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Sofie Carsten Nielsen

More democracy – not less!

Sofie Carsten Nielsens grundlovstale ved International grnudlovsdag på Frederiksberg.
Det talte ord gælder
 
Thank you all for having me here today. It’s wonderful to see so many of you. And I am especially happy to be here to sort of inaugurate what I hope will be the first of many celebrations of Constitution Day in Denmark conducted in English in order to open this day up to non-Danish speaking people who live in Denmark either because of work, pleasure, family or in some cases because they had to flee their home country. A very warm welcome to all of you!
 
To me the 5th of June is a special day, because democracy runs in the veins of my party, the Danish Social-Liberal Party. The whole idea of democracy is in our constitutional DNA.
 
The Social liberals were created in 1905. We had one goal more important than anything else: democracy for everyone. In 1915, Carl Theodor Zahle, the first social liberal prime minister, achieved that goal. Poor people got the right vote. Servants got the right to vote. Prisoners got the right vote. And women got the right to vote. Personally, I am particularly happy about that last part.
 
Carl Theodor Zahle tells us one important thing: Democracy is for everyone. It’s about the right to vote for you and I, free speech for you and I and influence for you and I.
 
But today, some people believe that less democracy is the answer to our challenges. I believe that more democracy is the answer to our challenges. And let me mention three of those challenges for you.
 
 
The first challenge is terrorism.
 
In Brussels, the heart of European unity, peace and democracy, people in the airport and in the metro were massacred. In Paris terrorists attacked music festivals and cafés. In Copenhagen a peaceful Jewish celebration were made into a tragedy.
 
Now, in order to prevent radicalization, our government wants to limit free speech.
 
Have they forgotten our constitution? It’s says very clearly that you own the right to gather. You own the right to establish groups. And you own the right to free speech.
 
And the thing is: limiting free speech will not result in any less fools. It will only result in fools, who are silent in the public places, where all of us could have seen and heard them, instead these people will preach violence and stupidity hidden under ground and behind doors, where we cannot meet them. 
 
I rather want the fools in the light, where I can see them. Where I can debate them. Where everyone can see their arguments fall apart like a wrecked building. I don’t want silent fools in the darkness, where they can attack us from nowhere, where they can be in peace to recruit young people who are lost and searching for identity. Where they can tell us, that democracy is hypocrite, and not worth joining. 
 
Let us not give them the opportunity to call us hypocrites. Let us not chop off little pieces of democracy. Let us not limit free speech. Let us not tear down in a few months, what we have built up over the last 150 years. Let us not do that. 
Democracy is the most valuable thing we have in common here. We cannot protect it if we undermine it at the same time.
 
Now, if we wan’t to stop terrorism, we need to stop the recruitment for terror. We need to stop demonizing religions. That’s not what our constitution is about.  Let us not marginalize. Let us not divide. Let us build bridges. Islamism is our enemy. Extremism is our enemy. Muslims are our friends. Like Jews and Christians and Buddhists and Atheists alike.
 
We need more democracy. Not less democracy. 
 
 
The second challenge I wan’t to talk about is refugees.
 
Families, women and children are fleeing in small boats on large seas. And some people in Denmark say: ”Let them sail in their own boat. We cannot save the whole world” (sagt med dansk accent). I say: we are all in the same boat.
 
Refugees escape from wars. But too many European countries escape their responsibility.
 
I believe we need to help much more in the countries close to the warzones. All children should have access to school. This is what makes people really risk their lives. If they see absolutely no future for their children. And we need to spread out refugees equally to all European countries. If we do that, we can secure schools, health and homes to every refugee. We can make integration possible. And every country can do so, without making large cuts on welfare budgets.
 
Europe was build on solidarity and cooperation. Europe was build to end wars. During this crisis in Europe in dealing with refugees, it’s not the time to turn our backs on those ideals. It’s time to turn back to those ideals.
 
Now some people say that the Danish constitution is about making decisions in Denmark and Denmark alone. That’s not true. The constitution is also about joining common organizations and common solutions. Europe is the most obvious and important place to start.
 
We need more democracy. Not less democracy.
 
 
The third challenge I wan’t to talk about today is nationalism.
 
On this Constitution Day, quite a few Danish politicians will tell you that the EU is our enemy. That’s not what our constitution is about.
 
EU has created peace, economic growth and free movement in Europe. Freedom in Europe.
 
In the future EU and European cooperation is not only the solution to the crisis in dealing with refugees. EU is the solution to organized crime. EU is the solution to the climate crisis. And you know why? Because those problems don’t respect borders. They are common problems. And I firmly believe in common solutions to common problems.
 
And let me tell you something else. The voice of Germany, France and not to mention Denmark alone is silent in the ears of China and the USA. But together we can speak loudly. If we want a seat at the global table, we can’t stay divided. We need to stay together.
 
So I don’t believe the EU is the root of our problems. I believe the EU is the solution to our problems. And the Danish constitution – and this is important – the Danish constitution gives us every power to take part in European cooperation, in the EU, to join common solutions. The EU didn’t exist when they last revisited the Constitution in 1953, but the founding fathers did foresee the necessity for international cooperation. That necessity has only grown in size. We need more international cooperation in the world and in Europe. Not less cooperation.
 
We need more democracy. Not less democracy.
 
 
So now, I have talked about terrorism, refugees fleeing from wars and nationalism.
 
Today, about 100 years after Carl Theodor Zahle created democracy, together with so many other brave men and women, it is challenged from everywhere. I believe our ability to handle our challenges depends on our will to protect democracy. I believe in free speech. I believe in solidarity. I believe in peaceful cooperation. I believe in discussion and debate. I believe in both European and Danish democracy.
 
I believe in more democracy. Not less democracy.
 
Thank you for listening to me.