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CNBC Interview with Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen from the World Economic Forum 2018

Following are excerpts from a CNBC interview with Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Denmark's Prime Minister and CNBC's Akiko Fujita from the World Economic Forum 2018.

AF: And we are now joined by Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who is, of course, the Prime Minister of Denmark, joining me right here on set at Davos. Welcome.

LR: Thank you so much.

AF: There's been a lot of commentary here, coming on the back of those comments from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, about what exactly a weaker dollar would mean for the European economy, but let me start broad picture here, because it does appear that the economy in Europe is in a sweet spot. We're talking about low inflation, interest rates-,

LR: Mm.

AF: And yet there are some pockets of concern, whether that's in youth unemployment-,

LR: Mm. Mm.

AF: Or low productivity. What's your sense right now about how much longer this can go on?

LR: Well, first of all, I totally agree that we are in a sweet spot, generally speaking, and then the situation differs from country to country. If you look at my country, I mean, we expect to bring employment to an all-time high record this year, very low unemployment, we have regained growth, but in some, especially, perhaps, southern European countries, you still see problems linked to youth employment, and that's why I'm always advocating labor market reforms. The Danish model of Flexicurity, I know that the new France President has been inspired from the Scandinavian model-,

AF: Mm.

LR: Security for the labor force, and flexibility for the-, for the companies. Because, if we introduced that system, you could-, you could decrease the structural unemployment rate.

AF: Mm. I know you are here, specifically, to really push forward this sustainable development, and when you look broadly at the Danish economy, how big of a growth driver do you anticipate that to be?

LR: It's a huge growth driver. I mean, if you look at our figures, in terms of the export, lots of it is linked to our competencies in this idea of greening the global economy, in the waste water management, renewables, windmills, etc., etc. And I had the honor to Chair the UN General Assembly when we adopted the SDGs, and I participated, of course, in the Paris Summit, where we agreed on the Paris Agreement. And, if we should meet these targets, it comes with a huge price tag-,

AF: Mm.

LR: But also, with a big, big business opportunity. Many, many jobs in Danish industry is linked to this, and that's why we try to export this concept. We have just announced, a couple of months ago, a new initiative called P4G, Partnering for Global Growth and Green Growth. We have brought on board seven different countries, among them, South Korea, Ethiopia, Mexico. I'm going to meet Colombia today, they have just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with WEF, they will join this initiative, together with the C40 Initiative, the 92 biggest cities in the world. And-, and the idea is to promote partnerships between the public and private sector, in order to meet the SDGs, and creating jobs at the same time.

AF: Let me shift gears here, to talk about the refugee crisis in Europe, because Denmark is one of those countries that has really tightened its borders over the last several years, and it does look like it is discouraging asylum seekers from coming, and looking at the most recent numbers, asylum requests down 84% in the last two years-,

LR: Mm.

AF: Broadly speaking, do you think the refugee crisis is an issue that should be shouldered by all European countries? Or do you think this is something that needs to be dealt, unilaterally, from country to country?

LR: No, it should be-, it should be, you know, solved in solidarity among the European countries, and that's why I have been advocating, from the very first beginning, that we should protect our external borders, and then we should fight root causes. It's true that we have brought our numbers down to the lowest we have seen for the last nine years, but that has already, also, given us the opportunity to expand our activities in Africa-,

AF: Mm.

LR: So, we have now the biggest aid budget we have ever had, in terms of humanitarian assistance, and what Europe is doing right now is that we are trying to establish a partnership with certain African countries, because we need a 'more for more' attitude, where we invest more in Africa, so we give a hope for the future, for the youngsters. We should invest in infrastructure, we should invest in good governance, we should bring a hope for the future-,

AF: Mm.

LR: And then we should ask these countries to accept the return of their own citizens, if they moved to Europe without, you know, any permission to move to Europe.

AF: Mm. I wonder, though, broadly speaking, I know you've heard this criticism before, but, exactly about how Denmark has dealt with this issue. We're looking at 67 regulations, one of the more controversial ones, seizing some of the assets-,

LR: Yes.

AF: Of refugees who are coming in. I wonder if you think there's a more humane way to deal with this specific issue.

LR: We are dealing with it in a very humane way.

AF: Mm.

LR: I think there was a lot of misunderstandings linked to this initiative, and I think a lot of the misunderstanding is due to people not really understand the Scandinavian society model.

AF: Mm.

LR: Because our model differs a lot from-, from-, from the American model, for instance. I mean, we pay very high taxes, but then, at the same time, you have access to free kindergartens, free education, free healthcare system, etc., etc. But it's based on some kind of, you know, contract between citizens and the society. You offer your workforce to-, your work, to the society, and then, in return, you receive all this. And-, and that model is-, is challenged, if we receive too many, without the necessarily skills to actually be active citizens. So, that's why I have done a lot to decrease the number, but then, at the same, I have made tripartite agreements in Denmark with assorted partners, so that our business community are more willing to accept refugees in the companies. So, we have tripled the number of refugees who earn their own money in Denmark after spending three years in Denmark, compared to the situation two years ago. So, I think there's no easy solution to this. We have to bring down the numbers, we have to invest much more in Africa, and I am p

AF: Unfortunately we're out of time-,

LR: Yes.

AF: But I do appreciate you stopping by. Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, joining me here.

ENDS