H.E. Kirsten Geelan, Denmark’s ambassador to Hungary lectured at iASK on the topic of “Trust – an Integral Part of the Welfare State” on Monday, April 27. For the first time in the more than a two-year history of ‘The Future of Europe in a Global Context’ series, a speaker was not in Kőszeg in person, nor did she appear in front of a live audience, but delivered her presentation online.
The ambassador stressed that Denmark is regularly ranked at the top of the world in the annual UN Happiness Report. In compiling the index, the Report editors not only look at the per capita GDP of a country but the state of social equality and responsibility, community spirit, and the extent to which the society is permeated by a climate of trust. This standard is very high in Denmark: people have great trust in each other, as they do in their institutions. The country operates on the basis of a certain social contract: citizens accept a very high level of taxation, acting also in the direction of income equalization because they know that in return there is a strong and densely woven social safety net protecting them, guaranteeing free and high-quality education, health care and welfare. In Denmark, as in other Scandinavian states, the level of trust was built over hundreds of years allowing the welfare state to be established by the 1970s. Free and compulsory public education, for example, was introduced as early as 1814.
Danes believe that the state acts in their best interest and, in this spirit, they actively involve themselves not only in making important decisions but in complying with them. Perhaps it is due to this attitude that no draconian measures had to be introduced in the Covid-19 epidemic and the number of infections – at least so far – has remained low. A wide range of about 20 questions followed the presentation, from how Danish society reconciled itself with its World War II history; to why it clings to its national currency when the Kroner is pegged to the Euro; to the fact that so many Danes suffer from depression and are suicidal; to the careful regulation of immigration, and to a request to explain the wide popularity of the special ‘hygge’ feeling Demark has introduced to the world at large.