Hillary Clinton’s busy day in Copenhagen

US secretary of state meets with the queen, Søvndal, Thorning-Schmidt, and roomful of students

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton is in Copenhagen today to meet with her Danish counterpart Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti) and the prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne), as well as to participate in the kick-off event for Green Partnerships for Growth, an initiative between the two countries to promote green technology.

Clinton’s time in Copenhagen was both short and busy. After a brief meeting with Queen Margrethe at Amalienborg Palace, which she travelled to on a canal boat accompanied by Søvndal, Clinton was on to the Royal Library to engage in an interview with TV2 News.

After a flowery introduction from TV2 News’s Johannes Langkilde, Clinton gave a short introductory speech about the commonality and connectivity among young people worldwide, Denmark’s green energy leadership, Denmark’s military influence and its status as an “important, albeit small country”.

Clinton went on to address Denmark’s global position of having the lowest level of income inequality, which she said serves as an inspiration for the United States.

She also touched on Europe’s economic crisis.

“It is for Europeans to determine the way forward,” she said. “In hard times, people can be led to hunker down or even build walls, to go back to the old divisions that for so long bedevilled Europe. But a country’s strength depends in part on the strength of your neighbours.”

Clinton also encouraged the young people in the audience to get involved politically.

“I say the same thing whether I am in Cairo or Copenhagen: ‘Get in the game.’”

When Langkilde asked Clinton to give her opinion of Denmark, the former American first lady took the chance to compliment her hosts.

“I think of progress, strength and accomplishment,” she said. “The leadership that Denmark has shown in humanitarian issues, security, technology, design, social organisation and political stability is very admirable.”

A question and answer session with Langkilde touched on terrorism and the “great dilemma” the US faces regarding military intervention in Syria.

Clinton said that without the support of the United Nations – particularly Russia – any unilateral military action on by the US was unlikely, but she expressed hope that the UN would present a united front in their approach to Syria.

“Every day that goes by makes the case stronger [for UN support of an intervention],” Clinton said. “We have to bring the Russians on board because the dangers we face are terrible.”

Clinton then took questions from the crowd, which was mostly made up of young Danish students.

Several questions dealt with issues of gender and leadership.

Clinton largely deflected giving her personal opinion about gender quota system for corporate board members in Europe, but acknowledged that women – both in the US and Europe – still face “an historic gender imbalance” in reaching top positions in the corporate world and politics.

Referencing the decision by the former foreign minister, Lene Espersen (Konservative), to skip a high-profile summit of the Arctic powers so that she could be with her family, a female student asked Clinton how she balances her own personal and professional life.

“When you are trying to balance your family obligations with any work – but particularly work in the public eye – it takes enormous amounts of organisation and the support of family members,” she said. “But I would hate to see any woman who wants to have a family decide not to do so because she wants a career. That would be a terrible mistake, in my opinion.”

Other topics that came up were Syria, the International Criminal Court, America’s education system and Clinton’s own plans for the future.

Following the question and answer event, Clinton was on to a working lunch with Søvndal before an afternoon meeting with Thorning-Schmidt.

This evening, Clinton and Thorning-Schmidt are due to participate in the Green Partnerships for Growth (GPG) event at parliament. The GPG is a collaboration between the US Embassy in Copenhagen, business confederation Dansk Industri and AmCham Denmark. According to a press release from AmCham, the project aims “to facilitate a series of structured events aimed at connecting the public sectors in the US and Denmark – with the experience, knowledge, products and services of green growth companies in both countries”.

Clinton heads off to Oslo this evening to speak at a conference on global health issues tomorrow.