an even more fair Denmark, together.

This concerns all of us. But it starts with our children.

Tonight, I would like to talk about them.

Today, on this first day of the New Year a little over 100 children are born - in Denmark, that is.

Congratulations to all the little ones. And to all of you parents. Some of you have returned home already. Others are still in the maternity ward. Maybe the midwife or the social and healthcare assistant has just visited, with a little Danish flag, a glass of cordial, a slice of bread and some cheese.

It ́s a big day. A piece of toast has seldom tasted as good as right now.

A new life has started.

Our family background is very important for our life and our future.

When I try to understand my own values, my way of being a mother, my relation to religion and traditions. My political beliefs. Yes, even my eating habits - there is quite a lot that has its origins in my upbringing at home in Aalborg.

We all shape our children. It is an important part of being a family. This is how our Danish culture lives on from one generation to the next.

Together, we have created a society. Built on trust. A welfare society. Where still more people have been given opportunities, which our parents did not have. Of that we can be proud.

Proud. But not content.

Even though we are now in the year 2020. And even though the vast majority of new-borns naturally are going to do well, will this not be the case for all of them. There is a pattern. In terms of how well we tend to do in school. Our work life. Yes, even in terms of life expectancy.

That ́s not fair.

I believe in a society where making an effort matters. Fundamentally, each person carries the responsibility for his or her own life.

However, we cannot leave the entire responsibility to the individual. Especially not children. If the upbringing of a child determines the child ́s future. Then the pattern is still too strong. And the community too weak.

A new decade. A new generation will be born and grow up.

We must celebrate and praise those who break the mould. But first and foremost, we should unite in order to break the pattern.

* * *

We have a special responsibility for children for whom life is particularly difficult. Children who have experienced abuse, violence, and neglect.

In Denmark, several thousand children cannot live with their own mother and father. Because their parents are unable to take proper care of them.

A couple of weeks ago, some of those children visited me here at Marienborg.

We had pancake puffs and made Christmas decorations. We also had time for a walk in the garden. The children had a spark in their eyes. They were lively.

We had a great time.

But we also spoke about loneliness. About bullying. About what it ́s like when the roles are reversed. When children are forced to grow up too fast, and to take care of the younger siblings. On an empty stomach - because the fridge is empty.

Other at-risk children have mentioned the same.

About being forced to see the same parents who have hurt them. And at the same time, feeling guilty for not being at home. Because - who is going to look after mum and dad now?

We can talk about it with distance. Which makes it bearable for us adults.

I ́m not going to do that.

I will say it like it is. Without beating about the bush.

When the society reacts far too late. Or does not react at all. When we show too much concern for adults. Then the result is that there are children in Denmark who grow up with neglect and violence.

We cannot defend that. We must not defend that.

And the children who are already placed in foster care. Most of them say that they are well cared for where they are now. But the truth is also that as a society, we are not always good enough at looking after them.

There can be many uprootings. New foster homes. Several different care facilities. Different case workers. New schools.

Not just once. Not just twice. But many times. Imagine what that must be like. Packing your bag for school. Going into a new classroom. Again. Trying to familiarize yourself with new faces and new names. Wonder if perhaps you ́ll find a friend? And be afraid that at any moment, you might have to move once again.

That is a heavy burden on small shoulders. Too heavy.

I have made a decision.

To always be on the children’s side.

I hope that you - all of you listening to and watching this speech - will make that choice with me.

It comes at a price. As any difficult decision does.

No matter how badly people are doing. We all want the best for our children.

But today, some parents are given too many second chances. Perhaps with the best intentions. But when a 12-year-old is removed from their home, more often than not, it is after 11 bad years.

Therefore, we must put away our squeamishness.

This also goes in in relation to other cultures. Some parents have come here from countries where hitting your child is legal. In Denmark, it is not. In Denmark, it is forbidden by law to hit one’s children. And girls are to be given the same freedom as boys.

We must step up as a society.

More at-risk children need to have a new home. At an earlier stage, compared to the way it works today. And the conditions for children placed in foster care must be much more stable.

The most important - Completely essential for a small child - Is to grow up with safety, love, and stability. Therefore, more at-risk children should be given up for adoption to enable them to have a true new beginning.

I do realize that not everybody is going to agree with me on this. Some are going to say that we should put more effort into preventive measures. Help the families.

We will do that. But it will not be enough. We must unequivocally be on the children ́s side.

Listen to them.

Back in November, six youngsters wrote an essay about being placed in foster care. I have met you. You have spoken wise words. About what it is like to meet adults who do not expect anything from you.

”Then, we don ́t expect anything from ourselves either”.
You wrote this.

Your words have made a big impression on me, and tell us, that there is something we must remember as a society.

That expectations are really an expression of caring. That we take each other seriously

We cannot - out of misguided consideration - encounter others without expectations.

Progress will only come if we believe in each other. If we dare to set new goals, together. And cooperate to reach them.

We have shown that before.

Denmark was the first country in the world to decide that all children should be educated. And we were among the first countries who abolished the use of child labour. Both initiatives met opposition, initially.

In the 1990 ́s we were first movers. When we made it forbidden by law to hit children. Not everyone agreed. Back then, too, there were some who thought that the right of the adults should come first.

Now we are about to write the next chapter of the history book of children living in Denmark.

* * *

A more fair society begins with the children.

But it does not end here.

There is also injustice at the other end of life. When your work life ends and "the shirt of life gets too short".

Thousands of Danes have, every single day, year after year, worked to earn a living and support their families. That so we can offer free schooling and education to children and adolescents. Each generation inherits Denmark from the previous one.

We owe it to the elderly to be thankful. We owe it to them to do better. In our care for the elderly. And during the years just before retirement.

Because some have worked so hard that the body cannot continue to keep up.

It is not fair, that you who have had the toughest work or who have been on the labour market for the most years must experience that the welfare society is not there for you, when you need it.

If we are to put an end to that injustice. Introduce new rights to an earlier retirement. Then we are going to need solidarity.

Especially from all of us who have had the possibilities of following a long education and therefore, correspondingly, have entered the labour market at a later stage.

* * *

To be accountable in relation to each other is the strongest bond between humans. We need everybody to feel responsible for the country we live in.

Unfortunately, we see too many examples of the opposite.

Fraud with public funds. That is not acceptable. A breach of trust.

In the year that has passed, reckless driving killed a young police officer. Explosions shook Copenhagen. Foreign fighters. Gang showdowns. Fireworks used for harassment.

A few weeks ago, the police force once again proved their worth. Several persons were arrested. Suspected of planning acts of terror.

Our authorities must have the best tools. Therefore, we must go hard against gang related crime. Increase punishment for reckless driving in the streets, and increase the punishments for foreign fighters, who have turned their back on Denmark

We must be alert. Protect our safety. And thus, our freedom.

* * *

Back then, 100 years ago, when the South Jutlanders came home to Denmark. The choice was between whether the people was to follow the country. Or if the country should follow the people.

We opted for the latter.

It is like that when it comes to the climate battle as well.

Tonight, I have spoken about those children who have the toughest conditions. But in these years, Danish children and adolescents also show that they have never been stronger.

You went out on the streets. You demanded action. You have been pushing your parents and grandparents. You turned last year’s parliamentary election into an election that was about the climate. That is a strong thing to do. You give us hope.

Hold on to your commitment, and keep pushing us adults. The climate is about you and your future.

Thanks to you, we now have the most ambitious climate legislation in Denmark. Ever.

Once again, the rest of the world is looking to Denmark.

More untouched forest, more sustainable energy. More research funding for future solutions. And a strengthened green effort in the world.

Our emission of greenhouse gasses must be reduced, and our nature must do better. This will demand something from all of us. We are going to see big changes in the way we live and in the way, we produce.

We must make decisions wisely. So that it can be beneficial for Danish businesses, employment numbers and the Danish economy. Without an increased inequality.

But act - that we must. We owe it to the globe, which we only have on loan.

* * *

I believe in Denmark. In our society model. Our common efforts to create an ever fairer society.

Where, once again, we strengthen trust as our common foundation.

I believe in us.

If we want to. We can be a country, where no one is left on their own. A society, where we take care of each other.

A new year. A new decade. Let us make the most of it. Let us remember those, who would otherwise be forgotten.

Happy New Year!

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