Prime minister delivers a message of cautioned hope for 2014
Things are starting to turn around, Helle Thorning-Schmidt says in her New Year's address
In her third New Year’s address as prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (S) said that things were beginning to turn around for the nation.
“The past two years I delivered my New Year’s address in the midst of a crisis,” Thorning-Schmidt said. “This year we stand on more secure ground. The crisis isn’t over, but the mood is beginning to change. We have reason to believe in progress in 2014.”
Started on a global tone
Speaking to the nation on a day in which several unemployment reforms and a controversial freedom of information law came into effect, Thorning-Schmidt opened her speech not with domestic politics but rather with a tribute to the recently-deceased Nelson Mandela. Ignoring her headline-grabbing selfie, the PM pointed out that Denmark was the first country to forbid trade with South Africa’s apartheid regime.
“In South Africa, they remember Denmark,” the PM said. “Even though we are a small country, we can make a difference.”
And that difference, Thorning-Schmidt said, is also being felt in Syria, where Denmark has agreed to remove chemical weapons, and in Afghanistan, where Denmark’s ten years of military presence came to an end in 2013.
Welfare system needs more investment
Though she started the speech looking at Denmark’s role in the wide world, the bulk of the PM’s address dealt with national welfare.
“We are a country where the young get money to educate themselves instead of paying for it. Where we pay a large part of what we earn to taxes, and get doctors and daycares in return. Where our children can walk home alone from school and where the buggy can sit out in front of a care with a sleeping child under a blanket.”
But that security, Thorning-Schmidt said, needs investment.
“The government has decided to use more money on the public sector,” she said. “Every year, we will spend a little more on education. For better healthcare. For more security. This is something we have decided during a crisis.”
“I do not believe in zero-growth,” Thorning-Schmidt said, referring to one of the main planks of her largest opposition party, Venstre.
Large focus on eldercare
The latter part of Thorning-Schmidt’s speech dealt with eldercare, a topic that proved decisive in the government’s decision to enter into a budget agreement with the opposition rather than far-left support party Enhedslisten.
“We still need secure and good eldercare, and we will continue to need it in the future,” the PM said. “But I think there are many who feel uncertain about whether there will be a welfare society left when we grow old. Will there be public pensions? Will there be in-home help? Will there be good elderly centers? I understand that concern. My answer is: we will decide that ourselves.”
The traditional New Year’s message ended on a tone of cautioned hope.
“Things have begun to go forward again. But that doesn’t mean we can just sit back,” she said. “Denmark should be a country where there is room to grow old in different ways. Where the generations help one another. Where the young receive a good and free education, and where solidarity is there for those who need it.”
"That is my Denmark," Thorning-Schmidt said. "That is our Denmark."
The entire speech (in Danish) can be read here.