On New Year’s Eve it is customary to look back at the year that has passed. Personally, I cannot do that without first and foremost saying thank you when I think of all the kindness and attention I have received over the year, especially in connection with my 70th birthday in April. That day has added light and joy to the entire year, which has touched and moved me much more than I can say. It was not just here in Copenhagen on the day itself, but I also experienced it throughout the country wherever I came, alone or together with my family, and it also characterised our visit to the Faroe Islands.
Even though we all may find much to take pleasure in over the past year, it has nevertheless been a year characterised by the economic crisis that has affected the world community and, consequently, also Danish society.
There is reason for concern because many have lost their jobs; shops earn less money when the customers have less money to spend; and the global scale of the crisis means that companies’ sales decrease both at home and abroad.
Nevertheless, Denmark is one of the nations that have been less severely affected by the crisis.
During the crisis, we have benefited from the fact that in Denmark we have experienced prosperity and we have had savings to draw on. But what we can draw on is not only our solid material wealth. We are also wealthy in other ways. We have an established community which we take pride in. It goes very far back in our history, back to the free constitution. Indeed, it goes even further back in history because the Constitution of 1849 may be perceived as confirmation of a community that already existed.
The community is a strong quality which we should appreciate and which we need when times are not so good. Together we must draw on our ingenuity, our diligence and creative powers. These are characteristics we can draw on as we are now endeavouring to wrench ourselves out of the grips of the crisis.
When we see how others become increasingly skilful, we must not let ourselves be daunted by it, but let it be a spur to us. We must not content ourselves with what we once excelled at, but continue to use the combination of individualism and unity that has brought us this far.
Denmark has known many crises and difficult times throughout history, but together we have survived them and everybody has contributed.
But are we seeing indications these years that we have become more selfish, that we have become inclined to first and foremost make demands, and make sure that we all get what we ourselves think we are entitled to? Are we becoming distrustful of each other, and beginning to ascribe less than pure motives to each other?
If that is the case, we are not only in an economic crisis. Then it is our attitudes that are slipping. It is a crisis that is insidious because it creeps upon us and poisons our relationships with each other. It means that we are jeopardising something that may be irretrievable.
A crisis that is measurable and quantifiable, so to speak, a crisis that lends itself to figures and graphs is not nearly as serious as a crisis of values and attitudes that are faltering. We will find a way out of the present economic crisis in the short or the long term; but we must find a way out of it with our decency intact and without jeopardising our community.
In the course of the last few generations, society has developed in such a way that we can live more and more safely, both financially and socially. We have got used to being able to pick and choose quite freely in big and small matters. Our circumstances are so good now that we have almost forgotten that our decisions also have consequences and that we cannot opt into or out of all life’s conditions.
As human beings we are mutually dependent on each other. It is true today as it was yesterday and at all times. Previously, it was perhaps more obvious when people lived in small village communities where many tasks had to be performed jointly, and where several generations often lived under the same roof, and all had their tasks to perform for each other. It was a relationship of interdependence that was obvious to everybody. Today, we have left it to society to deal with many of the obligations that were once each individual’s task. Often it goes so far that we completely forget or overlook the fact that our society is actually all of us, and that it cannot work at all if we do not each of us make an effort and feel a commitment to our loved ones as well as to those we do not come across on a daily basis.
We have achieved a freedom to shape our own lives to an extent that former generations never knew, and we should appreciate it. But we should also remember that no one is self-sufficient. Therefore, we must take care of this society, which we know as a safe framework for the individual’s activities, and we must keep eyes and ears and hearts open to our fellow men.
On the last evening of the year when so many gather with family members and friends, we should not forget those who must celebrate the New Year far from Denmark. My thoughts go in particular to our soldiers in Afghanistan. They are on a mission that is extremely difficult and dangerous, but they perform it in a targeted and conscientious manner and with great courage. Both they and their relatives at home will be in our thoughts tonight. Sitting at home alone can be hard when the person one loves is far way in dangerous surroundings. I know from the Crown Prince, who visited our soldiers just before Christmas, that they approach their tasks in a spirit of seriousness and confidence, and they know that they can carry them out.
Nevertheless, the price of our effort in Afghanistan has been high: several young Danes have lost their lives, also this year. Let us remember them tonight and think of their relatives, friends and fellow soldiers who are now left with a great sense of loss.
Some of our soldiers have returned badly wounded and others are mentally scarred by their experiences. It applies to all of them that they deserve all our care and recognition. In the autumn, I had the opportunity to meet some of our wounded soldiers undergoing rehabilitation at the Copenhagen University Hospital. They all show a love of life and an incredible determination to overcome their disabilities, which made a great impression on me and which can only command admiration.
I send my New Year greetings to all Danish men and women working for our security and safety in the Armed Forces, the Emergency Management and the Police. Happy New Year to all of you at home and abroad, wherever you are.
As always at New Year, my thoughts go to the Danes who live south of the border. They are part of our Danish community. That tie has never been severed. We are proud of that.
Every year it is a great pleasure for the Prince Consort and me to visit various parts of the country. This year we also visited the Faroe Islands and we are planning a visit to Greenland on board the Dannebrog in the summer. We are looking very much forward to that, and when I send my New Year greetings to the Faroe Islands and Greenland here tonight, I also wish to say thank you for the confidence shown me and my family both in Greenland and in the Faroe Islands and for the warm ties which I feel bind us together.
2010 has been a good year with many joys for my family and me. We are now looking forward to the New Year with great expectations, especially to the addition to the family, which is going to take place in January. It is a great source of joy and happiness to us all to feel the warm interest we encounter wherever we go.
In good times we must remember that good fortune is not a matter of course, and that there are always some for whom everyday life is hard. In difficult times, we must not lose heart, and a smile helps us get through the days when life seems dreary.
So let us face the New Year with confidence, and let us trust each other in big and small matters.
This will be my wish for the year 2011.
GOD SAVE DENMARK
Published December 31, 2010