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Denmark reopens parliament: Who does what during annual custom?

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks during the opening of parliament on October 5th 2021. Queen Margrethe, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary can be seen in the royal gallery in the top centre of the picture.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen speaks during the opening of parliament on October 5th 2021. Queen Margrethe, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary can be seen in the royal gallery in the top centre of the picture. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix
The opening of the new parliamentary year means that Danish lawmakers will once again vote on and discuss law proposals in parliament.

The parliament is opened by a traditional opening speech given by the prime minister – somewhat comparable to a ‘State of the Union’ speech – in which the PM gives her assessment of the situation of the Scandinavian nation as the new political year begins.

The opening speech is usually attended by the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family, who watch from the Folketinget parliament’s Royal Box.

After lawmakers attend a service at the nearby Christiansborg Slotskirke church – which is also used for royal ceremonies – the Queen and other royal family members arrive at parliament for the opening ceremony, where they are received by the Speaker.

The meeting is traditionally led by parliament’s longest-serving member. Formalities including voting for the Speaker and deputy speakers.

That is followed by the traditional opening speech from the prime minister.

While there are no predefined expectations as to the content of the speech, the Danish constitution states that the PM must make her assessment of the state of the kingdom and present some of the government’s initiatives.

Usually, the Prime Minister traditionally gives a speech at which she outlines the government’s strategies and key issues for the incoming parliamentary session, and sums up the previous year.

Last year, most of the regular traditions of the annual opening of parliament were observed, despite the ongoing situation with the coronavirus, although a church service attended by most members of parliament was moved from its normal location at Christiansborgs Slotskirke to the larger Holmens Kirke nearby, to allow social distancing.

The reopening of parliament often sees demonstrators gather in front of Christiansborg. Different groups gathered to lobby for diverse causes including climate and childcare standards in 2021.

Demonstrators calling for improved funding and staffing in municipal childcare gather outside the parliament in Copenhagen on October 5th 2021. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

With normal service resumed in 2021, Frederiksen used the speech to talk about topics including affordable housing, international climate targets and educations.

But she also said the government planned to “reduce the tempo” of new law proposals this autumn while increasing the quality of bills.

“The government will put forward a proposal programme for the new parliamentary year which will be less extensive than usual. Less rushed legislation. We’d rather have less but, on the other hand, more thorough proposals,” the PM said.

Frederiksen also called for a boost to the “democratic conversation” in the coming year.

She described public political discourse in Denmark as often being “fragmented” and “superficial”.

“And perhaps also too hard. We all know what it’s like. Especially on social media. We have to allow space for afterthought and reflection,” she said.

No debate is held on the ceremonial opening day – the nitty-gritty of discussing proposals will have to wait until later in the week. 

READ ALSO: Denmark wants to build 20,000 new affordable rental homes


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