31.12.2023 · The Government

The Prime Minister's new years speech

The Prime Minister's new years speech

Dear people in the Faroe Islands

Thick snowflakes fell silently on this cold and quiet Christmas evening in 1914.

The snow gently covered the numerous soldiers stationed in the trenches of the Western Front in France.

World War 1 was raging, as British and French forces battled Germany.

The fighting was brutal. But silence reigned on this Christmas evening as soldiers on both sides sat waiting in the cold trenches.

Suddenly, a clear voice resonated from the German trenches, piercing the cold air with a song, gradually gaining fervour.

Other voices tentatively joined in. Before long, German, English, and French renditions of 'Silent Night' echoed across the scarred battlefield.

A German soldier rose from his trench. Standing tall, staking his life on a fragile hope of shared humanity.

No shots were fired.

Instead, soldiers on both sides rose from their trenches. They approached each other, exchanging greetings. They played football in the snow. They realised that the enemies they aimed to eliminate were not much different from themselves after all.

They still adhered to their own convictions and respective armies. However, at this moment, they did not see what set them apart. Instead, they gathered around what they had in common.


Dear people in the Faroe Islands.

War is about boundaries.

Boundaries between states and between citizens.

But the event from 1914 teaches us that, despite disagreements on where boundaries are drawn, our shared humanity can bring us together.

And this is needed.

Because there is no doubt that the world is changing.

For the past many years, peace has prevailed in our part of the world, and the boundaries – between countries and between ethnic groups – have been blurred.

But now, as we step into the new year, there are two wars with no end in sight. We witness atrocities that cannot be described in words.

On October 7th, Israel suffered a devastating terror attack. What is happening in Gaza right now is equally devastating in human terms. Thousands of ordinary people and children have lost their lives. I have no words to describe these atrocities.

And in Ukraine, the war has continued unabated for almost two years. Recently, 25-year-old Alyona Fedotova, who fled Ukraine, appeared on television. She said: "I am homeless. I have no job. I am alone. I lost my family. People I care about. My country. My home."

In peaceful Faroe Islands, we struggle to comprehend this heart-wrecking situation.

And in Russia, men and youth are forced into war, even though they – like the soldiers in 1914 – know that their adversaries are not much different from themselves.

It is disheartening that humanity does not become wiser. It is incomprehensible that war and bloodshed continue to haunt us.

Yet, there are boundaries worth fighting for. Even dying for. These are the boundaries between freedom and oppression. Between fear and security. Between need and welfare.

It is my heartfelt hope that peace will soon prevail. That the border between Russia and Ukraine will be respected. And that borders will be set between Israel and Palestine, which both sides can live with – rather than the war that both sides are currently dying in.


But the rings of these wars are spreading. Walls of mistrust are being erected anew between nations. The battle of truth becomes tough — a reality evident also here in the Faroe Islands.

While boundaries harden in the world, they expand online. Technology is boundless. Artificial intelligence, the word of the year, has already surpassed us, long before we have understood what it is. What it can do.

Understanding the online realm challenges our minds.

Artificial intelligence offers boundless possibilities. Incredible and beneficial opportunities. For instance, aiding people with disabilities. Assisting in healthcare. Or solving tasks in seconds that the smartest people spend hours on solving.

It aids individuals with disabilities, delivers invaluable support in healthcare, and accomplishes tasks in seconds that human experts require hours or days to complete.

We must learn to harness it. To control it. And we must educate both ourselves and our children.

Because everything that is limitless can also be a risk. Without boundaries, we quickly lose ourselves.

We need, for example, boundaries between what is true and what is false. Between right and wrong. Boundaries between what we are willing to accept within ourselves and others.

However, artificial intelligence remains devoid of boundaries—neither human nor moral. This makes it difficult to navigate. Because what of what we see and read is actually real? Images. Letters. News. Conversations in the media. Recorded videos. What is true?

In war, we know that truth is the first casualty. But now, it becomes increasingly difficult to discern between truth and falsehood – in all areas.

Even we are victims in the great information wars. And algorithms ensure that every single mouse click is like a rifle shot deeper into the trenches. They narrow our world view – rather than expanding it.

Algorithms paint the world in stark black and white, simplifying complex issues into binary choices: yes or no, for or against. They blind us to the intricate nuances of life.

This affects the world. This affects the debate. And this can affect democracy. Even in the Faroe Islands.


Dear people in the Faroe Islands.

Lately, we have seen increasingly more boundaries in the Faroe Islands. People rally around different perspectives – much more than I have ever seen before.

For Ukraine. For cooperation with Russia. For Israel. For Palestine. For free abortion. For unborn children.

Boundaries are being drawn.

It's good that we can voice our opinions – and have such events. Free debate is, after all, the basis of democracy.

But politics and legislation are about setting boundaries. When we came into power, we began to redefine boundaries – like all governments do. And where boundaries are redefined, reactions follow. Some are happy. Others become disappointed, and yet others become angry. It depends on which side of the boundary we stand.

This year, we have made numerous changes and reorganizations. I have full understanding about people becoming angry. But results of the changes will show.

And the reason is clear. We are competing with other countries for both workforce and families with children. If we do not move boundaries, we lose the competition.

I know we disagree on boundaries. But as in 1914, it benefits us all to come out of the trenches. To see various sides.

Both when it comes to fisheries, trade, and the Faroese economy. When it comes to moral boundaries, ethical boundaries, and political boundaries.

It's difficult. Because we must set boundaries. But we must also build bridges.

In his Christmas Eve sermon, the bishop affirmed that "peace on earth does not exist. We, humans, must create peace where we are." And I agree. Humans live by boundaries. Between boundaries. It creates differences. Unrest. But we should elevate humanity above the differences.

The Salvation Army sets examples in this area. In October, Bernhard Petersen received an award for his work with the homeless. He said: "These are our fellow human beings. So, we must be good to them – and take care of them."

This is the essence of humanity. That we can take care of others. Even those we disagree with. Just as the soldiers did on Christmas Eve in 1914.

And in the Faroe Islands, many people let humanity rule. Rose of the year in 2023, Randi Waag Jacobsen, is one of them. With her campaign "Surplus for You," it is possible to give – and thus make a difference for fellow human beings. Besides Randi, there are people and communities in large numbers that do significant work. To build bridges. To take care of those in need.

Tonight, I sincerely thank you all.


Dear people in the Faroe Islands.

On the last evening of the year, we come together – and look forward.

Although it has become more expensive to live – and I know this is evident, especially for families with children – we have work for all hands and plenty of activities.

Indications are that inflation is now slowing down, and hopefully, the interest rate will drop.

Despite challenges, we have much to be thankful for. We live in one of the world's best countries. With great wealth. Great freedom. Great safety. This is still one of the best countries in the world for children to grow up in. If not the best.

However, our foremost challenge lies in declining birth rates. This must be taken seriously.

Some steps have been taken. We have, for the first time, a Ministry of Children ensuring that no child is left behind falling between systems. We are working on providing better financial support for families, better opportunities for a safe home, and stable daycare options.

We must make children, youth, and families feel at home and return back home to the Faroes. This is the foremost goal – and crucial for the future of this country.

And significant matters have already been tackled. Matters that previously seemed unthinkable and distant.

One of these is The Sandoy Tunnel, which has moved society forward, united us, and increased opportunities – both in the workforce, sports, and family life. Especially for young families in Sandoy.

And next year starts with another significant milestone, as the Faroe Islands will participate in a European Championship for teams for the first time. No one believed it possible but the players themselves. When the handball team enters the field in Berlin, it will unite all Faroese people. I look forward to seeing how this achievement will impact the country, people, and sports community.

And the coming year will see preparations for the Island Games, which will be held in the Faroe Islands in 2027. This event will foster unity and prosperity in our society, as sports have a unique ability to bring us together despite divisions that might encounter in our daily lives.


Dear everyone.

Now, with only a few hours left of the year, we look back on New Year's Eve last year.

Hopes, dreams, and aspirations. But also worries, fears, and uncertainties.

When we, on New Year's, give ourselves time to reflect, we realize how much we can achieve. But we also realize how little control we have over what truly matters.

It is at the intersection of these two realizations that we, humans, function and live. Between our own power and what fate has in store for us.

Those of you who worry, struggle, or fear what is to come know this dilemma. May the coming year bring you courage and hope. And may the new year reveal to us all the true value of a helping hand in times of need.

Dear everyone. In the upcoming year, my wish is for us to uphold and protect certain boundaries, while adapting others to make way for progress. And that we can always show humanity – even when we disagree on where boundaries should be.

That we rise from the trenches and take care of each other.

Both politically, ideologically – and humanly.

A happy new year to everyone.

May God bless this coming year.

Aksel V. Johannesen

Prime Minister of The Faroe Islands