What did Danish PM Mette Frederiksen talk about in her New Year speech?

What did Danish PM Mette Frederiksen talk about in her New Year speech?
Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen sought to put the focus on children’s welfare in her first New Year speech as Denmark’s premier.

Climate change, arguably 2019’s biggest political issue in Denmark, took a back seat as Frederiksen aimed to bolster her self-styled image as a “children’s prime minister”, according to one analyst.

Danish prime ministers typically outline their plans for the coming year and review the past 12 months in a speech televized to the nation on New Year’s Day.

Two years ago, former PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen used his New Year speech to announce a programme intended to tackle social problems in underprivileged areas termed ‘ghettos’. Last year, Rasmussen was more outward-looking.

The sentiment was different again in Frederiksen’s first New Year speech following her election in June last year.

Frederiksen has on repeated occasions stated outright that she seeks to be a “prime minister for the children”, and the PM continued that theme on January 1st 2020.

In her speech, she said that more underprivileged children should be adopted and that conditions for foster care should be “more stable”.

“I’ve made a decision. I will always be on the side of the children,” the PM said as she began her speech.

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Although the Danish premier mentioned climate change, it was primarily in the context of praising children and young people for their initiative in campaigning and demonstrating over the issue.

Other areas touched on in the speech were pensions, fireworks, gang crime and jihadists.

But there were few surprises in the speech, according to Børsen political analyst Helle Ib.

“This was a speech spared from major news or surprises. But it is a logical continuation of the themes Mette Frederiksen herself has attempted to highlight and focus on, including when she was in opposition,” Ib said.

“Particularly the question of being ‘children’s prime minister’. It’s clear that this was not a flighty thought. It’s a statement she wants to spend a lot of time on and be remembered for,” she added.

The topic of children is also not a controversial one, making it steady ground for Frederiksen to concentrate on in the speech, in contrast to other subjects such as climate change or differentiated pension rules, the analyst said.

The latter two played key roles in promises made by Frederiksen’s Social Democrats prior to election.

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“She avoided going into depth on themes where some clearer answers might have been wished for,” she said.

Legislation to help the government achieve its ambitious climate target of 70 percent emissions reductions by 2030 has been agreed, but potentially difficult negotiations await in 2020 over a plan of action.

The action plan is to set out specific actions to reduce Denmark’s emissions.

Ib said that Frederiksen had given a “safe and defensive speech” in the absence of serious political challenge to her premiership thus far.

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