Aside from a brief coughing fit and a lunge for a glass of water deftly hidden behind a vase full of flowers, Queen Margrethe’s traditional New Year’s Eve speech went off without a hitch this year.
The mother of the nation managed to make her way through the speech without fumbling with her papers or getting confused about which line she was on, and her words came out strong and clear as she started off by thanking the Danish soldiers stationed abroad.
Then, she spoke about being Danish: what it means and the not so small challenge that refugees face in becoming part of the country they’ve arrived in.
“Refugees have expectations of their new lives and we have expectations of them,” said the queen. “Refugees must understand where they have arrived.”
“It’s a country where not only the weather is different, but where life and traditions are vastly different and rooted in a long history. It’s not easy to acclimatise to a new country. It takes hard work and an open mind.”
The queen praised all of the new citizens of Denmark and how they’ve managed to settle thanks to hard work and showing initiative when learning the language and the traditions.
The queen also noted that the Danes were a busy bunch, from kids at school to both parents working, and called for the population to not forget their fellow man.
“It can be difficult reaching out to close neighbours, other families in the building or those a little further down the road, or our colleagues at work,” said the queen.
“We see ourselves as an accommodating people, quick with a smile and a chat. But we shouldn’t overlook the self-sufficiency that can also characterise us Danes. Let’s make a New Year’s resolution. Let’s try to see the people around us. Let’s also remember those who we don’t already know.”
The queen, who could be giving her last New Year speech should Prince Frederik assume the throne this year, also spared a thought for the populations of Greenland and the Faroe Islands, as well as the Danish contingency in Schleswig-Holstein in north Germany.
And naturally, she finished off her speech with her usual “Gud bevare Danmark” (God save Denmark).
Embracing the future
A day later in his New Year’s Day speech, PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen was keen on ushering in 2017 with a good look at the past.
Rasmussen brought up the classic Danish TV series ‘Matador’ as an example of how Danish culture used to be and in some ways still is. He used the series as a platform to tell people to remember the past but to embrace the future.
And the future that Rasmussen has in store for Denmark this year includes spending less on the SU student grant and asylum centres, while spending more on education, research, agriculture, welfare and helping refugees in their home regions.
The PM underlined that it was important to take advantage now that the financial crisis was over, but also to ensure it doesn’t happen again.