Danish PM laments ‘break-up’ of peaceful world in New Year speech

Danish PM laments 'break-up' of peaceful world in New Year speech
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said in his traditional January 1st speech that the peaceful world many hoped for when the Berlin Wall fell is in danger of breaking up.

The PM used his traditional New Year speech, given from the Prime Minister’s Office at Christiansborg, to bring attention to inequality and the global political situation.

“In the United States, the gap between rich and poor is growing. Brexit is creating chaos in the United Kingdom. In France, the ‘yellow vests’ are taking to the boulevards in protest at worsening living conditions. Seen in that light, Denmark is a harmonic country,” he said.

But the root causes of societal problems seen in bigger countries were also prevalent at home, the Danish PM warned.

“We must be honest. The trends out there in the world – where cracks are appearing in society – also exist amongst us,” he said.

“If too many people feel left out or keep themselves on the outside, the harmony is damaged,” Rasmussen continued.

In addition to Brexit and inequality, Rasmussen also cited the United States, Russia and China as causes for his concern.

“It concerns me that Russia wants to disrupt freedom in countries which gained their freedom with the fall of the (Berlin) Wall. It concerns me that the United States is looking inwards, drawing back from its international commitments and the Paris Agreement,” he said.

“It concerns me that China is rapidly developing advanced technology that others have taken years to develop.

“And it concerns me that the United Kingdom will be leaving the EU, which has ensured peace and economic progress for more than 50 years,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen referred to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, an event synonymous with the end of the Cold War, by saying that the “peaceful world” that was hoped for at the time was “breaking up”.

“I find myself concerned that everything that was set in motion in the wake of the (Cold) War is being washed away. The desire for peace. Hope for democracy. Human rights. The will to cooperate. International communities which provide the basis for binding commitments and protection. (These were) built on decency and created with the world wars in recent memory,” he continued.

It would be a mistake for Denmark to follow the example of the United States by turning its back on international partnership and cooperation, the Prime Minister said.

“Denmark is a small country. But together, we can help to achieve a great ideal: an open, wealthy society, where well-being and sustainability go hand in hand. Where few have too much and fewer have too little. We should not take this lightly,” he said.

“We have much to offer the world. And we, as a small country in a big world, are hugely dependent on major international communities. In Nato, the EU and the UN,” he said.

“The problems faced by the whole world must be solved by all of us together: migration, crime, the environment, security, terror,” he said.

The 2019 New Year speech was Rasmussen’s sixth as PM, and his last before general elections to be held no later than June this year.

Topics tackled by prime ministers during the annual speeches are often domestically focused. In 2018, Rasmussen used the January 1st speech to announce a new agenda to address societal problems in underprivileged areas termed “ghettos”.

“This was a speech strong on values, framing how Løkke wants to be perceived as Prime Minister,” Helle Ib, political commentator with newspaper Børsen, told the Ritzau news agency.

“This is a prime minister well aware the elections are coming. The New Year speech reflects that he wants to be seen as the uniting and responsible figure in the centre of Danish politics,” Ib said.

A Social Democrat could just as easily have given the speech, she added in reference to the opposition party hoping to wrest government from Rasmussen in this year’s elections.