In a speech that otherwise stuck to familiar themes, Queen Margrethe touched on two of the biggest political debates in 2014: the influx of refugees and the most comprehensive school reform in modern Danish history.
The queen first directly addressed Denmark’s schoolchildren, who this year are facing longer school days and other changes due to the reforms that took effect in August.
“Right now it is the Christmas holiday; but children and teachers must soon start school again. I wish all of you children who are watching tonight a very happy New Year. After the holiday you will go back to school; then you must show how much progress you can make,” Queen Margrethe said.
The choice to address school children hardly seemed coincidental as 2014 saw both the implementation of a contentious school reform and also marked the 200th anniversary of the Danish public school system.
Touching on another area that has seen its fair share of political debate, the queen insinuated that vocational educations, which have been declining in number and in prestige in recent years, are just as good as an academic education.
“The time will also come when you leave school. What to do then? Should you go for a university degree? Should you become a school teacher? Should you perhaps learn a trade? Become a good carpenter, a skilled mechanic; use your abilities to do something with your hands,” the queen said.
But in the closest thing that the traditional speech had to a political message was the call on Danes to assist the many refugees that have arrived in Denmark.
“Recently, thousands of refugees have come to Denmark, very many from the horrifying and protracted civil war in Syria. Everywhere throughout this country, a major effort is being made to help the refugees. The task may seem daunting – to receive so many people from foreign countries and different cultures,” she said.
The Danish government’s decisions to introduce a new temporary resident permit for Syrian refugees and to limit refugees’ ability to bring their family members to Denmark did not escape Queen Margrethe’s attention.
“It is not enough to take care of them, we must also help them to feel at home in society so that they can gain a foothold and manage on their own… We must also encourage newly arrived persons to build a new existence where they can take responsibility for themselves and do their best to feel at ease in the foreign country, be it for a long or a short period of time,” Queen Margrethe said.
The queen then extended a special greeting to those refugees who have found their way to Denmark.
“I wish those who have arrived here a happy New Year and a good start here,” she said.
Queen Margrethe delivered her traditional address in Fredensborg Palace in northern Zealand due to renovations at her regular winter home, Amalienborg Castle in Copenhagen. It was the first time in 34 years that the live nationally-broadcast address was not delivered in Amalienborg.
Queen Margrethe's complete New Year Address can be read in English on the Royal House's official website.