A Conversation With Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark

Tuesday, July 9, 2024
Hannibal Hanschke/REUTERS

Prime Minister, Denmark


Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; CFR Member; @RobinsonL100

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark discusses transatlantic cooperation, Russia's war in Ukraine, and her priorities for the NATO Summit in Washington.

ROBINSON: Welcome to today’s CFR meeting with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. She has served as Denmark’s prime minister since 2019. I am Linda Robinson, senior fellow for Women and Foreign Policy, and I’ll be presiding over today’s session. 

The audience today consists of Council members joining us here in Washington, and also over two hundred members on Zoom. We will now have about thirty minutes of conversation before opening up to questions. 

Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us today. I would like to start by asking you to assess the state of the transatlantic relationship today. This is perhaps one of NATO’s most consequential summits in its seventy-five years. Both U.S. and Europe are amid elections that are bringing to the fore basic questions and disagreements about the level of international engagement on a host of issues from security to things like climate, trade policy, migration. 

So I’d just like to ask you to start by giving us your sense of the strong points of transatlantic consensus and also the frictions that are causing concerns. 

FREDERIKSEN: Thank you, and very nice to see all of you. 

Well, first of all, I think on the positive note, NATO is in a better state than we were before the war returned to the European continent. And NATO is stronger; we’re bigger with two new countries included in the alliance, and what we have been able to do together in more than two-and-a-half years now of war has been unexpected, I think.  

I think Putin and Russia underestimated the Ukrainians, of course. He underestimated Zelensky himself. He underestimated us—U.S. and Europe. So to start with something positive, we have a stronger NATO than in many years. Many of us, including Denmark, are spending much more money now on defense and deterrence. I think all of us have to step up and to scale up—we’ll come back to that—and the willingness of fighting for what we believe in and fighting for each other is—we are on the same page. So that’s on the positive note. 

If we also take a look into some of the challenges, I think we work and we move too slow. I think we have been too naïve on Russia, too naïve on China, and therefore we have to speed up, we have to scale up. 

As Europeans, I agree when American presidents—Biden, Trump, Obama—have said you have not done enough as Europeans. You have to do more on your own. I agree with them. Sorry for not delivering before now. I think we have to do more as Europeans.  

So the sense of urgency is growing, but it’s not strong enough. 

ROBINSON: Thank you. Yes, thank you, and I’d like to—we’ll go into great detail about all that Denmark and Europe have been doing, and then get to the NATO specifics. But I’d like to just ask you to give your assessment of the status of the war in Ukraine. I know you’ve been there several times, I believe most recently in February. 

But Russia has been ramping up its attacks, and of course we’ve seen these terrible attacks, including children, casualties in these strikes on the hospitals. And despite the aid being provided recently, Ukraine says it still needs weaponry and it’s got a critical shortage of fighting personnel. 

So I’d just like to ask you to give us your view of the war. Do you think Ukraine is at a tipping point now, and how would you assess where we are in this war of attrition? 

FREDERIKSEN: Of course it’s a difficult question. I don’t know about you, but I think it is extremely impressing—how they are doing, the Ukrainians. I mean, they have been fighting for now more than two-and-a-half year, and they are just—I mean, they are just continuing. 

But you cannot win a war on your own, and you cannot win a war if we—the rest of us—are only willing to give them something to defend themselves because they have to push Russia out of Ukraine again. And that’s much more difficult than just defending. And to be very frank with you, we haven’t given—we have not been able to give the Ukrainians what they need to defend themselves because they don’t have air defense. You cannot protect the country if you don’t have air defense. 

Many, many month ago they asked us very concretely to give at least seven Patriot systems. They have received two, and I think that is one of our main problems because we have much more systems—you have a lot of them in U.S. We still have a lot in other European countries. And as Stoltenberg said weeks ago when I were visiting him in Brussels, it’s better to have air defense in Ukraine than to have them in Western—especially Western European countries. 

Eastern European countries is another—it’s a different matter of course, but in the Western part of the European Union, it’s better used in Ukraine. And they cannot—I mean, you saw it in Kyiv just recently—yesterday and the day before yesterday. I mean, attacking the hospital for children. This is what Russia is about. Who else in this world would attack a hospital for children in a European capital?  

And I think this—the question that we have to ask ourselves: Why have we accepted a full-scale war for more than two-and-a-half year(s) in Europe? And the only language Russia understands is power; nothing else. 

So we need to give them more to ensure that they are able to defend themselves, but that will not be enough. They need the weapons and the systems that will ensure that they can push the Russians back, and it’s two different optics. 

ROBINSON: Thank you. One quick follow-up. In the ministerial—foreign ministers—leading up to the summit, Tony Blinken had called attention to these hybrid attacks that are reportedly occurring on the frontline states—the Baltics. I think one may be attributed in the U.K., and he spoke of individual or collective response to that. I don’t see that that is happening, but do you have a view of what should be done if Russia is actually undermining directly NATO countries’ security. 

FREDERIKSEN: But this is not a question about if they are. They are, and they do it every day. Russia is trying to destabilize the entire world society. We see it in Europe with hybrid cyberattacks. We see it in the Western Balkan area. We see it in Africa and the whole Sahel region where Russia is extremely active destabilizing—not trying to destabilize; they are destabilizing many parts of Africa. You see what they are doing in the Middle East. 

So it’s not a question about if; they are acting and in an extremely aggressive matter every day. And we—ask me, we have accepted this for too long. 

ROBINSON: So let’s talk about what Denmark is doing and has done, and I think it’s also not clear to many in the U.S. here the magnitude of support that Europe has been giving on a financial, humanitarian, and military assistance front to Ukraine, to go back now to focus a bit on what has been this effort to date. And I know that there are a number of things Denmark has pledged—F-16s, there’s the ammunition initiative, there’s bilateral security agreements, so if you would just kind of lay out what Denmark has done so people understand how much you have leaned forward. 

FREDERIKSEN: Well, first of all, we decided two-and-a-half years ago that we wanted to be a frontrunner in our support to Ukraine, and we have managed to do that. You were mentioning our F-16s. They will soon be flying in Ukraine, and it’s better to have them in Ukraine than in Denmark. We are still waiting for some F-35s from you guys over here—(laughs)—to be able to protect ourself as well. 

We decided to donate our entire artillery system. We don’t have anything now in Denmark because it’s better used in Ukraine than in Denmark. We have been very supportive of the Czech initiative on ammunition. It’s working quite well. It’s very—it’s very old fashioned, so when I meet with my colleagues from Netherland and the Czech Republic, we are sitting with papers in front of us, you know, and on the left side of the paper it says how much ammunition do they need at the frontline, and how much can we buy from third countries or outside the European Union, and how to finance it. So it’s very concrete, it’s very simple. 

We are doing a lot with humanitarian aid, and now the next project for us as Danes—and this I think extremely important—is to finance directly the defense industry inside the Ukraine because they work much faster than the rest of Europe does. So, you know, instead of donating or buying things, we are now going to produce it—to support—it will be produced directly in Ukraine. So that’s one of the next steps for Denmark. 

But from the very beginning, I have seen this war not primarily as a war on Ukraine; I see this as primarily a question about Russia and their dreams of building a big Russia again. They are—I mean, it’s imperialism, as we saw it many, many years ago. I don’t think they are going to stop with Ukraine. I don’t see any signs of Russia stopping with Ukraine, and therefore, from the very beginning we have been extremely supportive and gladly with the full support from the Danish parliament, and from the Danes. They have actively supported Ukraine from the very beginning. 

But all of us have to do more, and if I’m right—and I don’t know if I’m right—but if I’m right, that this is not primarily a question about Ukraine, even though it’s the Ukrainians that are suffering. I mean, they are paying the highest price. It’s the young men who are dying at the battlefield. It’s a question for all of us, and I don’t think Russia understands anything else than power because we have tried everything with Russia. I mean, the Olympic games, we unfortunately were buying gas from them. I’ve been against that from the very beginning but, I mean, we have tried many different scenarios and none of it worked. And now we have to be very clear that, in the modern world 2024, you cannot decide upon others with power. You have to respect democracy, and therefore they need to be pushed back. 

ROBINSON: Do you think that the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO can make a signal difference in that, in how Russia will perceive the commitment of Europe to defend itself? 

FREDERIKSEN: It is very positive that the two countries used this crisis of opportunity to take the important decision about joining the alliance, so I think it’s one brick that we can work with. But the only thing that matters is that Europe and U.S., we are willing and we are able to defend ourself, which means spending much more money on defense and deterrence. And we are willing to do whatever it takes to defend Europe, like we did years ago. 

ROBINSON: I’d like to ask you about the recent decision by the EU to begin using some of the proceeds of the frozen Russian assets to give direct aid to Ukraine. How important a change is that, and do you think it will be forthcoming quickly? 

FREDERIKSEN: First of all, I think it’s a good idea. We have been supporters from the very beginning, and it’s—I mean, on a personal level, I mean, taking money from very rich Russians—(laughs)—and sending them directly to Ukraine, I mean, it’s the circle of life, or something like that. (Laughter.) I mean, I’m not a bigger person and I really love that idea, so I think it’s—I think it’s good, but it has to be combined with our efforts as countries, and as European Union, and as NATO to support Ukraine directly. 

When I became prime minister five years ago, we were spending approximately 1.3 (billion dollars) on security and defense; now we spend 2.4 (billion dollars) in only five years, and that is the development that we all need. And asking me today, will 2.4 (billion dollars) be enough; no, I’m not sure it will be enough. 

ROBINSON: So let’s—thank you. Let’s go now to those commitments that have been growing by NATO and then talk about some of the things that you expect or wish to see at the summit. I believe it’s twenty-three now of the thirty-two NATO members that are going to reach or exceed the 2 percent of GDP threshold in their defense budgets, but some are saying—as you just said—it might need to be higher. But at least this seems to be a signal step forward in the overall strengthening of the European pillar of NATO, as is often said. 

So would you talk a little bit more about this because I think it’s down in the weeds of the defense issues, but it’s very important that people understand that Europe hasn’t really had a robust defense industrial base, and there are a number of measures now that are being undertaken to support growing that defense base, and joint procurement, and interoperability—this sort of complex of things that will make Europe stronger together. 

FREDERIKSEN: Well, I think the starting point is that we recognize, from a European perspective, that you guys have been right. I said it before—I mean, it’s—it must have been a bit strange for Americans to watch Europe. I mean, you saved us during the Second World War, and after that, you continued to spend a lot on security and defense, and many European—not all European countries, especially some of our friends like in Poland and so on, continued to spend enough on security and defense. But in countries like Denmark and many others, I mean, we could—instead of that—building great welfare societies, I mean, during the last couple of years; spent much more money on climate change, and so on, and at that time, you know, looking at U.S. thinking, well, if something really serious happens, they will come and help us. And we still need you to help us if something really serious happens because that has always been the case. It will also be the case in the future. 

But of course, you can expect from us that we are—as rich countries, are willing to spend enough on our common security—not on European security, but on common security, we are now in a much better place when it comes to that. But I think Europe has to do much more—much more—because, looking at the African continent with all the conflicts coming up; with irregular migration; with the risk of terror; if you look at the West Balkans, if you look at some of our neighboring countries nearby Ukraine like Georgia, where now—small/fragile, Moldova; if you look at the Middle East; all these regions are closer to us than it is to you. 

So we need to be able to do more in these areas, and therefore, you are totally right. This is all about building a stronger European pillar inside NATO. I will never support anything European against NATO. It always has to be combined with the efforts inside NATO because I’m a transatlantic by heart, so for me, NATO is number one when it comes to security. 

But the European pillar has to grow stronger, and it’s a question about resources, money, but also, as you said, our industry, and all the new areas when we are talking about security like quantum, like space, like AI, like technology because if you look at Europe today, we are buying too much from China when it comes to technology, and we need that pillar to be stronger in our view on security as well. 

ROBINSON: There are so many questions regarding NATO we could go into, but I want to ask one last one and leave to the audience issues like the fact that NATO now has a China policy, and that the alliance has leaned forward on a lot of—developing a strategy, making collective defense commitments by country, defensive deployment—so many things I think that people—the casual observer may not be aware, but I’d like to come back to the summit deliverables. 

I know that this defense industrial initiative is one of the centerpieces, but the deliverables regarding Ukraine. NATO has not reached consensus on offering Ukraine membership in NATO, but there is talk about a one-year pledge of aid, possibly some bilateral further movements on air defense. 

What are you looking for as a signal out of this summit to give further reassurance to Ukraine that they will not be left fighting, perhaps, a losing battle here? 

FREDERIKSEN: First of all, I think the most important commitment is to say that we will never accept Ukraine to lose this war, and I think that is the spirit of NATO today. That’s the most important thing.  

Membership is, of course, important. I am a strong supporter of membership for Ukraine into NATO. And I think we will take some steps forward during this summit, then we have concrete deliveries that—is that a responsibility for NATO, but if we see the concrete deliveries at the NATO summit, that will be—that will be good. And I think we have a—after this summit, we have a stronger NATO framework when it comes to Ukraine. So I think actually that the deliveries are there. 

Then you mentioned China. Of course we have now a China policy in NATO, and we have to focus much more on what’s happening in this part of the world. For the—I think it’s the third year now where, as a part of the summit, we have—as you probably know—a discussion with our friends and partners from Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia. And the signal that they are a part of the summit is important in itself, and now it’s almost like a tradition.  

And so I think there are some concrete deliveries but, I mean, the willingness of being NATO, spending much more money, and supporting Ukraine is—yeah, that’s the key. 

ROBINSON: Thank you. Well, I’m going to truncate the rest of my questions and turn to the audience now, as we do have to end a few minutes early given your schedule. 

I’d like to invite the members here and on Zoom to join the conversation with their questions. Please state your name and affiliation, and I remind you all that this meeting is on the record. 

And we will start with a question here in Washington, please. Dov? 

Q: Thanks very much, Linda.  

Prime Minister, it is quite an accomplishment to go from less than 2 percent to about 2 ½ (percent). And you say you need a lot more, and I think many of us will agree with you. Do the publics agree with you because, clearly, the more you spend on defense—unless you want to run up huge deficits, which I don’t think you do—the less you’re going to spend on social welfare. How is that going to work for you? 

Oh, and I didn’t—I didn’t declare myself in case you want to do something behind my back. (Laughter.) My name is Dov Zakheim, and I was an undersecretary of defense and now with CSIS. 

FREDERIKSEN: Yeah, but that is an important and a difficult question. I would say I think that the Danes have been very focused and extremely supportive of Ukraine. My guess is that if you ask the—I haven’t seen the numbers recently, but if you ask the Danes, my guess would be that somewhere in between 80 or 90 percent of the Danes are still fully supportive of Ukraine. It’s probably one of the highest numbers in the Western part of the world. I’m, of course, very proud of that, and it makes it much easier to be an active prime minister in this question. 

No matter what, I would have done the same, and you cannot—you cannot win a war, and you cannot protect NATO if you are not willing to do it no matter what, as leaders. So I don’t think you can—I don’t think you can make a strategy when it comes to war depending on the support or the opposite. You have to do what you think is necessary for this world, and at the same time, trying to convince people that this is the right direction, but you can never be sure about it. 

And you are right: if Europe has to spend more on deterrence and defense—and I think we have to—then we have less in other areas. We have started that discussion, but it’s not finished yet in Europe, and it will, I think, demand some changes within the European Union and how we look at, also, economics. And as a Social Democrat, I will be very hard on the question about social balance in the coming years because if we are not—I mean, if we are not taking care of our own at the same time as we are trying to win this war, then we will not have the necessary support. So it has to be balanced. 

ROBINSON: Thank you. Yes, we’ll take—we have quite a few questions here. Let me take this question in back, please, and then we’ll go out to our virtual members. 

Q: Thank you, Prime Minister. My name is Jane Kinninmont. I was one of the independent experts appointed by the Secretary-General to report on NATO’s policies and partnerships towards the southern neighborhoods, along with a Danish expert, Katja Jacobsen, and others. 

And I wondered if you say something about how you think NATO should approach the Middle East and Africa. What’s its role there when it also has so much to do looking east? Thank you. 

FREDERIKSEN: That’s a big question. If you allow me, I think I will focus on Africa because I think Middle East is something very different. I don’t know if we have time for both.  

But if we look at Africa, we share the same concern—the African Union, the European Union, and NATO. The whole Sahel region is now totally destabilized, and unfortunately, some of our good friends—good democratic countries have almost been turned around. And therefore, because we look at the same challenge, we share the same interests in Africa as the African Union. 

I think the—to be very short, one of the ways forward is for the European Union and NATO to support the African Union to be able to be in control in Africa—to be very short. And therefore, the fight against terrorism, which today is also a fight against Russia because Russia is very supportive in the Sahel region, we could do that together. But the African Union can only do what is necessary in Africa if they get more resources, and if they get the measures that they need. And we could support them with that, both as NATO and as European Union. 

So asking me, the partnerships with the Global South are becoming more and more important. You guys know much more about Latin America. I can just say, from a European perspective, that I think we have to interact much more with Latin America. As I said before, the partnerships with some of the Asian countries are growing stronger, and therefore the cooperation globally has to be top of mind in the coming years. 

ROBINSON: Thank you. Let’s take one more in the room here, and then we will go out to the virtual audience. Chris? 

Q: Thank you. Chris Isham with CT Group. 

Prime Minister, I wonder if you could talk a little—you mentioned that we have to do more with Ukraine. I wonder if you could talk a little bit more specifically about what kinds of weapon systems you would like to see them getting, on what kind of timeline. And also, discuss a little bit some of the restrictions that have been placed on the weapon systems that have been delivered to them, like the ATACMS. How do you feel about that, and do you think those restrictions should be looser? Thank you. 

FREDERIKSEN: The timeline is the easiest part. It’s now, or yesterday, or the day before yesterday, or a year ago, and two years ago—instead of in a year, in two years. 

I think we have been reacting too slowly, to be very honest with you. Two-and-a-half years is too long a time for war just to proceed. So the timeline is now. 

If you are asking me, I’m not working with any red lines. I think it’s very difficult to win a war if you put on red lines on the table that your enemy can read. Of course, we need to discuss with allies about this, but I’m not working with red lines. The red line that I have is that Russia cannot decide upon the future of Europe. 

ROBINSON: Thank you. Let’s go out— 

FREDERIKSEN: And then it has to be according to international law what we give, and—of course. 


Please. Yes, go ahead, Teagan. Thank you. 

OPERATOR: We’ll take our next question from Missy Ryan. 

Q: Hi, I’m Missy Ryan from the Washington Post. Thank you for taking my question. 

I’d like to ask you about the looming political uncertainty in the United States and how that is affecting the way that NATO leaders in Europe are thinking about this moment, given President Trump’s past statements about potentially not respecting Article 5 commitments and, you know, trying to sort of pick and choose about what the United States will or won’t do for NATO. 

How are you—how is that factoring into your thoughts at this moment, and your planning for your country’s defense, and what other leaders in Europe are doing ahead of the U.S. elections in November. Thanks. 

FREDERIKSEN: First of all, I am hoping, I am praying for, I am expecting that the Transatlantic alliance will be strong and alive also in the coming years. It’s one of my biggest hopes for our common future. So hopefully, no matter what will happen in U.S., that will be the case. U.S. without NATO is not a strong U.S.; Europe without NATO is not a Europe so, I mean, we have to stick together. And I think we have shown now for 75 years what we can do together. 

And asking me, we should go the opposite way, building a stronger NATO, not, of course, the opposite. Just saying that, no matter what conclusion you will make in U.S., I think in Europe the conclusion has to be the same; that Europe has to be able to do more on its own; never against U.S., and never in a conflict with U.S. I have said it to the Danes that I don’t want a single paper to come between U.S. and Europe because our enemies are only hoping for this. They are dreaming about a conflict between Europe and U.S., so we can never let that happen. 

But no matter what, Europe has to do more. That was my starting point, and I would like to repeat it because I think that the best way forward, also in a NATO with another president, is the willingness of Europe to do what we have to do. That’s my guess, and, well, it’s up to the voters who will lead the countries in the alliance. I think it’s up to us leaders to be able to work with everyone who is elected by their populations and to find the best way—the best way forward. 

But there is only one way forward, and that is a strong NATO that is willing to protect itself, and I hope the U.S. will stick to that position. You have saved us once, and please stick to that way of working. 

ROBINSON: Thank you. Let’s come back into the room here. Sherry, please. 

Q: Good morning. Hi, I’m Sherry Hakimi from, which is actually a Danish-American civil society organization. 

Prime Minister, you’ve been a very strong champion for a transatlantic partnership and defending democracy. And one of the best ways that you walk that talk is through the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Violence and Online Harassment and Abuse. 

Right now only about a quarter of NATO member states are part of the Global Partnership, and I’m curious if there are any efforts to bring other NATO members into the partnership so that we can see it strengthened. And then, given that you have also faced TFGBV—technology-facilitated gender-based violence—what you would personally like to see us be doing more of? 

FREDERIKSEN: What would I like to see— 

Q: What would you personally like to see us doing more of to address TFGBV? 

ROBINSON: That would be a new acronym—technology-facilitated gender-based violence, but the Global Partnership—(laughter)—the Global Partnership has the simpler name of online harassment and abuse. And you were a—Denmark was a founding member, I believe, of this initiative. 

FREDERIKSEN: Well, let me be very frank. I think what we are facing now with new technology and especially with social media, I think, is the most challenging conflict for democracy in front of us—the most challenging thing in front of us. The social media are dividing us. They make us less clever as human beings. We are reading more social media now than books. I mean, it’s—I mean, we have been fighting for thousands of years to be clever and to be strong as human beings, and now it’s almost going the opposite way. 

So I think we have to be very tough on the tech giants—very tough, and we are not tough at all at the moment. I have to—I think we have to control the social media in another way, especially when it comes to kids—young ones. I am personally in favor of an age limit. I want our kids to be out of all kind of social medias when they are beneath 15 years old, especially TikTok is damaging our kids. 

And when it comes to democracy, I am extremely worried about the development from the old newspapers, and old medias, and so on, broadcasters, public service into social media. So I will do anything to support whatever it takes to ensure democracy to live, and the things you were talking about is a part of this because if we don’t feel safe, no matter if it’s because of our gender, or if it’s because we are politicians, or anything else, then democracies do not work. So I am very supportive. 

Q: Thank you. 

ROBINSON: Yes, please. 

Q: Prime Minister, thank you. My name is Benjamin Schmitt. I’m running a research program at the University of Pennsylvania on critical infrastructure protection across Northern Europe, and I’ve had the pleasure of being in Denmark many times over the past few years doing this research, including on Bornholm and every corner of Denmark. So thank you again for your leadership. 

What I’d like to say is, you know, we’ve seen through this program—for the past two years, not even just the past six months—where there’s been this pickup of hybrid and gray-zone attacks: subsea telecommunications cables near Svalbard get cut; of course the Nord Stream blast, the Baltic connector pipeline. A number of rail lines and other energy infrastructure across Europe has been attacked, many of which have at least significant evidence pointing towards Moscow, if not already been attributed. 

So my question is at what point, even if these don’t raise to the level of Article 5 through NATO, that member states will begin Article 4 consultative mechanisms to start that attribution process and actually raise this, and hopefully use that to deter Russia from any, you know, future hybrid and gray-zone attacks on infrastructure. Thank you again. 

FREDERIKSEN: Well, first of all, thank you for looking into Danish critical infrastructure. I did not know you were doing that. Thank you.  

And when you were listing some of the events we have seen just in few month, it sounds like a bad movie, right? And I think that’s our main problem, and it was a bit the same feeling I had before the attack on Ukraine. It was like we could not understand that Russia were going in a full-scale war in Europe, but they were. And they are attacking, as I said before. I think they are attacking us every day now, not only on critical infrastructure, hybrid attacks, cyberattacks, disinformation, but also on migration. We have seen it in Belarus, into Lithuania. We have seen it on the Finnish border, that they are using migrants to destabilize inter-European countries. 

And all of it is a part of modern warfare. I mean, that’s what we are looking into. So I think we have to take it much more seriously, and it has to be prioritized in NATO because I think we have to look at it as an attack on us instead of just, well, now, something again happened, and again, and again, and again. So I think we are being too friendly in our reaction to this. 

ROBINSON: So I’d like to just follow up to see if that means it reaches the bar for an Article 4 decision. I know NATO has created the Hybrid Centre of Excellence, Cyber Centre of Excellence, so we’ve got a lot of study. Is it time for a next step? 

FREDERIKSEN: I don’t think it’s on this stage we will take that NATO decision. (Laughter.) And, of course, it’s something that we really have to look into together with our allies, but I guess you can hear—when I’m listening that I think we are—I think we are being—we are simply being too polite. 

ROBINSON: So we have another question here in the middle. I’m not—yes, I don’t want to neglect our virtual audience, so let’s go for one, and then we’ll go out. Yes. 

Q: Thank you for taking my question. I’m Alexandra Starr with International Crisis Group. 

I wanted to ask a question with the domestic fear. You spoke about immigration, and, you know, Denmark has taken some of the toughest lines on immigration within Europe in the past few years. I was wondering how you would respond to criticisms that the parallel initiatives society—the parallel societies initiative is discriminatory and works against creating a more cohesive Danish society. 

FREDERIKSEN: Well, first of all, you are totally right. We have been taking some quite tough measures on migration, and I am a strong believer that it is a necessary way forward for all of us. We need to be in control with our own borders as Danes and as Europeans. The current system of especially asylum seekers is totally broken—totally broken. If you look at what happens in the Mediterranean, it is the few ones with money enough and with the strongest physical health or situation. It’s the smugglers who decide who will enter Europe and who will not. So that’s our first problem; that the system is broken.  

Disabled people, old people, women, children will never enter Europe. It’s primarily young men. That’s problem number one. Problem number two is that if you receive too many people from outside, you will simply not be able to have a sustainable society, I think. And therefore, you need to be in control with your borders. 

When you reach that position, then you will be able to help many more people outside Europe, and you can take under control methods the amount of people that you think you can help inside Europe, but not millions as we have seen in the past years. And I’m saying this as a Social Democrat because I can see in Denmark and in Europe who pays the price if you are not in control. It’s not the richest people. It’s not people with the highest education because the top of society will always provide good schools for their own kids, and live in safe neighborhoods. They will not travel by buses or bicycles and so on. They will be able to care for their own and themself. 

But the poorest part of the society, the low-skilled workers, and so on, people who are living in areas where the crime scene has changed rapidly—also in Denmark—they pay the price. And as a Social Democrat, I cannot accept that. 

You are right; we have been taking some legal measures to ensure that we will not have parallel societies in Denmark. I am a big fan of it because I want the Danes to be mixed. I don’t like a(n) ethnical, divided Denmark. I don’t like a divided Denmark in any aspects. I am a strong believer that we have to go to the same kindergartens, and schools, and secondary schools, and universities. We have to live in the same neighborhood. We have to play football or whatever—rugby or whatever you want to play—together to know each other, because otherwise I don’t think people want to pay tax to each other, to be very short. 

So what we have tried to do is to ensure that you will not get an ethnical divided Denmark with areas where—especially migrants from—or asylum seekers from Africa or Middle East live and be separated from the rest of the society. 

I can go into details another time, but I think what we have done on this area is important— 

ROBINSON: Thank you. 

FREDERIKSEN: —to ensure opportunities to all. That’s exactly what it’s about. 

ROBINSON: I’d like to give the last question to Mike Froman, our president. 

FROMAN: My question was asked, so— 

ROBINSON: Oh, all right. Do we have time for one more? Unfortunately, I guess, because of the schedule you are on, I’m being asked to close us out. So I want to ask everyone to please thank the prime minister for her time. (Applause.) 

And I would like to let you know the transcript and video will be posted on our site, and to invite you to come today at 12:15 to hear the Greek prime minister. 

Thank you all very much. 


This is an uncorrected transcript. 


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