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What did Danish PM Frederiksen say in New Year speech?

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Sunday gave the traditional New Year’s Day speech, sent by the government leader from official residence Marienborg on January 1st.

What did Danish PM Frederiksen say in New Year speech?
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during her January 1st, 2023 speech. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

In the speech, Frederiksen said that a plan to scrap a public holiday was still a policy of the new government, despite its apparent unpopularity.

The government has stated that it wants to raise 4.5 billion kroner for additional spending on defence. To this end, it wants an extra working day to be added to the year, and therefore suggests that a public holiday be abolished.

In the New Year speech, Frederiksen did not mention a specific public holiday, but the springtime Great Prayer Day is thought to be the most likely day off to be cut.

“I can sense that the proposal is not supported by everyone,” Frederiksen said in the speech.

“But hand on heart. We can’t overcome war in Europe, the climate crisis and domestic challenges if we are not – every one of us – prepared to do more,” she said.

“We are entering a year of economic uncertainty. Also, unfortunately, with a risk of increasing unemployment,” she said near the beginning of the speech.

READ ALSO: Unemployment down in Denmark but analysts predict more without work

She made a number of references to defence – the area the government says it will use a scrapped public holiday to invest in.

“Europe must be stronger on its own. And Denmark must contribute more to NATO. We must push forward investments in our defence and security. That way, we will be up to the two percent [of GDP, contribution to NATO, ed.] that is needed and which we have promised our allies,” she said.

“The will demand something from all of us. That’s why the government has proposed we abolish a public holiday,” she said.

READ ALSO: How can Denmark earn money by abolishing a public holiday?

The New Year speech was Frederiksen’s fourth as prime minister. The traditional speeches are usually recorded at the official residence of the head of government, Marienborg, just before the end of December and broadcast on January 1st.

Topics tackled by prime ministers during the annual speeches are often domestically focused and can outline core issues on which the government plans to focus in the coming year.

The Covid-19 pandemic was the dominant topic in 2021. Last year, Frederiksen began the speech by stating that she would “not primarily talk about coronavirus”, but did thank members of the public who had been vaccinated and received boosters, along with healthcare sector and test centre staff.

In her first speech as PM in 2020, Frederiksen talked about society’s responsibilities towards underprivileged children, choosing to sideline the dominant political topic of the preceding year, climate change.

She mentioned national security and the war in Ukraine as she continued the focus on defence and shared contributions in 2023.

“Denmark continues our steadfast and loyal support for Ukraine. At the same time, we must also be prepared to face significantly sharpened threats at home,” she said.

“In Europe we tend to imagine that trade and growth will almost automatically lead to peaceful coexistence. We disarmed while others built up,” she said.

“And in a number of areas, we have made ourselves dependent on others. We are now seeing that we were too naïve. That we are on the threshold of a new era. Which will be hard,” she said.

READ ALSO: ‘There’s not enough gas in the world’: Can Europe keep the heating on this winter?

The government, formed in December, has announced a number of policies which could impact foreigners in 2023. These include potential changes to family reunification and work permit rules.

These elements of the new government platform were not directly mentioned by Frederiksen in the January 1st speech.

She stated that the new government’s “political solutions” would reflect its make-up as a coalition of both left and right-leaning parties and mentioned social welfare and climate as areas on which the government would focus.

Denmark’s Queen Margrethe also gives a traditional speech at the turn of the year. The monarch’s speech is broadcast live at 6pm on New Year’s Eve and watching it is a popular element of New Year celebrations.

In her speech on Saturday, the Queen addressed a rift that has emerged in the royal family following her decision to strip four of her grandchildren of their titles, along with more traditional topics relating to ethical and cultural issues as well as the need for solidarity in society.

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Danish government split over repatriation of women and children from Syria

Only one of the three parties in Denmark’s coalition government has stated it wants to repatriate women with national connections to Denmark from Kurdish-run prison camps in Syria.

Danish government split over repatriation of women and children from Syria

The Moderate party, one of the junior parties in the coalition, wants Danish children to be repatriated from the al-Roj prison camp in northern Syria, even if it means their mothers are evacuated with them.

The other two parties, the Social Democrats and Liberals (Venstre), still oppose bringing the women back to Denmark.

The two latter parties have stated that they only want to evacuate the children and not the mothers, who are in the camps because they have been sympathisers of the Islamic State (Isis) terror group or spouses of Isis militants.

As such, the government is split over the question of whether to retrieve the five children and three mothers from the camp, where they have now been marooned for several years.

Human rights organisations have in the past expressed concerns over the conditions at the prison camps and Denmark has faced criticism for not evacuating children there who have connections to Denmark.


Current government policy does not evacuate children from the two camps without their mothers and will not evacuate mothers if their Danish citizenship has been revoked.

A recent headline case saw a mother from the camp win an appeal against a Danish immigration ministry decision to revoke her citizenship, meaning she now has the right to be evacuated. She was expected to be prosecuted by Denmark under terrorism laws on her return to the country.

Denmark’s Scandinavian neighbour Norway on Wednesday repatriated two sisters who went to Syria as teenagers as well as their three children, citing abysmal conditions in the camp where they were housed.

Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, leader of the Moderate party, said at a parliamentary committee hearing on Wednesday that the government will state its agreed position on the issue “soon”, news wire Ritzau reports.

“The government will make a decision on the government’s position on the basis of the updated government policy position. And I expect we will do that soon,” he said.

Rasmussen said in January that the government had asked the relevant authorities to provide up-to-date information related to the Danish children who remain in the camps.

That information is expected to form the “policy position” (beslutningsgrundlag) referred to by Rasmussen in his committee comments.