In what was arguably her biggest moment on the international stage to date, Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt held a 40-minute meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House late Friday night Danish time.
The two leaders discussed a variety of topics during their meeting, including the European debt crisis, the situation in Syria, an upcoming NATO meeting in May, and even the terrifying topic of teenage daughters.
Recycling the same praise he bestowed upon Denmark less than a year ago when meeting with former PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Obama said that Denmark has “punched above their weight” when it comes to the country’s contributions in Afghanistan and Libya. He also extended his compliments to Thorning-Schmidt directly, saying the US has been “very impressed with the first five months of her prime ministership”.
Unsurprisingly, economic matters made up a significant part of the conversation.
“Like folks here in the United States, everybody in Denmark wants to talk about the economy all the time, and jobs and growth,” Obama said after the meeting. “And we agreed that there has been some progress in resolving the sovereign debt issues, that there has been some progress with respect to the agreements between the EU and the IMF and Greece, the new government in Italy, new governments in Spain and Portugal are all making significant progress, but that there's a lot more work to do. And we will be consulting closely with Denmark.”
Thorning-Schmidt thanked Obama for “the friendship and the alliance between our two countries” but also stressed that “a closer transatlantic relationship will be important” as Europe continues to work its way through its debt crisis. She also specifically thanked the US for the recent operation that rescued a Danish hostage in Somalia.
Thorning-Schmidt committed to attending a NATO summit to be held in Chicago in May, and invited Obama to visit Denmark.
Not everything was business during the meeting, however. The two leaders found common ground as parents.
“The final thing we talked about was the fact that we both have two daughters; they're roughly the same ages,” Obama said. “We traded notes. The prime minister's daughters are slightly older than Malia and Sasha. She assures me that they continue to behave themselves, even well into their teenage years. So I'm encouraged by the report.”
Danish media covering the event praised Thorning-Schmidt’s performance.
David Trads, the US correspondent for Berlingske newspaper, characterised Thorning-Schmidt as appearing “very nervous and unsure” during a brief meeting with the Danish press corps upon her Washington arrival Thursday evening American time. But any butterflies in her stomach must have settled, as Trads wrote following the Obama meeting that the Danish prime minister had clearly “made a good impression” on Obama.
Oliver Routhe Skov, a US correspondent with public broadcaster DR, said that Thorning-Schmidt was “very happy and satisfied” after the meeting, and that she felt she had accomplished her objectives. Skov also indicated that Thorning-Schmidt told the Danish press that it wasn’t necessary for her to criticise the US for the continued use of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
It also didn’t appear that Denmark’s controversial magazine import fee was brought up in the meeting, though a US congresswoman had written to Obama suggesting that he discuss it with the prime minister.