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A bigger Denmark in an ever smaller world

Speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to Heads of Diplomatic Missions in Copenhagen on 7 December 2015

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming today to discuss the Danish government’s foreign policy agenda and our cooperation. We value the cooperation with you and your countries and we constantly strive to improve and enhance that.


Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state of the US, recently said: “The American domestic debate is frequently described as a contest between idealism and realism. It may turn out - for America and the rest of the world - that if America cannot act in both modes, it will be unable to fulfil either”.


Henry Kissinger is right to stress that the world needs idealism as well as realism. A cynical realist has no goal. And a naive idealist has no means of attaining his goals.


Today, only days after the Danish “No” at the referendum, it is clear that a majority of my countrymen are sceptical about further integration in the EU. This could – to some extent - be due to both cynicism and naivety in some parts of the electorate. Cynicism with regard to the political system. Naivety with regard to the Danish ability to act alone. A majority of the Danish electorate wouldn’t trust the Danish politicians with an opt-in solution. They feared what it would be used for in the longer run. But it is also clear that a majority probably values the cooperation for instance within Europol.


The time has come to be realist as well as idealist. We cherish the ideal of national sovereignty. And we realize the need for cooperation and compromises. The Danish government will engage in talks with the parties as well as  our EU partners on the way ahead will begin this week.  More about that later.


Let me first concentrate on our long term foreign policy agenda. Denmark will not choose idealism over realism - or the other way round. We have ambitious goals. We want to promote liberty, human rights and free trade, and we want to contribute to sustainable growth and the reduction of poverty. We want to promote Danish solutions, experiences, products, services, know-how and values – and at the same time create growth and jobs in Denmark. We want to make a difference and contribute to stability, progress and rule of law around the world.


We are a small country. And we must - so to speak - try to kill more birds with one stone. Just as our ministers must perform more duties. I, for one, have taken over four portfolios. And despite an extremely busy calendar, I think it is good to have a single Foreign Minister in charge of security policy, European policy, development policy and growth, trade and investments. This will guarantee synergy and I have ambitions for all the areas. 


My political thinking has been shaped by international events of the 1980’es. The Cold War, the situation in the Middle East, the EU Single Market, the fall of the Berlin Wall – and later 9/11. These events taught me the importance of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, the necessity of free trade, and the need for a small country to have strong alliances and international engagement. We value our partners and allies. Both the old and traditional ones close to Denmark and across the Atlantic. And the newer ones from continents and growth regions further away.




We meet four days after a majority of the Danish electorate rejected the Justice and Home Affairs opt-in arrangement and the 22 legal acts. It wasn’t sufficient that the package was promoted by the government, a majority of newspapers and an overwhelming part of Danish civil society.


I and this government truly believe in the European project and I campaigned hard for a Yes. Off course I would have preferred another result. It would have made Denmark stronger and more secure.


Now, the duty of the government will be to negotiate the best possible agreement on Europol and we will therefore pursue the objective of getting a parallel agreement on Europol. This will both be in the Danish and – I believe - European interest. Talks with the Danish parties will begin this week and on Friday the Prime Minister will travel to Brussels. We will work closely with our EU partners.


 A large proportion of young people voted No. For them the EU and its benefits have become self-evident and something they take for granted. They do not remember the cold war, Berlin Wall, closed borders and high prizes for mobile phone use and airplane travels.


While the vote will not change the general direction and ambitions of our EU policy, we must address the scepticism that only seems to grow stronger every day. This tendency I think we see in many EU Member States. We need to take the scepticism seriously and we need to have this at the forefront in the work of the EU the coming years.


There are many reasons for the scepticism. One is the current challenges the EU face. Another is the public fear that the EU institutions have overreached and that they should have concentrated on their core business.


In order to convince the sceptics, the EU must prove that it is good at doing what it was established to do: secure peace and stability, growth and jobs and guarantee the four freedoms: free movement of goods, services, capital and workers.


The Danish government stand firmly behind the principle of free movement of workers – but it cannot mean free and unconditional access to welfare services. The Danish government is also committed to the Schengen agreement. But Schengen cannot function properly without proper control of our external borders.


I know that Prime Minister Rasmussen briefed you on the recent Danish initiatives to respond to the migration challenge, so I will not go into detail. I will just note that Denmark is showing solidarity with the world around us and that we are also heavily engaged in the neighbouring areas of the EU. 

For Denmark the EU is and remains the most important platform to promote our political and economic interests. And the EU makes our global voice bigger. Among our top priorities the coming years are a well-functioning Single Market, growth and job creation, green transition, free trade agreements with for example the US and Japan and a stronger global presence for the EU. We want closer ties with EU’s Eastern neighbours and we actively support EU’s Ukraine policy and two-legged policy towards Russia. Denmark wants a strong and efficient EU, a stable Eurozone and a UK within the EU.




Last week I participated in the NATO Foreign Minister’s meeting in Brussels. NATO and our transatlantic partnership with the United States is still the cornerstone of Danish security. We contribute solidly to NATO and to NATO reassurance to the east and south.


The horrifying terror attacks in Paris was another sad reminder that the world needs to stand together to fight terror, radicalisation and extremism – because terrorism affects us all. We can face the challenge with our military might. But we also need to fight by showing the strength of our ideas. The fight between the free world and the radicalized extremists is truly an ideological battle. If we don’t win this fight, the extremists will be back soon under a new name, a new brand.


We must fight the terrorists, we must finance stabilisation in areas dominated by terrorists, and we must give humanitarian aid in the countries embroiled in or bordering on conflict. We must cut off the terrorist economy. And first and foremost we must work together. Like we do against Daesh and elsewhere in the world.


This government will continue to prioritise contributions to peacekeeping, security and stabilisation in the Middle East and Africa. We will deploy instruments such as F16’s, transport planes, radars and military personnel. And instruments such as diplomacy, stabilisation efforts, humanitarian aid and civilian support. A trademark of Danish engagement around the globe is that we incorporate our instruments into a coherent and integrated approach aimed at both the short and long term.


Currently we are heavily engaged in the fight against Daesh as a founding member of the Global Coalition but we also support the moderate anti-Assad coalition politically and economically. In Mali we have increased our contribution and we maintain our level of engagement in Afghanistan. 


The security of Denmark is closely linked to peace and stability in our neighbouring areas but also in the areas neighbouring the EU. The last few months have shown that the immense flow of refugees and migrants pose a serious challenge to Europe. As Foreign Minister my focus is on the external dimensions. We must stem the tide and fight the causes that make people take the desperate journey to Europe. We must address the needs in the countries people depart from or pass through. We must enhance our financial support in the neighbouring areas. And we must work together – like we decided at the EU-Africa Summit in Valletta and for example with Turkey after the EU-Turkey Summit.


 Tomorrow I fly to Paris to participate in COP21. COP21 highlights many of the Danish foreign policy priorities. Let me put a few on your mind:


First , Denmark continues to pursue an ambitious green agenda globally. We have worked hard to ensure a result in Paris and we are ready to share Danish experiences and solutions and contribute financially through the Danish Climate Investment Fund.


Second , COP21 is a frame where we can highlight Danish solutions. As you know, Denmark has developed solutions to cope with our societal challenges in areas such as energy, waste management, healthcare and water – and high quality food, IT and quality of life. We hope our experiences and solutions can help countries around the world as they face the strategic choices on how to develop their societies. This is also important for growth in Denmark and in our cooperation with growth economies around the world. That I saw for myself when I visited Indonesia and China in October.


Third , COP21 and the string of high level multilateral UN meetings I have participated in this year, has given me the opportunity to engage in one of Denmark’s longest standing global policies and one I’m proud of – our development policy. As you know this government has decided to focus our development assistance and phase out programs and partner countries and reduce others. But we are still among the top donors in the world spending more than 0.7 pct. of our GDP on development assistance. We are known for a top class development policy and that will continue. Among my priorities are leveraging more private investments for development, for example through public-private partnerships, and engaging more new donors from wealthy countries. The refugee and migration crisis and linking humanitarian aid to long term development are also on top of my list.   


Fourth , it underlines the Danish belief in multilateral cooperation including in the UN. I will not go into detail on this but just note that Denmark will be seeking a seat in the UN Human Rights Council from 2019. And that next year we will host Women Deliver and the Global Green Growth Summit.




Let me as the last point mention the Arctic. The Arctic is naturally a priority for this government and for the Kingdom. We need to explore the economic potentials to the benefit of the Arctic people and elsewhere. But we must do it with a firm view to the fragile environment.

We must also strengthen international cooperation in the Arctic and ensure that the region remains a low tension area. The Arctic is a place where we cooperate peacefully with for example Russia despite our disagreements elsewhere. It is a priority that we keep doing that and keep the Arctic low tension.




When I took office 6 months ago, I chose a slogan: A bigger Denmark in an ever smaller world. This is still my ambition.


I once wrote a little book: “Hooray for Globalization”. And while globalisation presents many challenges, it presents even more opportunities for us all. It is a good example of the way that freedom and growth go hand in hand - just like idealism and realism should.


It is in this frame that we will shape Denmark’s foreign policy in the right balance between interests and values. And between realism and idealism.


I look very much forward to our discussion, thank you.


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