Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen took the speakers’ podium as the head of a government propped up by openly warring factions within the so-called ‘blue bloc’.
Even before Rasmussen delivered the first word of his opening address, his support parties were continuing to cast doubt on the government’s ability to remain in power. Søren Espersen of the Danish People’s Party (DF) said that the PM should immediately call for an election.
“If I was in Lars Løkke’s shows, I would call an election today. Immediately following the opening speech in acknowledgment that this won’t go further,” he told radio station P4 Sjællend in reference to the tax and other disagreements DF has with fellow support party Liberal Alliance (LA).
LA’s leader Anders Samuelsen meanwhile told Børsen that he now regrets not pulling the rug out from under Rasmussen when he released his so-called 2025 Plan on August 30th.
The government’s 2025 plan proposes dropping the rate of topskat, a 15 percent tax paid by those who earn over 459,200 kroner ($69,000, €61,700), by five percent.
The plan however does not include that tax cut to those who earn over one million kroner a year. Including the wealthiest Danes is a demand that Samuelsen said is non-negotiable if his party is to continue to support the PM.
'A stronger Denmark'
With that political backdrop, Rasmussen took to the speaker’s podium to deliver an opening speech that began with a story about his mother.
Punctuated by long pauses, the PM talked about his mother’s upbringing on the island of Bornholm and her dream that “her children would have more opportunities than she had”. He said her dream has been shared by Danes for generations.
“I have dreams for my children. You have dreams for your children. We will not realize them with a snap of the fingers or with cheap solutions. A stronger Denmark is a picture that is painted by many proposals together,” Rasmussen said.
Following tradition, the Danish royals attended Tuesday's opening ceremony. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Scanpix
The PM went on to lay out what he said where his “four indicators” for a better Denmark.
His first was a “realistic and consistent immigration policy” that he said would build on the dramatic fall in asylum seekers over the past year.
“Last year, over 21,000 asylum seekers came to Denmark. This year on October 1st, 5,000 have come. At the moment the number is lower than in any month over the next five years. It hasn’t been lower since I’ve been prime minister. We need to stick to it. Therefore we will continue to tighten the conditions on those we let in,” he said.
His next indicator was making sure “it pays to work”. The PM defended a new reform that put a new upper limit to the unemployment benefit known as kontanthjælp in an attempt to spur people to get a job.
“I am convinced that we humans thrive better when we have a job,” he said. “There needs to be a better balance between the salary for working hard and what one receives for staying at home […] Every time someone takes the step from kontanthjælp to a job, it is a social policy breakthrough.”
Rasmussen then turned to spurring investments in Denmark.
“We need to spark the growth that is the entire basis for more and better jobs. Bigger opportunities. Our future. That’s my third indicator,” the PM said, before laying out plans to make it “more attractive to invest” in Denmark.
The PM's opening speech laid out 'four indicators' for a stronger Denmark. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Scanpix
Better welfare and tax cuts
The PM’s fourth point was “better core welfare”, including better cancer treatment and improvements to the nation’s daycare and elder care systems.
“I don’t buy the false dichotomy between welfare and tax cuts. The government’s policy is to have both,” he said.
Rasmussen only briefly mentioned the politically explosive issue of topskat.
“We want to make it more attractive for highly-education experts, engineers and technicians to work in Denmark. Therefore, the topskat needs to come down,” the PM said.
He did not directly address extending the cut to the highest earners.
Immediately following the speech, LA’s Samuelsen said his party thought that much of the PM’s opening remarks were “very, very good”. He said the battle over the five percent tax cut for the nation’s wealthiest earners would “wait for the negotiating table”.
“I believe we’ll find an agreement,” he told reporters.